740.0011 European War/6–945: Telegram

Mr. Alexander C. Kirk, Political Adviser to the Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean Theater, to the Secretary of State

2538. Refer Paris 58, June 7 to Caserta. We have just participated in conference with Juin in SAC’s office.

Juin stated he did not have authority from de Gaulle to settle norwest Ital question in accordance with our wishes.

He opened meeting by inquiring to what extent SAC would be willing in case French troops in norwest Italy were placed under his command to permit French to participate in AMG. SAC informed Juin there could be no question of placing French troops in Italy under AFHQ command. He had now been directed by CCS to arrange early withdrawal of French troops from Italy and he would like to have this done soon as possible.

French Chief of Staff replied that de Gaulle had come long way in changing his attitude on this question and that he had impression de Gaulle was looking for best way in which to save face. He suggested that withdrawal from Val d’Aosta and Val di Suse could be arranged quickly but de Gaulle would not agree to immediate withdrawal of French troops in southern part of French Ital frontier.

[Page 738]

SAC then called on us to explain further to Juin his position as SAC in this matter and what he could and could not do. Broad39 was not at AFHQ at time of meeting.

We asked Juin if he had kept abreast of representations which Amer. Amb. in Paris had recently made to French Govt on this matter and we added that we presumed he was familiar with rude and brusque nature of Doyen’s communications to Amer. commanders in norwest Italy. Juin in response affirmatively and smilingly defended Doyen as “good soldier who carried out his orders”. He said that Doyen had been member of French Armistice Commission who had gone to Wiesbaden in 1940 and had been so difficult and rude with Germans that they had ordered his withdrawal (Couve de Murville40 told us same story last Sunday).41 He said he could assure SAC that on same day that Doyen had written his note to Crittenberger (our 2473 June 442) he had sent him (Juin) personal cable saying that of course he had taken every precaution that there should be no incidents with Amers. or Brit.

We reviewed entire matter more or less as set forth in Dept’s 506 May 2143 and 564, June 844 and added that SAC was obliged to consider behavior of French in norwest Italy in same light as conduct of partisans in refusing to withdraw from Venezia Giulia. We informed him that Tito had agreed to signature of agreement on Trieste and Ven. Giulia and this would be done at 9 o’clock this morning. We stated that had French kept their promise present situation would not have arisen and SAC would not have been obliged refer matter to higher authorities. Matter was now on Govtal level and SAC must insist on withdrawal of French troops.

We went on to say that we deplored French position in norwest Italy all the more because recent visits to US of Bidault and Juin had improved matters considerably and prolongation of dispute over norwest Italy served only to worsen relations between Fren and Brit and Amer.

We added that Alexander, Clark and other high Brit, and Amer. officers in this theater had always done everything possible to cooperate with French. Too the Pres. of US, Sec. State and other Amer. Amb. Paris out of friendliest motives and from consideration of French had made our position on this matter very clear. We had adopted very important principle in this question and we intended stick to it.

In our opinion no fair minded person could say US and Brit, wished to do anything to diminish French prestige. Record speaks [Page 739] for itself. What we have done for French and would like to do in future to help France regain her former position was well known.

Action taken by Pres. of [the United States?] in stopping further deliveries of military equipment to French Army was regrettable but in view of our efforts to arrive at amicable settlement of this question there was no other alternative.

We then asked Juin whether he could devise some formula where we could achieve our objective and at same time “save face” for de Gaulle. He stated he felt confident de Gaulle would agree to immed. withdrawal of French troops from Val d’Aosta and Val de Suse but there would be difficulty re withdrawal from area of Ligurian Alps and southern Ital. frontier. He thought that if SAC would accept his offer to withdraw immediately from Val d’Aosta and Val de Suse and would permit him to withdraw French troops progressively from rest of border area he might be able win over de Gaulle to such arrangement. At SAC’s suggestion we asked him what he meant by “progressive withdrawal” and how long time he envisaged to accomplish this. Juin replied he would try get de Gaulle to agree to effect this in about a month. SAC stated he might be able work out some such arrangement if Juin could obtain de Gaulle’s approval. We commented that in our opinion important thing in this matter would be to obtain agreement of French Govt, to such arrangement immediately so that simultaneous statement might be made in Washington, London and Paris that de Gaulle had agreed to withdrawal of French troops from nor west Italy.

Alexander stated he appreciated difficulties of Juin’s position and wished to do everything he could to assist him. He said he would be glad when de Gaulle agreed in principle to withdrawal of French troops in near future to issue public statement in which he would set forth “magnificent cooperation given him by French troops on Frem Ital. border” and their success in holding important German forces in that area which contributed in no small part to victory in Italy. Juin reminded meeting that he of course was not at all certain he could put thru such proposal but that de Gaulle was leaving tomorrow morning for Normandy and he thought it would be best rather than communicate by telegraph for him to proceed at once to Paris in order to see de Gaulle this evening. Alexander kindly offered to place fast plane at Juin’s disposal and Juin is departing at 1 p.m. today for Paris.

In an aside after meeting Juin stated to us that de Gaulle’s position in this situation had been most unreasonable and that he had been very impetuous. Almost everyone in French Cabinet including Pleven45 was out of sympathy with him on this question. We asked [Page 740] Juin how in his opinion French people felt about this matter and he said he felt certain that if full facts were made known and matter were put to vote French people would decide overwhelmingly against de Gaulle’s position. In leaving meeting Juin stated to SAC “I know from days when I fought Ital. campaign with you that you have always been good friend and I feel certain you will do everything you can to help me arrive at peaceful settlement of this matter. I for my part regret profoundly that things have come to such a pass between France and Great Brit and US because France needs Brit and Amer very badly. We must settle this question quickly. We must settle Levant affair. Only Russians will profit if we are to remain divided”.

Atmosphere of meeting was easy and cordial.

We assume Dept has seen msg which Churchill addressed day before yesterday June 7 to Truman45a in which he set forth in no uncertain terms that in his opinion it will be impossible in long run for US to deal with de Gaulle. Alexander showed this msg this morning and commented that while he could not agree with Churchill more he felt that if de Gaulle is to be thrown out it has to be done by French people and not by outsiders.

Sent Dept, rptd Paris 169.

  1. Philip Broad, of the staff of the British Resident Minister at Allied Force Headquarters.
  2. Maurice Couve de Murville, French Delegate to the Consultative Council for Italy.
  3. June 3.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Same as telegram 2220 to Paris, p. 731.
  6. Same as telegram 2565, June 6, to Paris, p. 734.
  7. René Pleven, French Minister of National Economy.
  8. Not found in Department files and not available from the Harry S. Truman Library, Independence, Missouri.