840.51 Frozen Credits/246

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

The Ambassador of France called at his request. His real point was one of complaint against the Treasury Department in connection with the freezing of French assets by the Treasury.15 I replied that the matter rested primarily with the Treasury, but that I would be glad to speak with the Secretary of the Treasury in regard to it.

The Ambassador very earnestly urged me to speak with the Treasury about the urgent need of his Government for some of the money or assets which have been frozen by this Government, acting through the United States Treasury. I replied that the Treasury has entire control over this matter, or virtually so, but that I would keep the matter in mind when I had occasion to speak with the Secretary of the Treasury on any subject.

I pointedly inquired of the Ambassador about the status of the French fleet. He said he recognized our interest in the matter of its disposition. I thereupon interrupted him and said that the French recovery both at home and in the colonies would depend primarily on the disposition of their naval and merchant fleet. Otherwise they would come completely and hopelessly under the domination of Hitler and his economic policies of totalitarian autarchy. I said I should be frank to say very earnestly and definitely that this country is greatly interested in France not permitting Germany to get control and possession of the French fleet for the reason that we have made clear to the world our interest in and our aid to France in this contest; that if having incurred the ill-will of Germany by reason of this fact, France should hand to Germany a cocked gun to shoot at us, it is naturally a matter of very great importance, especially when the French say that our fleet in the Pacific is of real value to French interests in the Far East, which are very great.

The Ambassador agreed entirely with what I said, but tried to make it appear that Germany would be more or less harmless under her [Page 462] promise not to use the French ships for military purposes. I replied that, of course, nobody would trust Hitler on a promise of that sort.

C[ordell] H[ull]
  1. See Executive Order No. 8446, June 17, 1940, Federal Register, June 19, 1940, p. 2279.