The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Kennedy) to the Secretary of State
[Received August 15—9:25 a.m.]
2734. Personal and strictly confidential for the Acting Secretary. After I left the Prime Minister last night I talked with a member of [Page 68]the War Cabinet who had discussed with the Prime Minister the President’s telegram regarding destroyers. He said to me though not in an unfriendly way, “Isn’t it rather a hard bargain for you to drive?” I said “Certainly not; we are only asking them to reiterate what the Prime Minister said in principle on June 4th”.
But, having sat in with Churchill and other members of the Cabinet at the time of the French debacle at Bordeaux, I am reminded that they were bemoaning the fact that when Reynaud was Premier and Darlan was Admiral of the Fleet, they both agreed that if any situation ever arose where the French would have to give in, the fleet was the one thing that would never surrender and in part would be handed over to the British. Now, Churchill, in his agreement with us, promises a good deal less than that, but nevertheless to all intents and purposes agrees to make disposition of the fleet that will not be unacceptable to us. I think, for the protection of the President and State Department, it would be well to consider that if the occasion arose here where a surrender was imminent, it is not at all unlikely that the entire Churchill government would be thrown out and another government come in that would make peace and, in that event, is it too much to imagine that the new government might very well not consider itself bound by promises of Churchill and dispose of the fleet to its own best advantage? I therefore think it might be well to decide how we can protect ourselves in this event.