62. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, July 17, 19561


  • Reduction in Military Forces


  • Dr. Heinz L. Krekeler, German Ambassador
  • Mr. Rolf F. Pauls, Counselor, German Embassy
  • Mr. Murphy—G
  • Mr. ReinsteinGER

During the course of a call on Mr. Murphy, the Ambassador referred to the reports which had been carried in the press regarding a change in American thinking regarding the size of armed forces. He said that he had been asked by his Government to send in a full report on the so-called Radford plan for a reduction in US forces by 800,000 men.2 These instructions had been sent before the strength of German forces had become a matter of discussion.

The Ambassador said that this was a matter of greatest concern to the German Government. There had just been a “great debate” in Parliament on conscription. The debate had been very heated in the Bundestag. The Chancellor had made a speech during the course of the debate in which he had referred to his visit to Washington. In response to an attack on the Government’s military program by Socialist Deputy Erler, the Chancellor had responded that he had been in Washington and was informed as to American thinking whereas Erler was not.

The Ambassador said that the Federal Government had committed itself to raise a force of 500,000 men. He expressed distress that discussion of the size of American forces had now been extended to the maintenance of US forces in Europe, then into the size of German forces. The Ambassador said that he felt compelled to say frankly that it was rumored among newspapermen in Washington that the source of the stories regarding the change in American thinking on the German forces was the Secretary of State. It was said that the Secretary had given a background press briefing on his way to a regatta at Rochester. The Ambassador said that he had not informed his Government of these reports since he did not think he should report on rumors. He felt obligated, however, to make inquiry as to the accuracy of these reports.

[Page 132]

Mr. Murphy said that there had been a great deal of newspaper talk without foundation. These reports had been a matter of concern to Admiral Radford. The United States was going through the annual process of reviewing its defense program. A large number of people were involved in this process and numerous individual ideas were put forward. However, the press reports were highly speculative. The United States Government had not reached any conclusion on the size of American armed forces. Mr. Murphy said the Secretary of State certainly would not have been the source of the rumors referred to.

Mr. Murphy said that in the event that the United States Government should at some stage reach a conclusion that, in view of the development of new weapons, some reduction in the size of its armed forces might be called for, the size of the American contribution to the defense of the North Atlantic area would of course be subject to multilateral consultation and discussion in the North Atlantic Council. In this connection he recalled that the President had in March 1955 sent a message to Chancellor Adenauer and to the heads of other governments signatory to the Brussels Treaty that it would be the policy of the United States “to continue to maintain in Europe, including Germany, such units of its armed forces as may be necessary and appropriate to contribute its fair share of the forces needed for the joint defense of the North Atlantic area while a threat to that area exists, and will continue to deploy such forces in accordance with agreed North Atlantic strategy for the defense of this area”.3

Ambassador Krekeler said that he found Mr. Murphy’s statement very reassuring. It corresponded to the German viewpoint that these matters were all matters for discussion within NATO. He asked whether the Secretary would make a statement along these lines in his press conference the following day. Mr. Murphy said that he did not know. He had not had an opportunity to discuss the press conference with the Secretary. The Ambassador said he thought it highly desirable from the German viewpoint that a statement be made at the press conference.

The Ambassador also asked whether he could see the Secretary of State on Thursday, July 19. In view of the importance of the matter and the very close relations between the Chancellor and the Secretary, he thought it important that he be in a position to convey to the Chancellor some direct statement from the Secretary on this subject. The Ambassador said that he would also appreciate an opportunity to see Admiral Radford. He pointed out that he had no [Page 133] Military Attaché and therefore thought it necessary to take the matter up with Admiral Radford himself. Mr. Murphy said that he would inquire into both of these matters. He wondered whether it was a good idea for the Ambassador, in all the circumstances, to make a visit to the Pentagon which would become publicly known.

The Ambassador said that the press reports were particularly unfortunate from the viewpoint of their timing. The conscription law had not yet passed the Bundesrat. It would come up within the next few days. It had been thought that it would go through without difficulty, but the chances of passage might be jeopardized by these reports. The Ambassador pointed out that the opposition to the Government had been taking the line that the proposals for a 500,000 man force represented an outmoded military philosophy and were in excess of what needed to be done.

Mr. Pauls pointed out that in the press it had been reported as the American view that it was no longer necessary for Germany to have a force of 12 divisions. Mr. Murphy said he was sure that the Secretary had not said anything of this kind.

At the conclusion of the discussion, the Ambassador said he would undoubtedly be asked by the press about his talk with Mr. Murphy. He intended to say that he had called for a general discussion because he had been away on vacation. If he were asked whether the question of size of forces had come up, he would indicate that he had raised it but would not undertake to say what he had been told. He thought it would be well to say that he had had a satisfactory conversation. Mr. Murphy agreed.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762A.0221/7–1756. Confidential. Drafted by Reinstein. A note on the source text reads “Sec Saw.”
  2. Reference is to an article in The New York Times, July 13, which stated that Radford supported a cut in U.S. military forces by 800,000 men.
  3. For text of this letter, see Department of State Bulletin, March 21, 1955, pp. 464–465.