851.86/82: Telegram

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

2157. Admiral Stark has had further discussions and exchanges of correspondence with General de Gaulle regarding the question of the enlistment by Fighting France of French sailors from North African ships in American ports (my 1828, March 15, 4 p.m.). On March 16 Admiral Stark wrote the General that he would be glad to know whether the latter would consider the Admiral’s previous suggestion that enrollments by the Fighting French of crews from French vessels from North and West Africa in American ports be suspended while negotiations are under way for an agreement governing transfers of French personnel between the different French forces. The Admiral said that should de Gaulle approve such suspension of formal enrollment of men voluntarily presenting themselves in American ports, he would recommend to the US Government that it give a guarantee that such personnel on arrival in African ports be permitted to leave their ships and to proceed to a Fighting French base for enrollment. Reference was made to another suggestion by the Admiral that representatives of Fighting France might give advice and use their influence to persuade such personnel to remain on ships required to return immediately to Africa with war material and supplies.

In a curt reply dated March 22, de Gaulle wrote the Admiral as follows:

“With reference to the crews of French merchant vessels and naval supply vessels now in the US, you have seen fit to ask, in your letter of March 16, that the Fighting French authorities should refuse the enrollment of sailors in asking them to remain on their vessels, subject [Page 216]to certain possible guarantees on their return to the port of departure. I must confess that I can hardly see how the Fighting French authorities could give orders to sailors not under their orders.”

Admiral Stark has now written de Gaulle referring to Massigli’s letter of March 3 (my 1616, March 5, midnight) and to a further conversation which he had with de Gaulle in which it was made clear that the National Committee recognized the importance of avoiding delays in sailings of ships bound for North Africa. The Admiral’s letter mentions that the Giraud mission in Washington has agreed that it will recruit no Frenchmen who have contracted engagements with the Fighting French. The Admiral continues that de Gaulle had offered to order personnel volunteering from North African ships in the US to return with these vessels to Africa after enrollment with Fighting France. The Admiral referred to de Gaulle’s statement that he would issue such orders only if guarantees were given him that such personnel would in fact be permitted to leave their ships on arrival in Africa and be transported to a Fighting French base. Admiral Stark recalls that he then inquired whether the National Committee might not temporarily suspend enrollment of men in North African French service if the aforementioned guarantees were provided. In conclusion the Admiral said that his letter of March 16 repeated this suggestion only because of the fact that General de Gaulle had apparently not understood it or taken it into account.

According to reports which have been received from two independent sources and which supposedly emanate from Admiral Auboyneau’s59 office, the latter has very recently sent instructions to Gayral in the U. S. to take all feasible steps to recruit French sailors from North Africa for de Gaulle. Gayral has reportedly been authorized to offer these sailors increased pay and the opportunity of having payments made to their families in France. I have also been told that the Fighting French are very much interested in the recruitment, by promises of one kind or another, of some 200 men from the French naval air service who have been sent to England from North Africa for training. If such reports are true they would indicate that the Fighting French are trying to anticipate any possible subsequent agreement with Giraud on recruitment by securing the enlistment of as many men as they now can get to come over to their side. The engagement given by the Giraud mission in Washington mentioned in Admiral Stark’s letter to de Gaulle would seem to be clearly unfair to Giraud in view of de Gaulle’s continued refusal to make a similar commitment.

Matthews
  1. Commander in Chief of the Fighting French Navy.