Notes on Conference in Secretary’s Office, Friday, June 7 (1940), 11 :45 A.M.

Source :Franklin D. Roosevelt Library – Diary 210 pp. 111-112, document aimablement communiqué par Mme Silvana Ippati-Wiltshire

Those present, Mr. Louis Renault, Mr. Jean Renault (son), Mr. Samuel Guillelman (sic), Mr. Dumaine (from French Embassy), Secretary Morgenthau, Mr. Cochran, Mr. Nelson, and Mr. Young.

Mr. Renault, after dully felicitating the Secretary of the Treasury, stated that he had been sent to the United States to meet the various Governmental officials. Further, that he came not as a politician, not as a financier, only as a manufacturer. He was just a boy who had gone into the manufacturing business in France and made good.

As a manufacturer for his Government, he came solely to accomplish a technical objective, namely, to help the technical production of tanks. He had built the French small tank which has been used during the World War, and as he was the foremost tank expert of France that was why he has been sent to the United States. He added that the French tank was far superior to the German tank, but that, unfortunately, the French did not have enough of them.

Mr. Renault wished to make personal contacts with American manufacturers who might go into the production of war tanks. He pointed out that speedy production would be necessary in order to stop the blood of France running over the country. He knew that the United States was sympathetic and that its people understood. He added that we all hope this war will be the last one, for, certainly, we who fought in the World War do not want to see another.

To the foregoing speech, Secretary Morgenthau responded with a welcome stating that Ambassador Bullitt had already informed him that Mr. Renault was coming to this country. However, since Mr. Renault had started this trip, the American situation presented a different picture. The promulgation of our own National defense had necessitated the organization of a special commission by the President ; Mr. Knudsen of this commission had been specifically asked to look after American production problems.

The Secretary asked if he had talked with either Mr. Purvis or Mr. Bloch L’Aine as they were the two persons with whom this Government had been handling all Allied purchasing. Mr. Renault replied that he had talked with both of them and that they were fully acquainted with the situation.

The Secretary pointed out, very diplomatically, what when Mr. Renault had decided on the type of tanks he wished to produce in this country and the manufacturers who seemed to be fitted to produce them, he should come back again and bring with him either Mr. Purvis or Mr. Bloch L’Aine. The Secretary said that there had been the finest relationship between the Government and the Anglo-French Purchasing Board and that he merely touched on this factor in order that the lines might be kept straight.

Mr. Renault replied that he and Mr. Bloch-L’Aine were in absolute agreement and that he understood the situation perfectly. The Secretary added that he wanted to help bring Mr. Renault’s mission to a successful conclusion.

The conference adjourned with the suggestion by the Secretary that Mr. Nelson make an appointment for Mr. Renault to meet with Mr. Knudsen that afternoon.

This group, with the exception of Secretary Morgenthau and Merle Cochran, reconvened in Mr. Nelson’s office. In talking over Mr. Renault’s request in a little more detail, Mr. Nelson and Mr. Young came to the conclusion that Mr. Renault would save a good deal of time if he could talk with Colonel Burns of the War Department before interviewing Mr. Knudsen.

This conference with the War Department would give Mr. Renault the opportunity to work out with the Army’s tank experts the type of tanks that the French wished to build in this country, as well as the names of potential manufacturers.

Mr. Renault was very pleased with this arrangement, and it was agreed that after his discussion with the War Department Mr. Nelson would personally take him to Mr. Knudsen in order to work out the production problems involved. An appointment was subsequently arranged for Mr. Renault to meet with Colonel Burns.

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