851.01/3639: Telegram

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

1149. From Murphy.52 On my return to Algiers last evening Duff-Cooper called to discuss the crises arising out of the decree issued by the French Committee of National Liberation which confers on de Gaulle full authority over French military forces. Duff-Cooper as stated by Chapin in his 1104, April 4 confirmed that this decree was issued by the Committee without prior consultation with Giraud, Commander in Chief French forces. Duff-Cooper also stated that he had discussed the matter with Giraud who indicated his intention to resign on the ground that thus stripped of authority his position had become untenable. Duff-Cooper said that he urged Giraud to remain, thus avoiding any appearance of French disunity and also any interpretation of his action as being precipitated by the entry into the French Committee of National Liberation of two Communist members. Duff-Cooper thought that Giraud’s retirement at this time might be so misconstrued. He said that he had also asked Giraud to defer decision until he had discussed the matter with me.

Later in the evening Giraud called at my residence immediately after a meeting between himself and General de Gaulle during the course of which he said he had expressed to General de Gaulle his dissatisfaction with the action taken by the Committee and his surprise that General de Gaulle without prior consultation with Giraud should have inspired the Committee to clothe de Gaulle with full military powers heretofore enjoyed by Giraud. According to Giraud, de Gaulle made every effort to allay his dissatisfaction suggesting that, after all, the powers that Giraud had enjoyed as Commander in Chief were more apparent than real as all important decisions in this field were taken either by the Allied Commander in Chief or by the Allied generals operating in Italy. He proposed that Giraud accept the position of Inspector General of the Armies. Giraud pointed out that de Gaulle’s present action is in defiance of all republican tradition and said that he recalled to General de Gaulle that under the Third Republic the Vice President of the Superior War Council (for example Foch, Gamelin, et cetera) had in times of peace been Inspectors General of the Armies but in time of war they became Commanders in Chief of the French forces.

In republican France the combination of civil and military power in one man had never been permitted. In Giraud’s opinion this present action is the first clear cut step toward a personal dictatorship [Page 671] in France. Under the circumstances he said he preferred to withdraw. He desired to give de Gaulle a reasonable opportunity to amend the decree to provide for the position of Commander in Chief of French forces. If that is not done within a reasonable time, let us say 48 hours, he would withdraw and ask permission to proceed to England. Should that happen what Giraud would hope for is some designation and an appropriate status near the Allied High Command.

In my opinion we should not only interpose no objection to Giraud’s departure but facilitate it in the event that the decree of April 4 is permitted to stand. Giraud has been associated in the minds of the public with the USA and in fact his French critics have attacked him on the grounds that he is nothing more than an “American agent” or an “American valet”. If these same critics convinced that this is true are permitted to observe that the authority and prestige of Giraud are diminished and changed at will by the de Gaulle faction such a condition of affairs could only be harmful to American prestige in this area. My first impression on return here is that American prestige has suffered a distinct setback in recent months.

The favorable and happy position which we enjoyed here prior to the November ’42 landing53 has largely disappeared. The causes which make for this situation are undoubtedly complex and that certain influences are at work with this objective in mind may be taken for granted. Our position will not be improved it seems to me by continued affiliation with and support of General Giraud if he is not [sic] to be the target and victim of continued political maneuver designed to cheapen his prestige and diminish his authority.

I have discussed the foregoing with Generals Wilson54 and Devers who concur. Giraud indicated this morning that he hoped that it might be possible to enable him and his staff to proceed to London in the capacity of Commander in Chief of French forces and resign after his arrival there. It will be indicated to him that this solution would not appear practicable.

Giraud has stated that if he retires he naturally will avoid any action which might be disturbing to military operations. It is not believed that there would result any violent action either in the army or civilian population although there is evidence that moderate elements are disturbed over the centralization of power. General Wilson informs me that according to his Military Intelligence some French Army elements in Oran and Morocco also manifest dissatisfaction. [Murphy.]

  1. Robert D. Murphy, American Political Adviser, Allied Force Headquarters.
  2. With regard to the Allied landings in North Africa November 8, 1942, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. ii, pp. 429432.
  3. Gen. Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean Theater.