Eisenhower Library, C.D. Jackson records, 1953–56

No. 87
The Special Assistant to the President (Jackson) to Lieutenant General Willis D. Crittenberger


Dear General Crittenberger: I am naturally delighted that you will be going to Europe soon to discuss with Ambassadors Dillon and Conant and General Handy and others the idea of the Volunteer Freedom Corps.1

This trip of yours brings closer to realization an idea originally proposed by the President and on which many of us, and above all yourself, have put in much time and thought.

Many months and many events have passed since NSC approved setting up the special Ad Hoc Crittenberger Committee to study the idea of a Volunteer Freedom Corps and produce a workable plan.

And, during these months, there has always been in the future some looming event which made it inadvisable to push the proposition. First it was the German elections. And then it was Bermuda. And then it was Berlin. And then it was French ratification of EDC. I have not yet heard Geneva mentioned in this connection, but I am sure that if pressed someone would mention the name of that peaceful town.

To my mind, the reasons for the creation of VFC according to the present plan, which goodness knows is modest enough, are more cogent than ever.

After listening to Mr. Molotov for one month in Berlin, there can no longer be any doubt as to the basic fact that he can neither be [Page 228] appeased nor provoked. Furthermore, he stated as a flat fact during one of the sessions that our present labor battalions were a militarily trained and equipped paramilitary police force, so that, with only mild sarcasm, if VFC were to come into being, it would save Mr. Molotov from being a liar.

There is no question but that the creation of this force would represent an appreciable relief to the German economy. It would stimulate the kind of defection we want from the satellite countries; it would supply a nucleus of dedicated trained young men for eventual use in the dreadful emergencies which we can foresee in the future; it would in the long run, and on the assumption that their training and indoctrination and integration would be well handled by the Army, produce an international group which could be of inestimable value if and when liberation of the satellite belt were to be near. When that day comes, we will be plagued with Slovak Separatism and German Sudeten problems and Oder Neisse lines and goodness knows what Transylvanian difficulties. At that time the existence of American trained and integrated soldiers of various satellite nationalities could tip the balance against eventual civil wars which might have to be suppressed by American arms, with the resultant bloodshed and hatred.

VFC would also clip the wings, pull the teeth, and reduce the nuisance value of the free-wheeling Generals-in-exile, with their imaginary but politically potent legions and divisions.

An American political by-product of VFC would be that the large number of Congressmen with foreign-born and hyphenated constituencies who are today prey to all kinds of separatist and irredentist pressures would find in VFC something to which they could point as a political safety valve.

And then there is the simple military thought that in these days of perpetual armed alert it is to the interest of American security and American defense economics to have such a group of soldiers who do not have to be surrounded by mobile breweries, ice cream factories, Coca Cola bottling plants, dependents, and all the expensive marginal trappings which we have allowed over the years to creep up on our military establishment.

I don’t think that there is ever going to be a time short of actual war when all of our allies will be enthusiastically for such a project; and the President never felt that this was a sine qua non.

Our British and French allies are not being asked for permission to do this; they are being asked for their reaction to the plan—a reaction which we expect to be luke warm. It is only if they are strongly opposed that we would consider this a major deterrent.

The really controlling factor is German reaction, since Germany will have to be the host country. If Bonn turns down VFC, then the [Page 229] deal is off. But if Bonn approves it, even though London and Paris do not cheer, I feel pretty certain that the President and NSC would want to move ahead.

However, as I understand it from earlier conversations, your trip is not for the purpose of getting a yes or a no out of anyone. It is simply to get the American principals involved thoroughly to understand what VFC is. Then, when the decision to move ahead has been made in Washington, and the signal is flashed to them to sound out the Governments to which they are accredited, they will know in detail what it is they are talking about and will not consider this a routine query.

Kindest regards and very best wishes.

Sincerely yours,

C.D. Jackson
  1. In a letter of Nov. 20, 1953, President Eisenhower requested Crittenberger to visit London, Paris, and Bonn to explain to the U.S. Chiefs of Mission the importance of the Volunteer Freedom Corps. (Eisenhower Library, C.D. Jackson records, 1953–56) Crittenberger discussed the plan with Aldrich during the latter’s visit to Washington in late December, but nevertheless stopped in London during his European tour to discuss the matter once again. Accounts of Crittenberger’s conversations are in the memorandum by Barbour, infra, and Crittenberger’s report of May 11, Document 89.