Secretary’s Letters, lot 56 D 459, “DOD—1953–54”

No. 86
Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Smith) to the Special Assistant to the President (Cutler)1

top secret


  • Suggested West German Sponsorship of Volunteer Freedom Corps

Your memorandum of September 212 stated that the President had suggested that in view of the difficulties in the way of organizing a VFC under American sponsorship at this time the project might be carried out by the Bonn Government with American financial support.

While this variation would have the advantage of disassociating the United States with responsibility for the project provided it were possible to conceal the source of funds, there are several reasons against proceeding on this basis:

The Federal Republic has only recently begun to consider its future policy with regard to Eastern Europe. Any effort to organize East European refugees would automatically involve the Federal Republic in what might be considered an aggressive Eastern European policy. The Germans would probably be reluctant to do this before they have had time to consider more carefully what their policy toward Eastern Europe will be. They would almost certainly be reluctant to organize Eastern European troops before they were authorized to organize their own.
The British, and particularly the French, both of whom opposed the original proposal, would have stronger objections to the formation of these units under West German command.
In view of the French reaction, which could be expected to be violent, prospects for the ratification of EDC by the French Parliament would be diminished.
In view of the German record in Eastern Europe during the last war it is doubtful that many refugees from that area would volunteer for service in a Freedom Corps under German command.
The principal argument for the formation of VFC units at this time is the propaganda effect such a move would have behind the Iron Curtain, particularly by increasing the rate of defection. German sponsorship of the VFC would inevitably be seized upon by Soviet propaganda as a move in the direction of a recreation of units such as were formed by the Nazis from Soviet prisoners of war in the latter stages of World War II. The propaganda effect of such a move would almost certainly represent a net loss for the West.

[Page 227]

In short the Department does not believe that it would be desirable to propose that the Federal Republic organize VFC units at this time nor does it believe that the Germans, British or French would agree to such a proposal.

Walter B. Smith
  1. Drafted by Stevens on Oct. 1 and cleared with Bonbright, Lewis, MacArthur, and Bowie.
  2. Supra.