851B.24/40: Telegram

The Consul General in Martinique (Malige) to the Secretary of State

23. My 20 today.74 I spoke 2 hours this morning with Admiral Robert and aides and we agreed to an exchange of notes today defining the respective positions.

[Page 222]

My note, delivered at noon, was based on Department’s 3, January 7 and requested reconsideration of the proposal in Department’s 275, December 17.76

In his reply, just received, Admiral Robert states that the only position he can envisage now is that of “quasi independence” of his possessions; that he agrees to reconsider our proposal as regards efforts to feed the population of North Africa; that he intends his aid shall not harm the interests of the people under his charge nor French interests in general; and that this involves both safeguarding his merchant ships and a collaboration not violating the neutrality of article LV of the Gentlemen’s Agreement.77

These considerations lead him to ask our agreement to the following:

The Sagittaire and Oregon to be reserved for Antilles-Morocco service.
These ships to navigate under French flags, crews and management.
They and the ships supplying the Antilles from this hemisphere to be guaranteed against seizure by us.
The sale of Antilles products to be conducted as a commercial operation between private parties, with sale in dollars to the credit of Antilles banks in New York.
His ships returning from Morocco to bring back North African produce for the Antilles, bought and paid for as in point (d).
We would insure his supply ships necessary protection in case the steps envisaged brought a risk of German reaction.
Insufficiency of tonnage (for supplying his possessions) caused by lengthened journeys or loss of ships to be replaced by us.
Additional tonnage for supplying the Antilles to be granted without delay, especially a collier.
No publicity whatever as to these arrangements.
He will retain with Vichy only official radio communications in clear or code deposited with us and limited to purely administrative matters.

My comments below may be useful:

Admiral Robert must win over to what will be regarded as dissidence his three Governors, besides officers and crews of ships, none of whom has evolved as he has recently and painfully. This may take some time.
His recent guarantees to Vichy (my 16, January 10) which he could with difficulty avoid, complicates his situation but he finds escape for sending sugar to Morocco in “abstain from all relations with dissident authorities”. This explains point (d).
He agrees not to consult Vichy on political matters, being willing to stretch previous Vichy instructions to exercise within limits his own discretion in relations with us. The Governors, however, need [Page 223]administrative guidance without which colonial administration would he severely disrupted. It appears probable that the Germans will stop all communications on learning of his collaboration; this would strengthen his position locally. The present system of control has worked well and I recommend we give point (j) a trial.
He will hedge unless given satisfaction on the points in my 543, December 25.78

  1. Not printed.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1942, Vol. ii, p. 650.
  3. For correspondence concerning the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” of November 7, 1942, see ibid., pp. 611 ff.
  4. Not printed. The points referred to are, namely: (1) that Admiral Robert’s ships be admitted unarmed to convoys, and (2) that several anti-submarine craft be loaned to Admiral Robert for patrol duty. (740.00112 European War 1939/7508)