Roosevelt Papers: Telegram

The President’s Personal Representative ( Bullitt ) to the President 1

When I first reached Cairo, I suggested to Lyttelton that it should not be impossible to get the French Fleet in Alexandria (1 battleship, 3 heavy cruisers, 1 light cruiser, 4 dd’s, and 1 sub) to come over to our side. He said that the difficulty was that there was much too much hostility on the part of the French officers & men both to the British and to the Free French to be willing to join either of those forces. It was my suggestion that perhaps they would be willing to join the American fleet. Lyttelton was impressed with the idea and telegraphed to Churchill but has had as yet no reply. When I returned to Cairo yesterday I again discussed the matter with Lyttelton. [Page 245] He is still of the opinion that it could be put through if you and Churchill so desire. I should like to minutely explore the possibilities and suggest that you and I use as a private code “John Paul Jones” and refer to it in future communications merely by the word “John” “Paul” or “Jones”. The French ships are in bad condition; and I may find difficulties which would make any action undesirable. It is obvious that should our cause be joined by the French fleet at Alexandria it would bring about the danger of an eruption from Darlan and the Germans. I should be inclined to take a chance on that. How do you feel about it. Would you have any objections to French fleet here running up the American flag? Until I hear from you I shall do nothing.2

  1. Sent via Navy channels.
  2. For references by Roosevelt to Bullitt’s suggestion, see the meeting of December 28, 11:45 a.m., ante, p. 130, and the meeting of January 1, 1942, 6 p.m., ante, p. 153.