The Consul at Brazzaville (Taylor) to the Secretary of State

No. 36

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s telegram No. 66 of July 20, 1942 instructing me to take up with local officials the terms of an agreement covering the American aviation installation at Pointe-Noire and my No. 57 of July 25, 1942 reporting that the local officials were not competent to act but giving the bases on which an agreement could be drawn up.

I have the honor to refer also to my report dated July 25, 194217 which describes the present political situation in French Equatorial Africa.

[Page 574]

The verbal agreements concerning Pointe-Noire were made between General Sicé and several representatives of the army, particularly Colonel Pohl, Colonel Harding and Captain Vann; Consul Mallon was also present at the conferences.

General Sicé wished to give the American army full possession of whatever facilities were needed and intended to construct, out of the resources of the colony any improvements works or foundations which could be accomplished within the material and financial means of the colony. He agreed to such an arrangement and immediately ordered the work started. In his letter to Consul Mallon dated April 8, 1942 General Sicé stated:

… I have the honor to confirm by means of this letter that we will increase our efforts tenfold in order to make the airfield at Pointe-Noire entirely practicable for American planes with the shortest possible delay.

You may count on us and guarantee to your Government that the airfield at Pointe-Noire, the use of which was suggested last year to President Roosevelt’s Government by General de Gaulle, will be in condition to give adequate service …18

It appears that General Sicé was censured for his initiative by the National Committee at London which considered that the matter should have been referred to it. It appears that the National Committee wished to tie up the arrangements at Pointe-Noire with the recognition of the Free French Government and the delivery to French Equatorial Africa of certain military equipment as noted in Mr. Mallon’s telegram No. 70 of April 1, 1942.

Since General Sicé’s word had been given, however, the National Committee decided not to press the conditions and permitted the work to continue.

The situation was gradually regularized on the part of the National Committee which, through a series of instructions authorized or confirmed the development as it took shape. For example the construction of the runway, the erection of the gasoline reservoirs and the laying of the pipe line have been separately authorized as has the preparation of the hotel which is being reserved for Americans at Pointe-Noire.

The question of an overall agreement which is essentially political in nature, now gives the National Committee an opportunity to bring pressure to bear on the United States.

General Sicé’s gesture toward the United States is undoubtedly the cause of his removal from the office, not because of the act itself but because his action was typical of his disregard for the authority of the National Committee. The National Committee is also smarting [Page 575]under the slight of being ignored in the American negotiations concerning Martinique and may attempt to recover some of its prestige by being slow to come to terms over the Pointe-Noire concession.

It will not be possible to come to any formal agreement with any administrative officers here regarding Pointe-Noire but I am of the opinion that if no agreement is arrived at, the work will be continued along the lines indicated in my telegram No. 57.

It may interest the Department to know that an agreement has been concluded between the National Committee and the British Government for the installation at Pointe-Noire of reservoirs to contain oil for refueling British ships. The agreement provides that the installation is to be built by the British at British expense and that it becomes French property on completion. It will be operated by the French but the facilities will be available to the British for the duration of the war without fee.

Further items not mentioned in my telegram No. 57 concerning which the local authorities would like to have an agreement with the Americans consist of the following:

A hotel has been taken over and renovated by the Administration at Pointe-Noire and is being reserved for the Americans as described in my report of June 6, 1942 “Preparation to receive Americans at Pointe-Noire”.19 The hotel will be privately managed and reasonable prices will be charged for room and board. The administration expects that the returns will pay running expenses and the cost of renovating in a reasonable time but would like a guarantee against any deficit which might remain whenever the Americans decide they have no further use for the service.

The Comptroller of Finance requests that American dollars be kept out of circulation in French Equatorial Africa. He would like to have paymasters cash their drafts at the bank and pay men only in Free French francs. Any American will be able to buy back dollars for what francs he has left over when he is leaving.

The administration at Pointe-Noire would like to establish a price schedule for articles on the retail market and for native labor. It has been promised that the prices will not be raised to Americans and the request is made that Americans pay no more than the list prices. Laborers, laundry boys, cooks, etc., will be recruited for the Americans at the wage scale by the administration whenever requested.

Respectfully yours,

Laurence W. Taylor
  1. Not found in Department files.
  2. Omissions indicated in the original despatch.
  3. Not printed.