The Assistant Secretary of State (Long) to President Roosevelt

My Dear Mr. President: With reference to your memorandum of November 11, 1941, enclosing the recommendation from the Secretary of the Navy89 that notice of taking immediate possession of French vessels in the United States ports, particularly the Normandie, be given the French Government, I have given careful consideration to this recommendation. Before proceeding to requisition these vessels I believe that certain preliminary steps should be undertaken in the light of our present relations with the French Government.

The Maritime Commission has before it a proposal initiated by the French Government which would place five of the nine vessels now immobilized in American ports into service under American charter. The others would be utilized in an approved service. It would seem desirable to await the outcome of these negotiations before proceeding to requisition the vessels. If the negotiations fail because of the refusal of the German Armistice Commission to permit the French Government to dispose of its own vessels, we would then inform the French Government that it is not a free agent in this matter and proceed to take over these eight ships.

The Normandie has up to the present remained outside the scope of these discussions. I suggest that since the Normandie is of such importance to French prestige, we make a preliminary effort to purchase the vessel. I understand the Secretary of the Navy is prepared to pay a fair price having in mind the original cost of the vessel which latter would be far in excess of any price it could command at the present time.

There is attached a telegram to Ambassador Leahy90 directing him to approach the French Government in this matter, which may be sent if you approve. If this course of action meets with your approval the Secretary of the Navy will be so informed.

Faithfully yours,

Breckinridge Long
  1. Neither printed.
  2. Infra.