851.01/3363: Telegram

The Acting American Representative to the French Committee of National Liberation at Algiers ( Chapin ) to the Secretary of State

178. This morning Mr. Duff Cooper11 kindly showed me a copy of his [memorandum?] describing the recent visit of de Gaulle to Mr. Churchill in Marrakech at which he assisted.

The Prime Minister pointed out in a friendly way the unwisdom of alienating his goodwill and that of President Roosevelt by the persecution of persons who had rendered valuable services to the Allied cause. The P. M. had himself given definite assurances to Boisson12 and Peyrouton.13 As respects Flandin,14 while there was no similar commitment on the part of the British or American Governments the P. M. felt that if a division were made between the innocent and the guilty at a level which would include Flandin among the latter there was indeed a tragic future in store for France.

De Gaulle replied that the Assembly which had been set up as a democratic influence was almost unanimous in demand for severe penalties against collaborationists. He reiterated, however, to the P. M., assurances (which he had given to Mr. Wilson) that the trial judge would not find sufficient evidence to warrant formal trial until the liberation of France and that meantime the arrested men would receive good treatment.

Taken to task for the action of his representative in Syria and a failure to act upon decisions without consultation of his Allies the General could offer but lame excuses. Similarly the General disclaimed any intention of preventing General de Lattre from visiting the Prime Minister explaining that he had thought an interview inopportune for the moment since de Lattre had duties elsewhere.

In response to de Gaulle’s complaint that the North African expedition15 had been planned and carried out without any reference to him Mr. Churchill replied that the expedition had been primarily an American operation. Since he himself had acted only as a lieutenant to the President he had not been a free agent and consequently he could not have consulted anyone in advance without the consent of the President.

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In reply to de Gaulle’s appeal for assistance in arming the resistance groups in metropolitan France, Mr. Churchill stated that such assistance would be given gladly to the extent that British availabilities permitted.

Mr. Churchill himself raised the question of civil administration in France after the invasion but the subject was not pursued since Mr. Duff Cooper suggested that this was already under active discussion in Washington and in London and was a highly complicated matter where the advice of technical, legal, and other experts was essential. (In response to my specific question Mr. Duff Cooper stated that de Gaulle made no plea for recognition of the French Committee as the provisional government of France). Mr. Duff Cooper stated that while the Prime Minister exposed the situation to General de Gaulle with great frankness the entire conversation was friendly and reasonably cordial in tone.

  1. Alfred Duff Cooper, British representative to the French Committee of National Liberation.
  2. Pierre Boisson, formerly Vichy Governor General of French West Africa.
  3. Marcel Peyrouton, formerly Governor General of Algeria.
  4. Pierre-Etienne Flandin, once French Minister for Foreign Affairs, and earlier, Prime Minister.
  5. For correspondence regarding the Allied invasion and occupation of French North Africa, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. ii, pp. 429 ff.