851.86/62: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Matthews) to the Secretary of State

1174. In reply to representations made on the basis of the Department’s 839, February 6, 10 p.m., Admiral Stark has just received from General de Gaulle a memorandum on the following lines:

The request to join the Fighting French made by some of the petty officers and sailors from the tanker Lot and steamship Wyoming [Page 203]was welcomed, as are all requests of this nature. The action of these men was entirely spontaneous since Monsieur Tixier46 forbade the recruiting service to carry on any propaganda among the crews of the Lot and Wyoming or to make contact with them outside of the quarters of the Free French Delegation. These men told Tixier that they could not remain under the command of officers who made them fight against their American allies and who, when the ships left Casablanca, had not told them the truth. Fighting France under these conditions was not in a position to refuse a welcome to Frenchmen who desired to assume their national obligations in its ranks. The Fighting French National Committee believes it is morally impossible to ask the American authorities to reinstate these sailors in their previous employment and thus expose them to serious punishment as a result of their decision to give expression, in the only manner left to them in the absence of legal French authority, to their fulfillment of duty as Frenchmen. It may be mentioned that they were not bound by any undertaking to the Free French to serve in a military capacity. The National Committee assumes entire responsibility for the material inconveniences resulting from the recruitment of these sailors. It is of the belief that a settlement must be arrived at by direct arrangement between Fighting France and the French North African authorities. Mission being sent to Algiers will be charged to give this matter its immediate attention.

In a further communication to General de Gaulle Admiral Stark has pointed out that the inability of the ships in question to sail, due to the recruitment of their crews by the Fighting French, might well cause serious embarrassment to the united war effort in North Africa. He took note of the fact that the French National Committee assumes full responsibility for the resulting material inconveniences and is making no effort to relieve the present situation or prevent a repetition of this incident. Admiral Stark stated he assumed the recruiting services granted at Admiral Auboyneau’s request were accorded with the understanding that vital war needs would not be jeopardized by such recruiting. Admiral Stark declared he could not subscribe to the action taken by the Committee and urged reconsideration of the latter’s attitude. He concluded he would be glad to inform the United States Government should the Committee be prepared, on further consideration, to subscribe to the American viewpoint and to send the necessary instructions to its recruiting officers.

Matthews
  1. Adrien Tixier, Chief of the Free French Delegation at Washington.