740.00112 European War 1939/6028

Memorandum by the Adviser on Political Relations (Murray) to the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)

Mr. Berle: It is rather difficult to see how this Government is in a position at this date to express an opinion in regard to the conditions imposed by Germany on the French Government regarding the control of the cargoes and passengers of French vessels. As explained in Vichy’s telegram of July 13,96 the Armistice between France and Germany subordinated the resumption of French commercial navigation to German and Italian authorization. When the question of resumption of commercial navigation had come up, the French Government had been forced to accept certain conditions under a threat that commercial navigation could not otherwise be resumed. The conditions which were imposed at this time, as pointed out by Mr. Arnal to our Chargé d’Affaires,97 flowed out of the extremely vague but wide scope of Article 11 of the Armistice Convention.

In view of the fact that the Armistice Convention, as well as the conditions respecting commercial navigation, have now been in effect for two years, it does not seem feasible for us to express an opinion as to whether we would accept or reject the terms under which French commercial navigation was resumed. As a matter of fact, we have always been aware of the German control of French vessels engaged in the North African trade. The German Armistice Commission at Wiesbaden has always been approached by the French Admiralty for permission to carry out each sailing of the vessels engaged in the North African traffic, whether the ships departed from French North Africa or from a United States port. Moreover, we have been under the impression that a measure of control has always been exercised by the Germans in respect to the cargoes of these vessels, and in as much as a member of the German Armistice Commission has long been resident in Casablanca in the capacity of Port Control Officer, the German interest in these ships appears to us neither new nor surprising.

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As long as our control officers are permitted to exercise their prerogatives in accordance with our agreement with the French, and as long as the German Control Commission is not granted rights in excess of those given to our control officers, there seems to be little ground on which to base a formal objection or to do more than what has already been done in the matter by the Embassy at Vichy.

Wallace Murray
  1. Not printed.
  2. S. Pinkney Tuck, Chargé in France.