711.51/157: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Leahy) to the Secretary of State



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I asked the Marshal89 whether he had read the President’s statement90 and he replied in the affirmative. I said that in my opinion it made it perfectly clear that we are determined that Nazi Germany shall be defeated and that in the end will be defeated.

The Marshal and Admiral Darlan both immediately asked “When?”. The latter inquired how we expected to send 2,000,000 men and land them on the European Continent. He went on to say, and the Marshal agreed: “It is not for me to advise President Roosevelt, but the United States is the one winner of this war today. You have air bases. Canada, which used to give you difficulties, is now under your influence, and you have a large merchant marine. Your influence is preponderant and even Germany would have to take heed if you would throw that influence for a compromise peace.

If the war goes on—and it may last for years—it will mean only destruction of all concerned and the United States itself will end in social revolution. Communism alone will prevail throughout Europe.” The Marshal said he thought Germany would be the first affected by communism, and France next. Darlan took issue with this in view of the “discipline and order” of the German people.

France, said Darlan, is like a prostrate man with a great stone on his chest which he must seek to push off by all means in his power in order to live. Ever since 1870 the country had lived at enmity with [Page 186] Germany and this could not go on forever. France’s political leaders of the so-called advanced democracy of the ten years’ war had failed to perceive the reality of this fact and were prevented by the British from seeking agreement with Germany. Now France must end that era. He has dealt with Germans, he said, and while it would be childish to believe all they tell him, he has found them more honest than the British with whom he had dealt during the past 10 years and everything that Hitler had told him he was going to do, he had done. What further acts of aggression against France British stupidity might now lead them to perform—and he had never found a limit to British stupidity—he could not say, but the limit of French patience had been reached.

I left them in no doubt that the American people would never agree to compromise with the Nazis, that we had no confidence in Nazi promises or that we would not permit a German victory or a compromise peace. They greeted my statements, however, I feel, with polite skepticism as to how and when we are going to win the war.

Neither the Marshal nor Darlan was willing to give any indication of the scope or limits of their collaboration policy. I left with the distinct impression that the Marshal, who seemed quite calm and cheerful, considering the vital importance of decisions he must have recently been compelled to make, has completely accepted the action of his Foreign Minister, and that he is likely to approve any commitments that Darlan may make in the future.

  1. Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain.
  2. Presumably a reference to the President’s radio address of May 27, 1941; for text, see Department of State Bulletin, May 31, 1941, p. 647.