The Consul General at Algiers (Cole) to the Secretary of State
[Received November 21—10:56 p.m.]
596. From Murphy. This evening I asked Yves Chatel, who succeeds General Weygand as Governor General of Algeria, for his view of the changed situation. As the Department is aware Chatel during the early part of 1941 as predecessor of Vice Admiral Fenard, Secretary General of the Délégation Générale, gave us excellent cooperation and always evidenced the friendliest sentiments toward the United States and Great Britain. I also asked for his suggestion regarding what should be done about the North African economic plan which under Weygand’s direction he made every effort to promote.[Page 471]
Chatel said that when Weygand’s retirement became evident he proposed to quit and added that his present decision to accept the position of Governor General of Algeria is due solely to a personal appeal made to him by General Weygand. The latter has appealed to all his associates in Africa to remain at their posts.
He said that he had given much thought to the effects which the changed situation might have on American policy and that it is his considered opinion that we should take no hasty action such as cancelling the economic accords because by so doing we should play into German hands. The latter would then maintain that we had obviously bought Weygand and that our interest was only in him for his value as a military leader; that we had no honest interest in the welfare of the French people.
He declared that we risked nothing by retaining intact our position in this area and urged that we let the Germans take the initiative to break the accord which he is certain they will do by refusing permission for the departure of the ships in the Casablanca–New York run.
Germany, said Chatel, has no intention of allowing the United States to build up an economic influence as we have been doing in this area. The Germans want this area dedicated to the new German order under the the Eur-African plan. If, said Chatel, we simply allow matters to run along for a few weeks (permitting the ships now en route to complete their voyages) we will be in a position publicly to place full responsibility for a break on the Germans.
Chatel insists that there is no present indication of an imminent German intrusion in spite of endless rumors to that effect. He spoke unconvincingly of resistance to Axis encroachment and I am sure that he has no idea of Vichy’s plans in this respect.
Chatel repeated what many others have said regarding the operation of our economic plan, namely that it is a great pity that during the 9 months of its operation actual deliveries have been restricted to a handful of products, that is to say, our small cargos and 3 tankers of petroleum products for the 30 millions of French African populations. These deliveries amount to, he said, 7 percent of the quotas authorized on paper. If there had been a really important performance under the plan, enough to arouse the interest of a large section of the population, much more could have been expected now in the way of a public reaction to termination of the plan as the result of German interference. General Koeltz, Chatel said, would continue in command of the military forces in Algeria as a member of Chatel’s staff but the military command for North Africa falls to General Juin. According to Chatel, General Juin will obey Vichy’s orders without [Page 472]question as will, he said, General Mendigual at Algiers commanding the air force in French Africa.
Repeated to Vichy. [Murphy.]