862.24/568: Telegram

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

208. Person mentioned in our 1490, December 3, 2 p.m.,15 informed us this afternoon that at the Turin meeting in December Darlan was requested by Ciano17 to agree to the shipment of an average of 500 [Page 128]tons of Axis material per day by French vessels from Marseille to Tunis and the transit of this material from Tunis for delivery to the Axis forces on the Libyan frontier. Our informant said that Darlan informed the Italians that transportation facilities in Tunis were not adequate to handle the transshipment of such a large quantity of material but he did agree to the handling of an average of 200 tons per day under such an arrangement.

In return for this concession, Ciano promised Darlan that the Italian Government would press Berlin to secure the release of French prisoners and also the moving of the line of demarcation northwards so that Paris would no longer be included in the occupied zone and the French Government could return there.

“Darlan” said our informant “gave a verbal commitment to the Italians agreeing to this arrangement but neither the Marshal nor responsible high officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were informed.”

The details of this agreement had first come to the attention of our informant recently when he saw a telegram from Esteva18 to Darlan in which the former complained that the details of the “Delta plan” had been announced over the British and American radios and stated that in compliance with instructions the strictest secrecy had been observed in Tunis concerning this matter. Our informant went on to say that it was only on Wednesday evening that he learned that the so-called “Delta plan” was the above arrangement for supplies from France to Tunis and then onto the Libyan frontier.

While our informant said that war material was specifically excluded under the terms of the agreement, he admitted that “present shipments include supplies of various kinds, trucks and sealed cases of which we do not know the contents”.

Repeated to Murphy.

  1. Not printed; the informant was identified only as a career diplomat in Pétain’s “entourage” (851.00/2529).
  2. Count Galeazzo Ciano, Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  3. Adm. Jean Pierre Esteva, French Resident General in Tunisia.