Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)


[For the first part of this conversation with the French Ambassador, concerning Indochina, see volume IV, page 146.]

The Ambassador then spoke of the Dakar incident.61 He stated that he regretted deeply that the British had undertaken this attack against Dakar just at the time when a great deal of pro-British sentiment was manifesting itself in France after the events of the past [Page 591] months. He stated that there was no justification whatever for this attack. I replied that, as the Ambassador well knew, in my own belief the only hope for the restoration of that kind of independent France which the American people for so many generations had admired and respected was through a victory of Great Britain and that if such an anomalous situation were presented as the Vichy Government declaring war upon Great Britain and thus becoming the ally of Germany against her own recent ally, Great Britain, the Ambassador could well imagine what the impact upon American public opinion would be. The Ambassador said he fully understood this and that he did not believe the Vichy Government would take any such action. On the other hand, he said, he hoped that the American people would not sympathize with England in the present British attack on Dakar. To this I remarked that the American people certainly did not believe that the control of Dakar by Germany would be in the interest of the United States, nor in the interest of France. The Ambassador then said that it seemed to him that this British attack on Dakar, if it should be successful, would be the best way to bring Germany down into Africa. I expressed my surprise at this statement on the part of the Ambassador and asked if he really had any illusions that if Germany is successful in the war against Great Britain, she would refrain from moving in concert with Italy into Africa and disposing of the French colonies as she saw fit. To this the Ambassador made no reply. I then asked if the Ambassador could tell me whether there had not been both a German military mission and other German emissaries in Dakar within recent weeks. The Ambassador expressed great surprise and said that he did not believe that there were any Germans in Dakar whatever. I said I would be, of course, very much interested to know whether he could confirm this statement. The Ambassador said that he would obtain this information for me and would communicate it to me later.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. Dakar, French West Africa, was unsuccessfully attacked by British and Free French forces September 23–25, 1940.