32. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson1


  • Bob Anderson’s Call on General De Gaulle

Bob Anderson telephoned this morning to say that on Friday night, just as he was ready to leave Europe, he got a sudden invitation to call on General De Gaulle on Saturday at 10 A.M. He of course postponed his return and made the visit, which lasted about 45 minutes-one hour.

Anderson reports that General De Gaulle was most cordial. He said he knew there had been difficulty in communication between France and the United States, and would very much like to see this situation improved. There were only two great powers—the US and the USSR—but other countries had their own rights and interests, and he thought it important to have good communications. He said that he did not get on well with President Kennedy, who seemed to have a grand design of his own and was not in agreement with the views of General [Page 54] De Gaulle. On the other hand, while he had talked with you only 15 minutes in November,2 he had found it a most valuable conversation and hoped to have a better understanding with you.

The General then asked Anderson whether you would value communication by letter or by telephone, and Anderson said he particularly emphasized the telephone. Anderson said that while he could not speak for you, he could think of no reason why such communications would not be welcome. Anderson asked De Gaulle if there was any particular substantive matter which he would like to discuss, but the General replied that in frankness he was too tired and was not yet caught up with immediate issues after his illness.3 Nevertheless he did value such connection, and while he expected to have differences with even the greatest of allies, France would always hope for good communication and understanding with her real friends like the United States.

After the meeting and before he left France, Anderson received a further message from De Gaulle’s office giving him the General’s telephone number—Balzac 2000.

Bob’s recommendation is that you should find a moment to make a personal phone call to the General in the next day or so. All that we need say is that we have had a report of this friendly talk, that we are grateful for the General’s kindness to Mr. Anderson, that we certainly do welcome communication with him by letter and by telephone, and that this phone call is simply for the purpose of wishing him continued recovery and expressing the hope that we can indeed have such communications.

I support Bob’s recommendation with one addition. George Ball is going to Paris this week end and has already asked if he may call on General De Gaulle, as he will be calling later on Prime Minister Home. I think you might wish to mention the Ball visit to General De Gaulle, and to say that if he is feeling ready for such communication, we would be very glad if he could have a frank talk with Secretary Ball about the great problems both our countries face in Southeast Asia.4

McG. B.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. 5. No classification marking.
  2. A memorandum of their conversation is in Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XII, Document 276.
  3. De Gaulle underwent surgery on April 17.
  4. No record of a telephone conversation has been found. Johnson sent a letter to De Gaulle, dated June 4, which George Ball delivered during a June 5 meeting. Johnson’s letter and De Gaulle’s reply are in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Head of State Correspondence, France. Ball’s report on his meeting with De Gaulle is in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. I, Document 202.