740.0011 European War 1939/13096a: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in France (Leahy)41

565. I suggest the desirability of your obtaining in the immediate future an opportunity of talking again alone with Marshal Petain.

You may say that reports which appear to be authentic have been received by this Government that Germany is putting extreme pressure to bear upon France in order to secure arrangements whereunder, directly or indirectly, Germany would secure entire control of such ports as Casablanca and Dakar and presumably North African ports on the Mediterranean. These reports assert that the sudden recall of General Weygand to Vichy was in connection with this matter.

The President has publicly stated as recently as in his last message to the Congress relating to the occupation of Iceland42 that this Government does not desire to see any change in sovereignty or in jurisdiction [Page 392] over those strategic points in the Atlantic whose retention in friendly hands is regarded by this Government as vital to the security and defense of the United States. This of course includes the French ports mentioned. Any attempt by Germany at the exercise, direct or indirect, of control over Casablanca and Dakar, or for that matter over other African ports in the Atlantic now under French jurisdiction would immediately be of the gravest concern to the United States.

The President feels that, while your approach to the Marshal should be entirely friendly and should emphasize the desire of this Government to continue to be as helpful as possible to the French people in their present difficulties, you should nevertheless be completely frank and leave not a shadow of a doubt as to the gravity with which this Government views this question.

Please make it entirely clear beyond any doubt to the Marshal that in accordance with its announced policy, this Government has no desire to see modified or to encroach upon French jurisdiction over these regions provided such jurisdiction remains entirely French and so long as France does not permit German infiltration or German encroachment in those regions. Should, however, such a development take place, the policy of this Government would immediately change. Necessarily, the first change would be complete abandonment by this Government of any and all efforts to continue present trade arrangements with North Africa or to negotiate any commercial arrangements in the interest of metropolitan France. The subsequent steps which would be taken by this Government need not be detailed at this time but will be determined upon without the slightest delay in the light of such developments.

Please telegraph as soon as possible any replies which may be made to you and any further information you may have obtained as to the nature of General Weygand’s conversations while in Vichy.

  1. Repeated on the same date as telegram No. 179 to the Consul General at Algiers for Murphy with the following addition: “Upon General Weygand’s return you may if you consider it desirable inform him thereof and keep the Department informed as rapidly and as frequently as may be possible of all information you may obtain concerning General Weygand’s conversations in Vichy.”
  2. July 7, 1941; Department of State Bulletin July 12, 1941, p. 15.