276. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • French-American Relations; Forthcoming Visit of General de Gaulle to the United States


  • US
    • President Johnson1
    • The Secretary
    • Assistant Secretary Tyler
    • E. S. Glenn (interpreter)
  • France
    • President de Gaulle2
    • Foreign Minister Couve de Murville
    • Ambassador Alphand
[Page 788]

The President thanked General de Gaulle for having crossed the ocean to express the sympathy of France for the United States in this hour of need. He expressed the great personal admiration he has for General de Gaulle and mentioned their conversation in 1960.3 General de Gaulle spoke of the emotion of the French people at the news of President Kennedy’s death. President Kennedy was extremely popular with the French people. General de Gaulle feels that we owe it to President Kennedy’s memory to proceed along the path which he had traced. This path is that of continued mutual trust between the United States and France. The difficulties between the two countries have been greatly exaggerated. One can say in fact that many of the descriptions which have appeared referring to tensions between the two countries were descriptions of something that didn’t exist. In reality those difficulties are minor and are the result of a change in the reciprocal situations of the two countries, whose relative circumstances have somewhat changed, mainly from the military point of view but also, up to a point, from the political one. This calls for some adjustments, but for no major change. What is important is that France knows perfectly well that she can count on the United States if she were attacked. Likewise, if the United States found itself at war, France would come in with such means as she possesses at the side of the United States. President de Gaulle had sent a telegram to that effect to the late President.4

President Johnson (speaking before the interpretation had been completed, and in particular before General de Gaulle’s statement about Cuba was mentioned) stated that the attitude of France at the time of the Cuban crisis proved that France would stand by the United States. The question is simply one to make all the necessary arrangements for mutual benefit. The President said he hoped that General de Gaulle would go on with his plans and return in the near future to the United States. His great wisdom will be of great help to us, and Americans admire him very much.

General de Gaulle thanked President Johnson for his kind words. President Kennedy had paid him a visit in Paris5 and he intended to return it. At that time he intended to speak very frankly of all questions of mutual concern.

As to what France is trying to do, it is to organize Europe—continental Europe—from an economic point of view and after this is done, perhaps also from the political point of view. To do so will be difficult, but President de Gaulle is hopeful. The organization of Europe is something of the greatest importance for the relations of the continent with [Page 789] the entire Free World. When this organization is completed, Europe will open negotiations with the United States on economic questions. The intent in regard to these negotiations is to take a very liberal attitude; Europe does not aim at autarchy; on the contrary she intends to keep all windows open, and considers this to be of the greatest importance.

President Johnson said that he felt sure that General de Gaulle knows that the obligation of the United States is absolute, and that we are fully committed to common defense. This is the most important. The United States has also the firm belief that France is likewise committed. We may have some problems but we will find a solution to them. It is easier to knock somebody’s barn down than to build one but it is not the right way of acting. The President feels no doubt that if General de Gaulle puts his great mind at the service of the common interests of the two countries all the difficulties will be overcome. He hopes therefore to see the General back in the United States in February or at such time as will suit the General. At that moment we will work together not only to consolidate each of our nations separately but to consolidate both of them together.

General de Gaulle thanked the President and said that he did not wish to take any more of his time. He just wanted to add one word. What he had seen on this day in the United States greatly encouraged him and made him feel that we will be able to fulfill the obligation which we all have to President Kennedy. General de Gaulle has seen a great display of unity among the American people and he can assure President Johnson of the sympathy and the friendship of the entire world to the United States. This is very good for our common interests.

President Johnson thanked General de Gaulle for having crossed the Atlantic on this day. This is something which the American people will not soon forget. They are grateful that General de Gaulle has placed his great name and his great leadership at their side on this day.

On the way to the elevator President Johnson reiterated his hope to see General de Gaulle in the United States in February. General de Gaulle said that the details can be discussed through the usual diplomatic channels.

  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Memoranda of Correspondence: Lot 66 D 149. Confidential. Drafted by Glenn and approved in S on November 26 and by the White House on December 2. The meeting was held in Rusk’s office. A memorandum of de Gaulle’s conversation with Rusk along similar lines on November 24 is ibid., Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330.
  2. President Kennedy was assassinated November 22 in Dallas, Texas.
  3. De Gaulle was in Washington for President Kennedy’s funeral.
  4. Not further identified.
  5. Not found.
  6. See Document 230.