851.85/213: Telegram

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

394. Embassy’s telegram 383, April 3, noon. A note which is initialed by Admiral Darlan personally was received at 8:30 this evening. After summarizing accurately the friendly views set forth in the Department’s telegram 279, March 31, 6 p.m., the note continues as follows:

“The Government of Marshal Petain has the honor to inform His Excellency, the Ambassador of the United States, that it is disposed [Page 528] to give and that it gives assurances that not only if acts of destruction and sabotage should be committed on French ships at present in American ports, they would be contrary to the wish and contrary to the instructions of the French authorities, but also that the latter have already sent the most formal instructions to the crews of these ships forbidding such acts.

However in view of the situation resulting for it from the undertakings subscribed in the Armistice Conventions,81 the French Government again requests that for its part the American Government give assurances that the ships in question may be utilized at any time and exclusively by the French Government which intends in principle to employ them in trade between America on the one hand and the metropolis or French possessions on the other hand. As the Ambassador of France has already pointed out to the Department of State at Washington, these ships will, furthermore, be indispensable for the transportation of the merchandise which is actually the object of negotiations for supply between France and the United States.

Under the circumstances, the assurances requested by the Government of Washington having been given, the French Government feels confident that the measures of surveillance envisaged will not be taken and especially that no guard shall be placed on board the ships, which it would consider an unfriendly act.” (The original of this important phrase reads: “ce qu’il considererait comme un acte inamical”.) “It hopes furthermore that the Federal Government will comply with the request herein above expressed.”

  1. German-French Armistice Agreement of June 22, 1940; for text, see Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1918–1945, series D, vol. ix, p. 671.