Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)
Monsieur Tixier, representative of the Fighting French, called to see me today. Monsieur Tixier first of all said he desired to discuss questions affecting French Guiana with me. He said he wished to read to me a series of telegrams which had been sent to General de Gaulle in London by Monsieur Sophie, the mayor of Cayenne. I said that I had already seen these telegrams in view of the fact that General de Gaulle had sent the texts of them yesterday to Admiral Stark and I had been informed of their contents by telegram. Monsieur Tixier wished to know what my opinion was with regard to the last in the series. This telegram merely stated that Monsieur Sophie and his associates had selected Monsieur Collat “chief of bureau as in charge of the affairs of the colony” and requested General de Gaulle’s approval. I remarked that I didn’t understand what the significance of this message was and that I didn’t see that there was any cause for me to comment upon it.
Monsieur Tixier then said that he would like to know what the intentions of this Government were with regard to the situation in French Guiana. I replied that my understanding was that the Government of French Guiana had notified General Giraud of the adherence of the colony to General Giraud and his authority; that thereafter rioting had broken out and a committee of notables had informed Governor Veber that he would no longer be tolerated as Governor; that thereafter Colonel Vanegue had notified General Giraud and our [Page 263]own officials in French Guiana that they desired the appointment immediately by General Giraud of a new governor and that simultaneously Monsieur Sophie had sent identic messages of adherence to General Giraud and General de Gaulle; that thereafter General Giraud’s delegation in Washington had sent by plane Colonel LeBel to Cayenne to act as the temporary representative of General Giraud and that General Giraud had responded to the request of the local authorities by appointing a new governor who was now actually on his way to Cayenne.
Monsieur Tixier interjected to say that he had demanded passage for Colonel Chevigné, his own military assistant, and that this Government had refused him passage. I answered that that was incorrect, that the question of priorities was a question for the War Department to determine, but that it was my clear understanding that the War Department in the latter case had stated that a priority could not immediately be arranged and that one would be available early next month.
I said that I really did not feel that there was anything to be gained by discussing details of this character with Monsieur Tixier, that the whole manner in which the Fighting French Committee had dealt with the question reminded me of nothing so much as an old fashioned farce which I used to see in my early days in the Palais Roy ale Theatre in Paris. I said it seemed to me appalling that at a moment like this, when the local population in French Guiana and the local authorities in that colony had declared their adherence to the cause of the United Nations for the purpose of cooperating in the defeat of Germany, the Fighting French authorities should be devoting themselves exclusively to trying to appoint their own individual authorities in the colony rather than devoting themselves to cooperating in the great cause in which we are all engaged. I said it seemed to me that this was more than ever an occasion for unity of French resistant effort and that it was pitiful to see distinguished and outstanding Frenchmen like General de Gaulle maneuvering for what they considered immediate personal political advantage rather than for effective and active cooperation in the war effort. I concluded by saying that I wondered if this would not be an admirable opportunity for all French resistant elements to get together and to agree to cooperate in French Guiana rather than to expend their energy in fighting each other.
Monsieur Tixier said that he was entirely in accord with my thesis but he wanted me to realize that Monsieur Sophie had been elected mayor of Cayenne in the year 1936 and consequently could speak for the will of the population in French Guiana far better than Colonel Vanegue, who was merely a military officer. I said that I could hardly take this remark seriously since I did not see that the fact that Monsieur Sophie had been elected mayor of Cayenne in 1936 had the slightest connection with his ability to speak today for the will of the [Page 264]people in French Guiana with regard to this, that or the other individual that should be appointed governor of the colony now. I reiterated my urgent request that an effort be made to achieve a meeting of the minds between the Giraud authorities in Algiers and the de Gaulle mission there so as to avoid any continuation of the present bickering.