740.0011 European War 1939/18979: Telegram

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

130. Attention of Mr. Atherton:7 I obtained an interview this morning with Marshal Pétain, Admiral Darlan and M. Rochat8 being present, and delivered orally to the Marshal the President’s message to me—Department’s 44, January 20, 11 p.m.

While the Marshal made no direct reference thereto, I am convinced that he had previously received a communication from the [Page 125]person referred to in my 107, January 22, noon,8a and my 108, January 22, 1 p.m.9

I reminded the Marshal that I have heretofore frequently expressed to him as my personal opinion the contents of the President’s message to me except the prospect of naval and military assistance referred to in the last paragraph thereof but that these thoughts coming directly from the President to me should have much more weight.

The Marshal, who seemed unusually well prepared in advance replied, “This is very definite.” Then reading from a pencil memorandum he said that he has made it very clear that his Government will resist invasion by British, Gaullists, Germans or Americans.

He continued with a statement that the following pertinent questions have been discussed:

“Unfriendly use of the French Fleet. This is no longer a question.”
“The use by Germany of bases in North Africa. This also is not a question at the present time.”
“The possibility of invasion of Africa through Spain or from some other direction. This question is certainly not pending at the moment.”

I then asked the Marshal if, in the event of an invasion of French Africa by the Axis Powers, he would accept naval and military aid from America. He replied: “If we ask for it”.

Admiral Darlan then expressed a hope that the President will at an early date settle the Saint Pierre-Miquelon affair10 and that he has been informed of a prospective attack on Madagascar by South Africa, which “would make us very angry”.

I referred to newspaper reports of an Allied attack on the Japanese occupied aerodrome at Hanoi and expressed an opinion that we in France must be prepared for military action by the Allies against Japanese occupied Indochina, particularly the bases and ports used by Japan. Darlan replied that there are no bases in Indochina and the ports are not useful.

My general impression as a result of this interview is that America cannot expect any cooperation whatever by Vichy in an effort to exclude [Page 126]the Axis from French Africa when and if Germany desires to move in that direction.

Repeated to Murphy.11

  1. Ray Atherton, Acting Chief of the Division of European Affairs.
  2. Charles Antoine Rochat, Secretary General of the French Foreign Office.
  3. Telegram not found in Department files. The person referred to is General Weygand.
  4. Not printed; this telegram referred to telegram No. 107, January 22, noon, and stated: “The person referred to in reference, although specifically requested to keep message secret, stated his duty requires that he inform the Marshal and that he will do so.” (123.AT 4/425) The message referred to was a letter from President Roosevelt to General Weygand and an oral message both of which were conveyed to General Weygand by Douglas MacArthur II, Secretary of Embassy in France. The texts of the letter and the secret oral message are scheduled for publication in a subsequent volume of Foreign Relations containing the records of the First Washington (Arcadia) Conference of December 1941–January 1942. See also Maxime Weygand, Recalled to Service (London, 1952), pp. 390–392.
  5. For correspondence concerning St. Pierre-Miquelon, see pp. 654 ff.
  6. Robert D. Murphy, Counselor of Embassy In France on special mission to French North Africa. Substance of this telegram and telegram No. 44, supra, was sent to the Embassy in London in Department’s telegram No. 339, January 29, 1 p.m., for Prime Minister Winston Churchill.