851.85/214: Telegram

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

310. Your 397, April 5, 6 p.m. The statements made by Matthews to Rochat are approved by the Department. It is suggested that you [Page 530] seek an early opportunity to see Admiral Darlan and reiterate to him what Matthews has already told Rochat. This Government cannot be expected to give any assurances in return for instructions from the French Government to the officers and crews of French ships in American harbors forbidding acts of sabotage by them. Our statutes make it a felony for the master or any other person in charge or command of a vessel, foreign or domestic, or for any member of the crew or other person within the territorial waters of the United States willfully to cause or permit the destruction or injury of such a vessel. The statutes further authorize the authorities of this Government to take possession and control of any vessel and to remove therefrom the officers and crews when such action is deemed to be necessary to protect the vessel from damage or injury or to prevent damage or injury to any harbor or waters of the United States. Admiral Darlan apparently does not understand that this is a statutory requirement and that the competent authorities have no other choice than to place guards on such ships when there is evidence that acts of sabotage are under contemplation. You should point out to Admiral Darlan that this is a legal requirement and not a question of policy which can be followed or overlooked as the situation may make desirable. The United States Government naturally expects that foreign governments will neither abet nor condone attempts at sabotage on the part of the crews of foreign ships in American waters.

While the Department is willing to accept Rochat’s explanation that the unfortunate phrase contained in Admiral Darlan’s note of April 585a is a “sailors’ phrase”, even with this explanation it has left an unfortunate impression of Admiral Darlan’s mental attitude.

  1. See telegram No. 394, April 4, 9 p.m., from the Ambassador in France, p. 527.