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Memorandum for the President
August 7, 1942 Washington, D.C.
The problem of how to deal with General de Gaulle and his followers with relation to present plans has been under discussion for some time.1 The British Chiefs of Staff on August 5th communicated in part the following through their Washington Mission to us:
“We are faced with the possible danger that in the case of operations in which British and United States forces are concerned the Americans may confide more to General de Gaulle and his representatives than we do.
“We feel strongly that it is highly undesirable that the Fighting French High Command should be informed of impending operations at a stage when there is time for leakage to prejudice their success. Whether, and at what stage, General de Gaulle himself should be taken into our confidence on operational matters affecting French territory is of course mainly a political matter for Government decision.
“Meanwhile it is most important that we and the United States military authorities should keep in step in these matters.”2
The principal trouble in this matter is that General de Gaulle’s headquarters is very “leaky”. Matters discussed with them quickly become rumored about. We have somewhat the same results here in Washington. All of which is very dangerous to our purpose.
At the present time I am proposing to the British Chiefs of Staff that General Eisenhower commence formal discussions with General de Gaulle regarding plans for landing on the Continent this fall, the purpose being to “cover up” our real purpose in Torch. Just how far into detail General Eisenhower might go would have to be worked out by our combined agencies in London dealing with the matter of deception as well as secrecy. Under the circumstances I suggest that the Secretary of State be informed, in response to his memorandum to you of August 4th on this subject, that:
“With reference to Ambassador Winant’s telegram dated July 27th, No. 4190, regarding General de Gaulle,3 no action should be taken at the present time. A little later it is possible that a definite proposal may be made.
“In all that relates to this matter the greatest secrecy must be maintained as there is evidence that leakages frequently result from discussions with General de Gaulle and his followers.”4
G. C. Marshall
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Office of the Chief of Staff (OCS), Project Decimal File 1941-43, 381, European Theater of Operations, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.
1. While in London, Marshall had received from Admiral Harold R. Stark a July 21 memorandum from General Charles de Gaulle entitled “Note on the participation of Fighting French Forces in the opening of a Theater of Operations in Western Europe.” The French general stated that he and the French National Committee believed that “participation of the Fighting French Forces in a western front is indispensable” and that these forces “should immediately be concentrated in Great Britain and that they should receive immediately modern equipment and arms.” Moreover, as his forces “would form an integral part” of Allied activities, they “ought to be associated with planning and decisions” and to participate in the Allies’ command structure. (Stark Memorandum for Marshall and King, July 24, 1942, NA/RG 165 [OCS, Project Decimal File 1941-43, 320.2 ETO].)
President Roosevelt had sent to Marshall on August 5 two memorandums (August 4 from Secretary of State Cordell Hull and July 30 from Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles) addressed to Roosevelt regarding General de Gaulle’s proposal. Secretary Hull suggested that the British government and Adrien Tixier, the Free French representative in Washington, be told that the details of de Gaulle’s proposal should be taken up with the British and that Eisenhower would refer to Washington any questions involving United States forces. (Hull Memorandum for the President, August 4, 1942, Welles to Roosevelt, July 30, 1942, and Roosevelt Memorandum for Marshall, August 5, 1942, ibid.)
2. The British Chiefs of Staff memorandum to Field Marshal Dill continued: “We have accordingly asked General Ismay to see General Eisenhower and Admiral Stark and to tell them that for the moment we are not disclosing anything about future operations to the Fighting French Military authorities and to ask them to do likewise.” Dill was advised to discuss the entire question with General Marshall. (War Cabinet Offices to Joint Staff Mission, August 5, 1942, COS [W] 241, ibid.) For Marshall’s comments to Dill regarding the British Chiefs of Staff (W) 241, see Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-271 [3: 292-93].)
3. The State Department directed Ambassador John G. Winant to ascertain from the British Foreign Office whether the contents of the July 21 notes General de Gaulle had given to Admiral Stark and to Prime Minister Churchill were the same as the telegram Tixier had given to Under Secretary of State Welles that same day. Winant’s reply showed a number of significant differences, the key one being de Gaulle’s comment to the State Department that while he was ready for frank discussions, he was unwilling to hold them “with little men who cannot see further than the ends of their own noses and who have no authority.” Tixier told Welles that de Gaulle would like to visit the United States for talks with President Roosevelt. Winant reported that Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden had told him that the British government would not object to a visit by de Gaulle. (Welles to Roosevelt, July 30, 1942, Welles [signed Hull] to Winant, Telegram No. 3398, July 22, 1942, and Winant to Welles, Telegram No. 4190, July 27, 1942, NA/RG 165 [OCS, Project Decimal File 1941-43, 320.2 ETO].)
4. At the top of the memorandum the president wrote: “G.C.M. OK go ahead. FDR.” On August 13 Marshall sent a letter to Secretary of State Hull, mostly comprised of the quoted paragraphs, informing him of the president’s decision. (Marshall to Hull, August 13, 1942, ibid.)
Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 290-292.