740.0011 European War 1939/6246: Telegram

The Chargé in France (Matthews) to the Secretary of State

820. My telegram 682, October 3, 6 p.m., 762, October 17, 5 p.m., and 783, October 20, 1 p.m.29 German propaganda which has been so effectively and assiduously spreading around Vichy to the effect that British resistance is nearly broken, that the Royal Air Force will soon be without pilots or planes, that “the expected American help” won’t arrive until too late and then in [too] insufficient quantities really to count, has unquestionably proved effective in governmental and other circles in this little isolated capital. It has more than offset the more pleasing stories of deteriorating German morale, damage done to German concentrations along the French and Belgian coasts, and minor incidents in the occupied territory. Those who so ardently hope for a British [victory?], both in and out of the Foreign Office, have lately become visibly depressed. They are skeptical both as to the timing and the amount of our aid and, in true French practical style, want facts and dates and figures. Roughly, 50% of the Havas news despatches from abroad are forbidden to be published in unoccupied France and sometimes the proportion is much greater. On the President’s speech at Philadelphia last night [October 23],30 just 3 inches appear in most of this morning’s newspapers. The phrases emphasized in headline are: “Roosevelt declares ‘it is for peace that I have worked and for peace that I shall work every day of my life’”, the denial of the existence of any agreement which could “involve the United States in war for any reason whatsoever.” These phrases, taken from their true context, are utilized [Page 395] by the advocates of complete surrender to the German’s will as evidence that the one “remote possibility” of a British victory, namely the full military as well as industrial weight of the United States on Britain’s side is removed. While 1916 is recalled by a few, in general, the feeling of “too late and too little” is convincing the pragmatic Frenchman that a German victory is not far off and that his lot will be better on the side of the victor. There are many who reason cynically: “If the Germans win, we will be much better off by accepting the terms we can get now. If the British win they will need a strong France anyway.”

That the trend is toward agreement with the Germans, I am afraid, is clear. As a straw in the wind, General Requin came straight from General Huntziger last evening to see our Military Attaché. His theme song was that those who understood the true position of France and her helplessness before the Germans, and consequently the necessity for reaching some agreement should explain this position to the United States.

  1. Telegrams No. 682 and 762 not printed.
  2. For text, see The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1940 volume, p. 485.