The Ambassador in France (Leahy) to the Secretary of State
[Received 8:38 p.m.]
1454. For the Secretary and Under Secretary: My 1453, November 18, 7 p.m. I had an interview with the Marshal at 4 o’clock today, no other person being present except MacArthur,11 acting as interpreter, at which time I told him that I fear his action in submitting to German pressure to remove Weygand may interrupt the provision of economic aid to the colonies, that it will probably be accepted by the American public as beginning of Axis control of the French colonies, and that it may cause a complete change in the existing sympathetic and understanding attitude of America toward the Government of France.
The Marshal explained that he has for one year resisted requests by Germany that Weygand be removed, that his continuing and one hope for France has been America’s sympathetic understanding but that in consideration of the welfare of his people confronted with a German threatening ultimatum “dictat” he was unable to hold out longer in the matter of retaining General Weygand in Africa, although he said he had refused the use of the fleet, military assistance, and other excessive demands.
He stated that Weygand will not be replaced in Africa and that no other changes of official personnel there will be made.
He said that Weygand will be retained near him in France for possible future employment, that General Juin will be appointed Minister of War and that the high military command in Africa will be administered from Vichy.
In reply to a direct question as to whether or not his decision is irrevocable he said that a formal decision in the matter of Weygand will be made this evening and that there will be no public radio or press announcement of the change. He will communicate to the public [Page 465]at a meeting of the regional directors of the “Legion” probably within 2 or 3 days. Obviously the decision was made prior to my receipt of the note verbale 11a yesterday evening.
The Marshal, who seemed very much distressed, said repeatedly that he is a prisoner of the invaders, that the Germans are ruthless in their treatment and had threatened, should Weygand not be removed completely, occupation of France where they would live off the country thereby starving the civilian population. He expressed hope that my personal regard for him would not be injured by the action which he has been forced to take in this instance.
Referring to Department’s 631, August 13, 4 p.m.; my 1024, August 14, 4 p.m.;12 and Department’s 839, November 10, 10 p.m.
In view of the unnecessary surrender of the Vichy Government to German demands that Weygand be removed which appears from this point of view to be the real beginning of the Axis move to control the colonies, it is believed that this is an appropriate time to consider a complete revision of American policy in regard thereto.
While full consideration should be given to an assumption that the Axis is desirous of creating difficulties between France and America with the purpose of making France completely dependent upon Germany and of forcing us out of Africa, it does not now appear to be to our advantage to permit the initiative to remain with the Axis Powers, who equally with Vichy are responsive only to aggressive action.
The advisability is suggested of
- An immediate interruption of economic assistance to all the French colonies;
- The recall of Murphy for consultation;
- The recall of the Ambassador “for consultation”;
- A thorough dissemination by all available radio channels of America’s attitude toward this latest surrender of the Vichy Government to Axis demands beyond the Armistice terms.
Murphy has the latest local information about the situation in Africa not yet available to me and in considering his recall it would appear wise to obtain a specific recommendation from him.
In considering a recall of the Ambassador, attention is invited to the fact that there is at present in the Embassy no subordinate officer who has both the necessary seniority and adequate experience to take charge of the supervision of American diplomatic business.
It therefore appears that a departure of the Ambassador prior to the arrival of Mr. Tuck13 would be extremely disadvantageous to [Page 466]the conduct of diplomatic relations with the Government of France in the presentation of American policies and the protection of American interests.
Repeated to Algiers.