740.0011 European War 1939/33437/10: Telegram

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

916. Personal for the President only. During the course of our conversation this morning Reynaud’s remarks about the American Fleet enabled me to bring up the question of the French Fleet. It took very little conversation to convince him of the truth of the arguments that you advanced in your 493, May 26, 4 p.m.

I believe as strongly as I have ever believed anything that you will be unable to protect the United States from German attack unless you have the cooperation of the French and British Fleets. I believe that one of the surest ways to obtain such cooperation would be by sending our Atlantic Fleet to the Mediterranean.

In any event I ask you solemnly and urgently to send immediately a cruiser to Bordeaux for two purposes: First, to bring to Bordeaux immediately from 5 to 10,000 Thompson submachineguns caliber .45, model 1928 A–l, and one million rounds of ammunition; and second, to carry away from Bordeaux the entire French and Belgian gold reserve. The French reserve is 550 tons. The Belgian 100 tons.

The reason for the request for these arms is that both Reynaud and Mandel1 now expect a Communist uprising and butcheries in the city of Paris and other industrial centers as the German Army draws near. The Paris police have no weapons except antiquated single shot rifles.

Mandel appealed to me personally this morning to obtain the submachineguns at the earliest possible moment.

I told him to have orders sent to Purvis2 at once in Washington to purchase these weapons and munitions on behalf of the French Ministry of the Interior for the use of the French police. Please ask Henry [Page 454] Morgenthau3 to round up every available weapon of this kind he can to the number of 10,000 and please put them on cruiser tomorrow. Take them from Navy stocks if you have to and replace them. Incidentally, we have exactly two revolvers in this entire Mission with only 40 bullets and I should like a few for ourselves.

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The French have no ships available on which to send their gold reserve. I know where it is and it is out of harm’s way for the moment. Please tell this to Henry Morgenthau. If you cannot send a cruiser of the San Francisco class at once to Bordeaux please order the Trenton at Lisbon to take on fuel and supplies at once for a trip to America and order her today to Bordeaux.

Reynaud has just said to me that if we can send a cruiser to Bordeaux or to any other port he will put the entire gold reserve on it and send it to the United States.

  1. Georges Mandel, French Minister of the Interior.
  2. Arthur Purvis, president of the Anglo-French Purchasing Board in the United States.
  3. Secretary of the Treasury.