740.0011 European War 1939/16601: Telegram

The Consul General at Algiers (Cole) to the Secretary of State

579. From Murphy. Your 318, November 10, 9 p.m.,5 and Vichy’s 1428, November 12 [11], 3 p.m. I had a discussion this morning with [Page 459]General Weygand regarding his situation in French Africa. He was as always reluctant to dwell on his personal importance which he dismisses with the statement that he intends to serve France as best he can; that when Marshal Pétain relieved him of his functions as Minister of National Defense which he had assumed after the Armistice he was happy to take the assignment to Africa where he could be free from the suffocating atmosphere of Vichy and could enjoy the possibility of accomplishing something constructive; and that he has no political ambitions. He said, “Your Government should [understand?] that I have made myself thoroughly disagreeable to certain gentlemen at Vichy because I was not in accord with their attitude to the Germans. Some people are made of cotton and I pride myself on having a good deal of iron in my makeup. I know that some of these gentlemen agree with the Germans that I should leave Africa. It is not impossible that the Marshal may find it necessary to remove me. Or he could not forget his primary responsibilities vis-à-vis the 1,500,000 French prisoners in Germany and to the nation generally”.

I referred to the President’s declaration of May 27,6 to the effect that German invasion of French Africa would be considered as a menace to the security of the American Hemisphere, which the United States could not afford to tolerate, and to the recent statement made by Matthews to Rochat at Vichy (see Vichy’s 1417, November 7, 8 p.m.) regarding the possible repercussions on Franco-American relations which Weygand’s recall from Algiers might have. I said that my Government considered him as an important element of resistance in French Africa to German intrusion, and in the event of his recall we would be justified in placing our own construction on his removal. My Government might find it necessary in such event to revise its entire French African policy.

I then said that the Department is considering ordering me to Washington for consultation and that I knew that there had been under study, in addition to economic matters, the question of the quantity of military assistance which the United States might provide General Weygand (naturally with the consent of his Government) should French Africa be menaced by German aggression. He replied as expected that he has no mandate to discuss military aid with a foreign power but that he was glad to know that careful study was being made of the matter.

He said that he would welcome any news along those lines which we could give him. Officially of course he said “my relations with you concern economic matters and I cannot emphasize too much how important American assistance is at the present time.”

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I also mentioned Matthews’ conversation with the Marshal (see Vichy’s 1428, November 12 [11], 3 p.m.) and the possibility of his visit to Vichy next week. This information greatly encouraged him. Weygand then said that he believed that in connection with the Department’s inquiry regarding my return to Washington that it would be best to defer a decision until his return to Algiers from Vichy. If the Department approves I shall telegraph a recommendation at that time.

Repeated to Vichy. [Murphy.]

  1. See footnote 2, p. 456.
  2. Radio address by President Roosevelt, May 27, 1941, Department of State Bulletin, May 31, 1941, p. 647.