740.0011 European War 1939/32747/10: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in France (Bullitt)

493. The President desires that you communicate immediately the sense of the following to Reynaud97 and to Daladier:98

While we still hope the invasion will be checked, if the worst comes to the worst, we regard the retention of the French fleet as a force in being as vital to the reconstitution of France and of the French colonies and to the ultimate control of the Atlantic and other oceans and as a vital influence towards getting less harsh terms of peace. That means that the French fleet must not get caught bottled up in the Mediterranean. Those ships in the east Mediterranean must be in a position to exit through the Suez Canal. Those at Toulouse, Tunis, and Algiers must be able to exit past Gibraltar and be in a position, if the worst comes, to retire to the West Indies or to safe ports in the West African possessions.

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The same thought is being conveyed in the strictest confidence to the British regarding the British fleet.99

Finally, if the Germans hold out alluring offers to France based on surrender of the fleet, it should be remembered that these offers are of no ultimate value and that the condition of France could be no worse, but in fact would be far stronger, if the fleet were removed as a whole to safe places.

  1. Paul Reynaud, French Minister of National Defense.
  2. Edouard Daladier, French Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  3. See vol. iii , section under United Kingdom entitled “Concern of the United States over the fate of the United Kingdom and the British Fleet after the collapse of France”.