740.00119 European War 1939/562: Telegram

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

866. For Opnav from Glover.36 During last 2 days have had long conversations with head and liaison officer second section of Navy [Page 480] Department during which I have insisted on the utmost frankness because of the prevailing rumors concerning discussions pertaining to the disposition of the French Fleet and the Mediterranean and African bases. Most positive assurances have been given, based on a recent message from Admiral Darlan to the fleet subsequent to the recent conversations between Hitler and Pétain, that no commitments have been made which involve the use of Mediterranean or African naval bases by the Germans, the use of the French Fleet against the British, the turning over of any part of the French Fleet to the Germans. Every emphasis has been placed on holding in a position of status quo the French Empire and in defending it against any aggressor. Recent naval orders have been again issued to defend to the end and that ships must be prepared to scuttle themselves rather than surrender. The head of the section stated that the Germans would not dare ask for such concessions from the fleet or bases as they know full well that these would not be granted. He is decidedly anti-British as is Darlan, but not to the extent that they prefer further German control. However, he pointed out that because of the general situation in France, an economic accord with Germany was absolutely necessary.

It was stated that there is no intention of moving the ships now at Fort de France nor is there any intention to move the Jean Bart from Casablanca to Toulon. The promise has been made that should any such move be contemplated prior notification will be given through the proper channels. It appears probable that even if the Government moves back to Paris in the near future the three Ministries of National Defense will remain in Vichy for some time and at least until Paris is completely evacuated. Information concerning the conversations between Hitler-Pétain and Laval has been held in such strict secrecy that apparently no one here other than the latter is completely informed.

  1. For Chief of Naval Operations from Lieutenant Commander Cato Glover, Assistant Naval Attaché in France.