200. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State1

2326. Eyes only for President and Secretary. Upon returning to my office this morning, after my trip to the United States, I asked for an appointment to see General de Gaulle and was given one for 3:30 this afternoon. I called at that time. I told him that President Kennedy was deeply disturbed about the attitude of France in the current discussions about the Berlin situation and he asked me to transmit his views to General de Gaulle.

The reaction of the United States, and of the people of the United States, to cancellation of London meeting, and to general trend of Berlin situation, is one of disappointment and disillusionment.

To begin with, in a democracy such as ours it is important that we show our people that we have offered to discuss any differences of view with another nation before entering into a shooting war. It is important that we do this because we are calling upon our people to make many sacrifices now and war will demand many more of them. In United States we are taking extraordinary measures to prepare country for whatever may come of Berlin situation. Thousands of members of reserves have been called to active duty as well as numerous units of both reserves and our National Guard. This, of course, has had wide-spread impact throughout entire US. We are doing this at a time when we are quite concerned about our present export-import dollar imbalance and it is very costly undertaking for us. We are adding more strength to military forces of NATO than all of our NATO Allies together. We believe this is necessary since we believe we must arm to parley. Our role is a difficult one and one which our people must have made clear to them and one which must have their support. With these reasons therefore, the refusal of France to participate in London conference, and widespread comment in press implying a lack of firmness in US position, is very harmful not only to US position at home but to overall position of Western Powers. We believe in US that we are doing all that we should do in order to deal from a position of strength and we sense a reluctance on part of our Allies to do anywhere near as well. This is disappointing to American people who anticipate greater support in these critical times.

I paused at some length after making foregoing statement and there was no response from General de Gaulle other than acknowledgment [Page 550] that he had understood it. I charged into the brief but pregnant silence that followed saying that while I was aware of fact that he might not want to make a response, I nevertheless wanted to be sure he understood what I had said. He nodded assent.

I then told General de Gaulle that the President was aware of his meeting next month with Prime Minister Macmillan and that the head of the German Government would be visiting Washington in the near future. I told him that the President believes that it would be well for the heads of the four nations to meet after these individual meetings, probably in early December. He believes Bermuda might be most suitable, all things considered, and would hope that it would be a working meeting. He believes that such a meeting should be held for purpose of exchanging views on situation now existing in Berlin in order that this exchange of views might strengthen overall Western position. However, if after such a meeting we were unable to continue on a common course together, and this became a matter of public knowledge such as occurred at time of London meeting cancellation, then it would be best not to have meeting. President believes that it is of utmost importance we work together and present strong united front and that any division which exists among us only serves to weaken our position in Soviet view, despite individual or collective strength we may have.

This concluded what I had to say to General de Gaulle and he then merely commented, “Thank you, Mr. Ambassador for this information, and through you I would like to thank your President. I have taken notes on it and will consider it.”

I should add that this report is an exact statement of what was presented to General de Gaulle since it was based upon a paper prepared before the meeting with him.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/10-3061. Secret.
  2. In his next telegram Gavin reported that, other than being unresponsive, de Gaulle’s “attitude was friendly and warm although perhaps somewhat less upon my departure than when I arrived.” (Telegram 2327, October 30; ibid.)