740.0011 European War 1939/3–1542

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

My Dear Mr. Secretary: Yesterday evening we received from the Minister of Foreign Affairs a note in reply to our demand for assurances that military aid including supplies, fuel, et cetera will not [Page 151]hereafter be provided by France for Axis forces in any area of military activity or from any source.

The note which is quoted in our cable 390, March 14, 4 p.m., appears to give the assurances requested, but it includes an escape clause that can be used when necessary if we fail to carry out our North African economic plan, fail to establish Vichy sovereignty in St. Pierre and Miquelon, or fail to suppress “tendeneious” press and radio attacks on Vichy in America. This is very reminiscent of the Dunkerque incident and understanding.

If it should be decided to accept these assurances as given, if it is the desire of the United States Government to endeavor to maintain the status quo of our diplomatic relations, and if it is desired to cultivate and stimulate the friendly feeling of the vast majority of the people in unoccupied France who are now pro American and anti-Axis, it is my opinion that the economic relief of North Africa should be resumed without delay, that Red Cross relief supplies for infants should be despatched at once, and that any other practicable relief for the people of unoccupied France which cannot be of assistance to the Axis powers should be provided when practicable.

I am not certain that it will be advantageous to our war effort to maintain the status quo in France, or even that we can maintain the status quo when, and if, the Germans bring pressure on Vichy for military assistance.

If an Allied expeditionary force should land in France at the present time we are informed that it would have the immediate assistance of more than 100,000 ex-soldiers residing in the unoccupied zone who are waiting for an opportunity to fight the Germans, and who under competent leadership might be less inefficient than they were in 1940.

Any success by an Allied expeditionary force would probably cause the overthrow of this regime by a group friendly to the Allied cause which would place the French fleet on the Allied side. It is generally believed that the fleet and the army in Africa will carry out any orders issued by Vichy or by any subsequent government of France.

The present government cannot survive without German support and it must therefore be expected to grant demands made by the Axis.

While we believe that the Marshal and some others in the Government hope to be able to keep the promise made in Darlan’s note (our 390, March 14, 4 p.m.), past performances do not indicate that Vichy will refuse Axis demands for assistance when pressure is applied.

Departure within an hour of one of our infrequent couriers seems to justify this hurriedly prepared note.

With expressions of personal regard,

Most sincerely,

William D. Leahy