862.24/587: Telegram

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

114. From the Under Secretary. Your 245, February 16, 4 p.m. Please call once more upon Marshal Pétain and communicate to him orally the following message in the name of the President:

“The President has given the most careful thought and the most attentive consideration to the contents of Marshal Pétain’s reply to the President’s message of February 10.

The President is not lacking in understanding of nor in sympathy for the position in which France finds herself. The President believes that he has made this apparent on many occasions during the past year and a half.

The President has taken careful note with due gratification of the statement contained in Marshal Pétain’s reply that the French Government ‘has maintained and will maintain, both on land and on sea, the position of neutrality in which, subject to the obligations of the Armistice Conventions, it has in fact been placed since June 1940.’

On the other hand, in his message of February 10, the President requested official assurances that no further military aid would go forward from France to Germany, Italy and Japan.

Unfortunately, the reply of Marshal Pétain now under acknowledgment does not contain any such assurances.

The United States is now engaged in a war which has swept over the entire world. Thirty-seven nations and governments, including that of the United States, have come out openly in one form or another in opposition to the Axis powers. Those nations represent three-quarters of the population of the world. The United States and the powers united with it will inevitably gain a final and complete victory over their adversaries.

It has been the hope and the desire of the President that this Government’s present policy of comprehension towards France in its existing difficult and tragic situation might be maintained without modification, but the President is sure that Marshal Pétain will understand that the pursuit by the French Government of a policy of open assistance to the Axis powers, beyond the terms of the Armistice between France and Germany, would make it impossible for such a policy to be continued.

[Page 136]

The President is consequently requesting Admiral Leahy to return to the United States for consultation, leaving Mr. Tuck as Chargé d’Affaires of the United States Embassy in Vichy.

It is the hope of the President that before Admiral Leahy returns to the United States, he may obtain the assurances sought by the President in his message of February 10.”

In the event that in your conversation with Marshal Pétain there is no indication of any change with regard to the granting of the assurances requested by the President, you will be instructed to return promptly to Washington for consultation with the President, and the necessary priorities will be secured for you on the Clipper.

Please telegraph the result of your next conference with Marshal Pétain in order that the Department may instruct you accordingly. [Welles.]