15. Editorial Note

On April 24, Ambassador Caccia met with Secretary Herter. Caccia termed the just-concluded tripartite talks as “unembarrassing” and not likely to complicate relations with De Gaulle. Herter noted the heavy French emphasis on strategic planning about which he would have to solicit the views of the JCS. (Memorandum of conversation by William D. Brewer, April 24; Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199) In a memorandum for the President, April 24, Herter commented that the French sought “military talks to cover both present activities in Africa of the three countries and contingency strategic planning. This demand is perhaps the crux of De Gaulle’s case and poses difficult problems for us.” He continued that it was “important in these talks to give the French representatives a feeling that we were trying to be responsive to their needs and not merely negative.” Herter expressed the belief that Joxe would report to De Gaulle that the United States had been forthcoming. (Ibid., AF/AFI Files: Lot 62 D 406, Tripartite)

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Foy D. Kohler stated in a memorandum to Murphy on April 29, that the French viewed military talks “as a test of the usefulness of the tripartite discussions themselves and of our responsiveness to what General De Gaulle is seeking.” Kohler urged Murphy to press the JCS to designate a representative to take part. (Ibid., Central Files, 770.5/4–2959) At a Department of State–JCS meeting on May 1, Murphy requested the JCS views “on what kind of support the Department of Defense should provide for these talks.” (Ibid, State–JCS Meetings: Lot 61 D 417)

General Maxwell D. Taylor informed Murphy on May 20 of the continued JCS reluctance to become involved. Murphy replied that it was important to avoid driving De Gaulle into unilateral action by denying the French request and urged that exploratory talks, which would not constitute “military planning in the technical sense of the word,” be continued. Taylor revealed that the military was hesitant to become involved in talks that could result in the involvement of the military in foreign affairs. (Memorandum of conversation by Dwight J. Porter; ibid., 770.5/5–2059) The formal JCS response, dated May 22, stipulated that in areas of the world not covered by security pacts involving the United States (such as Africa), tripartite military planning could be considered. “However,” the JCS memorandum continued, “it is impossible to undertake military planning in any area without first establishing the political framework in which to plan and a general determination of planning objectives.” After the formulation [Page 53] of such guidance, the JCS, would participate in the political meetings. (JCSM–197–59; attachment to the memorandum on substance of discussion, May 29; ibid., State–JCS Meetings: Lot 61 D 417)

At the State–JCS meeting on May 29, General Taylor repeated the JCS concern that the talks not depart from the military realm. The discussion concluded with agreement that the Joint Chiefs May 22 memorandum would provide the general basis for U.S. military participation in the talks; that the Department of State would develop a more specific terms of reference and political guidance for the talks; and that the United States would emphasize the area south of the Sahara with recognition that the French might desire to discuss other areas, e.g., Tunisia, Morocco, or Somaliland. (Ibid., State–JCS Meetings: Lot 61 D 417)

On June 8, Murphy conveyed the requested guidance to General Taylor. The terms of reference emphasized the “exploratory, ad hoc” nature of the talks. (Ibid., PPS Files: Lot 67 D 548, Africa, 1959–1960)

On June 25, the JCS agreed to the terms of reference after a minor revision and designated Major General D. V. Johnson to take part in the exploratory military talks. (JCSM–245–59; ibid., S/S–S: CMS Files: Lot 69 D 150, Documents on U.S. Relations with France, June 1958–February 1963) Though the United States advised the French of its willingness to participate in such talks, this offer was not taken up by the French. (Letter from Eisenhower to De Gaulle, August 2, 1960; ibid., Documents on U.S. Relations with France, June 1958–Jan. 1963)