4-387 Memorandum for General de Saint-Didier, May 17, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: May 17, 1944

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General de Saint-Didier

May 17, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]


Dear General:

Immediately following our conversation yesterday, and without waiting for your third memorandum which I have not yet received, I communicated with General Eisenhower in England. Also I took up the matter with the U.S. Chiefs of Staff to secure their approval of my procedure.1

While the several matters are still on a basis of discussion, I am giving you the immediate reactions from England. General Eisenhower has not seen my message as he is absent on an inspection but his Chief of Staff replies to me to the following effect:

I was not aware that General Koenig had requested the return of Colonel Le Bel to North Africa and have communicated with the French Mission immediately, requesting that he be retained here until we are able to utilize his services as we desire to do. I am informed that General Koenig is quite willing to hold him.

With reference to the bombing, in my first conference with General Koenig we arranged that he and his senior air man should consult with Air Marshal Tedder on bombing targets, particularly railway targets and those involving probable loss of life among French citizens. Algiers does not know this because of the stop on communications. As you probably know the problem of reconciling of French civilian losses has occupied the Prime Minister and the British Cabinet and there have been communications with the President. As a result a number of targets which threatened the greatest loss of French life were eliminated.

Please consider the above as an interim reply in the absence of General Eisenhower.2

I am giving you this so that you can make an immediate initial reply to General Bethouart. However, please make clear to him that this was General Smith communicating with me informally and that General Eisenhower has not yet seen my message. You may be sure that we will do everything in our power to protect the interests of the French civilians both as to life and property so far as this can be done without undue hazard to the soldiers involved in the pending operations as well as to the success of the operation.3

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. On May 16 Major General Auguste Brossin de Saint-Didier had discussed with General Marshall the question of Colonel Le Bel’s assignment to Eisenhower’s staff and the problem of bombing railway installations endangering French citizens. (See the previous document, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-386 [4: 454-56].) Saint-Didier had sent to Marshall a memorandum on May 16 regarding Le Bel’s assignment and one on May 17 regarding Allied bombing of railway systems and factories in France. (Saint-Didier Memorandums for General George C. Marshall, May 16 and 17, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) Saint-Didier had also written a letter to Marshall dated May 16 concerning the bombing of Hanoi Station in April which resulted in ten Frenchmen killed and forty wounded and two hundred Indochinese casualties. The chief of the French Military Mission recommended that the American air forces consult with the French Intelligence Service in Chungking, which he said was more reliable than data supplied by the Chinese. (Saint-Didier to Marshall, May 16, 1944, ibid.)

2. General Eisenhower replied on May 21 that Lieutenant General Walter Bedell Smith’s explanation was sufficient and that he had nothing additional on the subject. (Papers of DDE, 3: 1877-79.) For further discussion of Smith’s reply, see note 3 of the previous document, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-386 [4: 454-56].

3. Saint-Didier replied the next day that he had immediately forwarded to Lieutenant General Emile B

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