Editorial Note

No contemporary record of this meeting has been found. In connection with the review in the Department of State of the manuscript of William L. Langer’s Our Vichy Gamble (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1947), H. Freeman Matthews prepared a lengthy memorandum [Page 68] of comment, one passage of which contains his recollection of this meeting at the White House, as follows:

Matthews Files


Washington, January 17, 1945.

… I was called down from Tarrytown, New York, where I was finishing a few days leave before proceeding to London, on December 23 and sent right over to the White House. The President and Churchill were in conference alone and we were later joined by Secretary Hull.1 They told me of their plan to set up “Gymnast” and of their hope of inducing Weygand to join the Allies. I told them frankly that I was convinced that Weygand would not act independently of Pétain and further that he would immediately inform the Marshal of our approach to him. I added that in view of the German contacts in the Marshal’s entourage, they would almost immediately learn of our plans. Churchill replied with much confidence that he did not care whether they learned of them or not—a statement I found it difficult to understand in view of the rapidity with which the Germans could probably have moved in North Africa. After some discussion, however, the President and the Prime Minister decided that Weygand’s prestige was such in North Africa and his support would mean so much to our proposed expedition that they would take the risk and send him the message.2 The latter made clear that we would go ahead with our North African expedition whether Weygand went along with us or not; hence, his refusal to cooperate would not prevent France’s becoming once more involved in the war—something that Pétain and, to a certain extent, Weygand were anxious to avoid.…3

  1. In response to an inquiry by the editors, Matthews stated that Hull was not actually present for this discussion but arrived at the end of the meeting, apparently to see the President on another matter. Matthews recalled that Hopkins was present for the discussion, and that Hopkins had shared his doubts about Weygand’s willingness to act independently of Pétain. (Matthews to the Historical Office, January 15 and February 20, 1962, 640.00/1–1562 and 2–2062).
  2. The message under reference is the secret oral message, post, p. 234. Roosevelt also sent Weygand a written communication, dated December 27 and couched in terms of a New Year’s greeting (post, p. 244).
  3. In amplification of this memorandum Matthews informed the editors that the discussion also covered the procedure for transmitting the secret message to Weygand. Roosevelt and Churchill had in mind that Matthews would take the message to Leahy who would pass it on to Weygand. Matthews pointed out that the suspicions of the German Secret State Police (Gestapo) would be aroused if he were to return to Vichy on his way to his new assignment at London or if Leahy went to see Weygand on the Riviera. Roosevelt and Churchill accepted Matthews’ suggestion that the message be transmitted by way of Leverich at Lisbon and MacArthur at Vichy (Matthews to the Historical Office, January 15, 1962, 640.001/1–1562). For further information on the method of transmittal, see the editorial note, post, p. 234.