Containing Germany: Britain and the Arming of the Federal by Spencer Mawby (auth.)

By Spencer Mawby (auth.)

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2 They remained unaware, however, that the American Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, would advocate West German rearmament so vigorously, with the aid of a range of inducements linked to rearmament in one package. 3 When Bevin met the American chargé, Julius Holmes, on 4 September he was informed ‘that United States thinking was much in line with the Secretary of State’s’ on the subject of a gendarmerie. 5 The Labour Backlash 43 This American initiative brought the issue of West German rearmament into the realm of Cabinet debate for the first time.

A month later, on examining the Strang committee’s views on the need to maintain a policy of German demilitarisation, Attlee wrote to Bevin that he thought it ‘unlikely that Germany will settle down without some armed forces’. He expressed approval for Churchill’s ideas and proposed that German forces should be ‘integrated with other Western Union forces in such a way that while adding substantially to their strength, the German contingent would not be effective as an independent force . . diverting the German military instinct into a channel which would make for peace instead of war’.

It is doubtful whether the Allied forces, as at present constituted . . 73 Bevin believed that the threat of a Korean-style attack against the Federal Republic was genuine. Having rejected the Chiefs’ proposals for a 20-division West German army, he sponsored Kirkpatrick’s scheme for an enlarged gendarmerie devoted to internal policing. ’ It explicitly ruled out a German military contribution ‘before Western Europe was stronger’. 75 The current historical consensus is that the Korean War precipitated the acceptance of West German rearmament by the Western powers including Britain.

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