44. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France0
4506. Under instructions Alphand called on Kohler1 re French press reports that Algiers radio broadcast statement by NBC Algiers correspondent saying Challe told him he asked President to help his movement, in order block Mediterranean to Communists.
Kohler replied no such communication received, directly or indirectly. Had there been, our reaction would have been totally negative, and we would have informed GOF. Kohler said he assumed it best not [Page 61] dignify statement by denial, but should French think denial desirable, we would issue immediately.
Alphand referred to Secretary’s assurance yesterday there no truth to rumors rebel generals had contacted us for support. Kohler said Secretary made thorough check be sure no truth whatsoever in this. He pointed out whole idea fantastic, since no matter what any American felt about Challe, even if he professed friendship to us and NATO, if he should succeed we would inevitably have to take violently opposite line to his Algerian policy, and by definition we would be opposed to him. Kohler said when President offered support to De Gaulle2 he meant it in real sense, and we wondered if French had any ideas of what we might usefully do.
Alphand replied he talked to Paris on this twice yesterday after his conversation with Secretary, and they saw no need for further gesture, thinking exchange of messages would suffice to dispel rumors. This is French affair, and French must settle it themselves as fast as can.
Kohler, in reaffirming our readiness be helpful, referred to NATO article 4. Asked if NATO could usefully take any troop or air force dispositions, or if we could usefully move Sixth Fleet under NATO.
Alphand thought not, on grounds this might be dangerous since involvement foreign military units, even of friendly nations, might give more prestige to Challe.
Kohler said we most apprehensive about possible movement into Tunisia. Alphand agreed would be disastrous. Lebel suggested if UN reaction to such move were too strong, French reaction might be increased sympathy for Challe.
Alphand noted there had been rumors at time of force de frappe debate [that] we contacted rightists and encouraged them by saying we would like to see a government more favorable to NATO cooperation. He thought these might have been people in our services who not responsible but speak too much. Hoped we would be careful about this.
Kohler reiterated assurance we have not encouraged rightists in any way, saying this not in our interest, since if Challe won, we would have more serious trouble with him over Algeria than any difficulties we may have had with De Gaulle.
Embassy should follow above line with Foreign Office and other French officials.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751S.00/4-2426. Confidential. Drafted by Valdes; cleared by Collopy, and in substance with S; and approved by Kohler.↩
- A memorandum of this conversation is ibid.↩
- On April 23, President Kennedy sent De Gaulle a message pledging his “continuing friendship and support as well as that of the American people.” (Telegram 4489 to Paris, April 23; ibid., 751S.00/4-2361) For text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, p. 315. For text of Kennedy’s April 26 message congratulating De Gaulle after the revolt collapsed, see vol. XIII, pp. 653–654.↩