851.86/71: Telegram

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

1616. With further regard to the recruitment of French merchant seamen (my 1424, February 25, midnight) Admiral Stark wrote Massigli55 on February 27 (a) he would appreciate knowing whether instructions had been sent to Fighting French representatives in the United States to discontinue recruiting men from French crews from North Africa pending negotiations with General Giraud; (b) that the United States Navy Department is taking steps similar to those adopted by British authorities in United Kingdom ports and hopes for cooperation from the Fighting French in making these measures effective and (c) the American Government authorities would appreciate receiving information concerning specific cases of Fighting French servicemen being recruited by French North African representatives (Department’s 1209, February 24, midnight).

Under date of March 3, Massigli wrote Admiral Stark that the French National Committee maintains the principles guiding its action as defined in de Gaulle’s letters communicated in my 1174, February 15, 10 p.m. [midnight] and 1278 February 18, midnight. The Committee expressed however recognition of the material inconveniences resulting from the recruiting of men from North African ships and states its resolve to assure full efficiency of French military [Page 212] services in their contribution to the common war effort. Pending complete agreement on organization of French forces in the discussions about to begin in Algiers between the de Gaulle Commission and Giraud’s representatives the Committee therefore proposes a temporary solution of the immediate problem.

The Committee makes a distinction between cases first of recruits from war vessels now immobilized in American ports and secondly recruits from merchant ships coming to get cargoes. It says in the former cases immobilization in American ports will be relatively lengthy and hence enlistment and employment of personnel from such war vessels does not appear to have any immediate unfavorable results; in these circumstances this question can appropriately be reserved for the discussions in Algiers with Giraud. In the second case namely, that of merchant ships the Committee pending general agreement with Giraud is preparing to issue instructions to Fighting French representatives in the United States covering the following points:

Propaganda among crews and solicitation of recruits are prohibited.
Voluntary enlistment can still be accepted of officers ratings and men who present themselves independently.
As regards the enlistment of officers ratings and men from merchant ships loading for North Africa the Fighting French delegation will give them orders to return to temporary service on these ships.
These cases will be examined individually later on or be dealt with in the general agreement to be negotiated with Giraud.

Massigli’s letter concluded with the surprising assertion that “the National Committee hopes that our Government will recognize the spirit inspiring these instructions and that pending a definite arrangement to be reached they will find in them a satisfactory solution of the difficulties which are causing concern to you”.

Repeated to Algiers.

  1. René Massigli, Commissioner for Foreign Affairs under General de Gaulle.