28. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to Secretary of Defense McNamara1


  • General Billotte’s Mission

General Billotte was brought in to see the President on Monday afternoon by Mr. Robert Anderson. General Billotte had sought this appointment on the ground that he had a personal message from General De Gaulle, and while the French Ambassador initially tried to insert himself into the meeting, he withdrew after a conversation with General Billotte, an episode which suggests that General De Gaulle did indeed authorize this private visit to the President by Billotte.

General Billotte’s assertion is that General De Gaulle believes that the U.S. and France should cooperate on smaller matters where cooperation is possible, in the hope that this may lead onward toward understanding on larger matters. General Billotte reported that he had told De Gaulle that French Defense officials had been uncooperative in responding to American proposals for cooperation in the manufacture of tanks. He said that he had General De Gaulle’s authorization to make a specific proposal and could give us assurance that if the U.S. could accept it in principle, there would be no obstacle at other levels of the French Government.

General Billotte’s specific proposal is that the French AMX 13 and AMX 30 tanks should be licensed for production in the U.S. He believed that U.S. production could be cheaper by about 25%, that U.S. producers—specifically Chrysler—could shift very promptly from their present line to the French tanks, and that the French tanks are superior to our current line. General Billotte proposed that about 80% of the full run of the production of these two tanks should be American.

The second element in General Billotte’s proposal is that France should join the Un. S. and Germany in the production of the battle tanks of the next generation. He recognized that France had been asked to participate in this operation before, and said that it had been a mistake for France to abandon this field to the Americans and the Germans.

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It was not wholly clear from this conversation whether these two proposals were linked in General Billotte’s mind or whether they are separable.

We told General Billotte that we would be back in touch with France promptly, and while he himself proposed that the discussion should be pursued first with Ambassador Alphand, the President has now decided that it is better for you and the General to have a talk first.2

McGeorge Bundy 3
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, France, Vol. 2. Secret.
  2. In an April 9 memorandum to Bundy, McNamara reported that he had met with Billotte the previous afternoon and listened to his proposals. “I told him we would be happy to discuss in detail how France might join with the United States and Germany in the development of the next main battle tank, and how a U.S. firm or firms might join with French firms in the production and sale to foreign governments of French armored vehicles.” Billotte responded he would favorably report this proposal to De Gaulle. (Ibid.)
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.