862.24/565: Telegram

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

199. Reference Embassy’s 193, February 6, 10 [9] a.m. We saw Rochat this afternoon and informed him that reports had reached us to the effect that the French Government had entered into some form of an agreement with the Axis Powers providing for the use of French ships for the transportation of war material and supplies from French ports (and possibly Sicilian and southern Italian ports) to Tunis destined for the Axis forces in Libya.

Rochat replied that a limited quantity of supplies, to the exclusion of all war material, had recently been shipped on French vessels from France to Tunis destined for the Axis forces in Libya. The supplies, he said, included a certain amount of wheat. In reply to the question as [Page 127]to whether these shipments included trucks, he replied that he did not know. He assured us positively that no war material of any kind had gone to Rommel’s forces since the shipment some time ago of aviation gasoline and gas oil. Rochat informed us that he had received this much information from Admiral Darlan on February 4 but that this [his?] knowledge of the question was at best limited. In reply to a specific question as to whether any “agreement” had been entered into between France and the Axis Powers in connection with these shipments, Rochat replied that he was unaware of any such accord. We were forced to the conclusion that Rochat, probably acting on instructions from Admiral Darlan, was withholding information from us.

Rochat’s statement to the effect that no agreement has been reached does not correspond with information which we obtained from a member of the French Economic Delegation at Paris and from the person mentioned in our 1490, December 3, 2 p.m.15 When we requested information from the former, he replied that he had not seen the text of any agreement. He later admitted, however, that certain economic questions, apparently involved in an agreement, had been referred to the French Economic Delegation. He also admitted that trucks as well as wheat were involved in the arrangement but said that the concessions which the French had made were of relatively such small importance as to constitute no real material aid to the Axis forces.

The latter informant above mentioned who on Wednesday16 had assured us that to the best of his knowledge no such agreement had been made, informed us today that, while he was not at liberty to give us any details, he could no longer reaffirm the assurance which he had previously given.

Repeated to Murphy.

Leahy
  1. Not printed; the informant was identified only as a career diplomat in Pétain’s “entourage” (851.00/2529).
  2. February 4.