740.00112 European War 1939/3043

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

The British Ambassador25 called to see me at his request.

The Ambassador took up the North African trade arrangement. He stated that the British Government had informed him by telegram that provided the United States Government was satisfied with the assurances received from General Weygand and other French authorities that the three French ships now in French ports would in fact be permitted to sail for the United States, the British Government would agree to the necessary arrangements to permit the two French freighters in New York to sail for Casablanca and the French tanker Schéhérazade to sail from Bermuda for Casablanca. The British Government also requested that the United States agree to have an American convoy escort the Schéhérazade to Casablanca, or an American armed guard to be placed on the Schéhérazade on the voyage to [Page 381] Casablanca. The British Government also requested that more American observers be sent to Morocco, and finally asked that publicity be given to the fact that the United States was willing to discuss similar economic assistance to the Free French colonies in central and west Africa.26

I replied to Lord Halifax that we had not yet received final assurances from the French authorities covering the return to United States ports of the three French ships now in French ports, but that from indications received today by telegram, it appeared probable that such assurances would be given. I said I would interpret the message given me by Lord Halifax as implying definitely that this Government could proceed with the carrying out of the North African trade arrangement with the acquiescence of the British Government. I said, however, that I was not willing to agree to the suggestion of an American convoy or of an American armed guard for the Schéhérazade.

Lord Halifax said that his Government hoped that this would be done, but that I was not to interpret it as a prerequisite of British acquiescence for the carrying out of the North African trade arrangement.

With regard to the other two requests made by the British Government, I said they would be given favorable consideration, but that compliance on our part with these suggestions would depend upon our own belief that the steps suggested were in fact desirable and practicable from the standpoint of the United States.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. Viscount Halifax.
  2. For further correspondence on this subject, see pp. 570 ff.