851.00/2473: Telegram

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

593. For the Under Secretary from Murphy. From several reliable official sources I learn today that the ground on which Vichy relies for justification of its decision to cashier General Weygand (see Vichy’s 1453, November 18, 8 [7] p.m.) is his position was hopelessly compromised as a result of his dealings with the United States. These informants tell me that the Germans claim that they have been kept accurately informed of all of Weygand’s conversations with us through a “reliable Washington source”. One even said that the Germans had “documentary proof” regarding Weygand’s secret negotiations.14 They also refer to the unfortunate publicity regarding Weygand in the British and American press and radio. Each of these informants including two who arrived from Vichy this evening whose names they ask be not divulged expressed the opinion that whatever leakage there may have been does not result from deciphering of our code messages but from a leak in the Department of State (I believe this story of a leak in the Department is a fabrication and probably of German origin).

My conversations with these officials convince me that there was no German ultimatum demanding Weygand’s dismissal. That decision I am told results from a combination of German pressure and the eagerness of the cabal consisting of Darlan, Benoist-Mechin, Pucheu, Lehideux15 and Marion16 to eliminate Weygand. For that purpose they relied on Marshal Pétain as a decoy who is always ready to sacrifice any man no matter how loyal to his country if it serves the Marshal’s immediate end. The group undoubtedly convinced the Marshal that dire consequence would follow if he retained Weygand.

[Page 467]

My informants insist that Weygand’s removal will cause no immediate change in the French African situation nor an immediate Axis intrusion. They all urge that it would be folly for the United States to abandon the field at a moment when its influence is demonstrated and when it can become indispensable. They insist that if we make Weygand an issue it will support the German argument that Weygand was negotiating with us over Vichy’s head. They assert that it would be in our interest and Weygand’s (who may have a future value) to continue as we have on the condition that the terms of the North African accord be observed.

They say that the set-up in North Africa will be practically unchanged—that the Delegation General of the Government in French Africa be continued and that only the Délégué General (Weygand) is suppressed. Chatel becomes Governor General; Admiral Fenard remains Secretary General Permanent of the Delegation General. The latter always professes active friendship for us and the hope of a British victory. He pleaded with me for an hour this evening after his return from Vichy to urge the Department to take no hasty decision on its French policy pointing to Darlan’s offer to sell to us the rubber recently arrived at Casablanca from Indochina as a sign of Darlan’s desire to cooperate with us. He begged that we do not slam the door in the French face now. If we do “France will surely and inevitably be thrown into the German camp”. Fenard asked me what I would have done in Darlan’s place. I replied that 4 years’ experience in Germany taught me that the Germans occasionally respect a firm “no” and that on the rare occasions during the past year when France had said “no” the Germans had yielded. I told him I thought the opposition to Weygand lay as much in Vichy as it did in Berlin.

I learn from these conversations that Admiral Platon, Minister of Colonies, is flying to Dakar because it is feared in Vichy that dissidence may develop in French West Africa. My contacts do not believe that French West Africa is ready for anything of the sort. Neither do they believe that Weygand’s departure will engender any immediate violent reaction in North Africa. They are also convinced that the Axis Powers will not undertake immediate aggressive action nor accentuate their infiltration in this area. They believe the Germans are not able at the moment to do so and they say the Germans fear us more than we fear them. Weygand’s removal, they say, will calm German apprehensions regarding French Africa and there will be a breathing spell in which to formulate a program under the changed conditions. They urge that we intensify rather than abandon our supply program making ourselves indispensable for the subsistence [Page 468]of this area, that thereafter should we be ready to provide military assistance a man will be found with whom we can deal.

Marshal Pétain, I am told, has requested Weygand to remain in France. He may not even return to pack his effects. I am told Weygand will reside temporarily with Count de Leusse family near Toulon. Weygand’s principal military aide arrives tomorrow and I hope to gain from him additional information.

May I recommend that before final decision on policy is taken that a brief period be allowed in which to gather all essential facts.

Repeated to Vichy. [Murphy.]

Cole
  1. Among German Foreign Office records captured by the Allies are German translations of the greater part of telegram No. 338, July 21, 5 p.m., from the Consul General at Algiers (from Murphy) and the third paragraph of telegram No. 378, August 2, 9 p.m. (in the German translation wrongly dated August 5), pp. 396 and 406, respectively.
  2. François Lehideux, Secretary of State for Industrial Production.
  3. P. Marion, Secretary General of the Office of Information and Propaganda.