Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

The Ambassador21 called at his request. On my own initiative I took up the French food situation, as it related to unoccupied France, and likewise the question of some relief for North Africa which is being requested. I said to the Ambassador that to one at this distance there is evidently something very serious lacking in British-French relations; that there is nothing being done and virtually nothing being said that is calculated to keep the British and French on speaking terms, much less to draw them closer together, and that in my judgment it is all-important that this phase be given further attention without delay; that it might contemplate having some one person in the confidence of both countries representing the French and a similar person representing the British situation to find some way to keep in daily contact with their Governments and then to have daily communications or conferences both as to present and prospective conditions, developments, objectives and plans. I referred to the extreme care and delicacy with which British and French relations must be conducted at this stage as the matter is not to be bungled and relations made worse between the two countries. I said I was speaking from my observations concerning the situation at Vichy and in Africa and I pointed out the very great injury done to General Weygand’s22 position and that of the French in Africa when a radio station in Boston or London broadcasts to the French people that General [Page 110] Weygand is coming steadily across in the British direction; that this immediately comes to the attention of Germany and Weygand’s position is correspondingly endangered and complicated. I referred to the efforts of the Canadian representative at Vichy to do something to aid the British and French situation. I said that this Government is straining every possible effort to preserve and promote increasingly desirable relations between Great Britain and France, as well as between ourselves and France; that we approach the French always by stating that the President is increasingly confident that the British will successfully resist Hitler; that this country is doing what it can to aid French children in unoccupied France and is giving constant attention to the question of relief needs in unoccupied France and of certain needs of French Africa; that we are hoping for an opportunity at a reasonably early stage to extend relief to unoccupied France. By these and other acts and utterances we are striving to preserve good relations on all sides and at the same time to give some hope and encouragement to Marshal Petain in his extremely difficult situation.

I then spoke bluntly and with earnestness to the effect that in my judgment the British Government should have some flexibility toward the relief situation in unoccupied France and be a little more flexible in its other relations with the French Government; that as the matter stands numerous disagreeable incidents are occurring to keep Great Britain and France alienated and which deny the slightest hope or encouragement to Marshal Petain in his most crucial trial; that this does not seem practicable to me by any means. I said I must be candid. The Ambassador took notes on the matter and indicated no opposition at the moment.

C[ordell] H[ull]
  1. Viscount Halifax, the British Ambassador.
  2. Gen. Maxime Weygand, French Delegate General in North Africa.