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come alarmed by the ease with which the German Air Force had been able to make use of Syrian landing fields during the past month not only without any objection on the part of the French but evidently with their full approval and cooperation. I again referred to the shipment of large quantities of French military supplies to help the rebels in Iraq and asked him if he thought the Germans would have been willing to withdraw their planes from Syria if their intrigues in Iraq had not ended in failure. General Dentz merely shrugged his shoulders and made no reply. I then said he and I could therefore scarcely blame the British if they wished to prevent a similar situation which would be a grave menace to the entire Middle East and might seriously affect the course of the war.

To my question whether there had actually been fighting at the border the General said his troops had been ordered to resist and so far as he knew he was at war with England! I smiled and said war was an ugly word to use between friends and former allies and was convinced the British had no intention whatever of fighting the French either here or anywhere else. The General remained silent.

I then asked him whether he thought the Germans would attack the British if the latter found it necessary to occupy Syrian territory. The High Commissioner replied categorically, "I personally shall certainly not invite any Germans to come to Syria". I told him I was glad to hear it and would he authorize me to say to my Government that if German planes or troops again arrived in Syria he would have repulsed them. He hesitated for a moment and then said with pathetic helplessness "That would depend on my instructions from Vichy".

Please repeat to London.
Repeated to Vichy.

ENGERT

740.0011 European War 1939/11757: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Leahy) to the Secretary of State

95

VICHY, June 8, 1941-noon. [Received June 8-10:40 a. m.]

656. Rochat has just handed us the following note signed by Admiral Darlan, emphasizing verbally that the French for their part intend to do everything possible to "keep the conflict localized"; that they do not wish the fighting to extend to other areas:

"Charles Antoine Rochat, Acting Secretary General of the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

95 Adm. Jean François Darlan, Vice President of the French Council of Ministers, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Interior, and Navy.

"The French Government has just learned through a telegram received from the General High Commissioner of France at Beirut that Syrian territory was attacked this morning on the Nerdjayoun front south of the Djebeldruze and that enemy reconnaissance units, foot and motorized troops, have made contact with our outposts. Fighting is taking place.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs once more draws to the attention of the American Embassy the fact that there is no collaboration in Syria between German and French forces and that all the German aeronautical matériel and personnel which might have been there on the occasion of the events of Iraq 96 have been withdrawn (with the exception of 2 or 3 damaged machines and possibly 10 men).

The Ministry feels that it must especially emphasize to the American Embassy that any British attack-which nothing in the present situation in Syria can justify-carries with it the risk of bringing about the most serious consequences. As it has already been pointed out to the Embassy, the French Government is resolved to defend its territory and its possessions wherever they may be attacked with every means at its disposal. All measures have been taken to this end in Syria.

Conscious of the dangers which the situation entails, the French Government, for its part, and until further notice, will avoid everything which might tend to aggravate or to extend the conflict. If the latter should be extended, the French Government would be obliged to assure by the necessary measures the defense of the territories under the sovereignty of France".

Repeated to Beirut, Algiers and London.

LEAHY

740.0011 European War 1939/11817: Telegram

The Consul General at Beirut (Engert) to the Secretary of State

BEIRUT, June 9, 1941-10 a. m. [Received 5:15 p. m.]

200. As the local representative of the United Press is telegraphing summaries of communiqués and the Department has, of course, access to British communiqués I shall confine myself to information not available to the public.

1. Neighborhood of Standard Oil tanks in Beirut was bombed twice yesterday. Little damage was done but several people were killed and injured. No air raid warnings were sounded either on this or previous occasions. There is no blackout and the local population appears to have blind confidence that no British plane will

[blocks in formation]

hurt them. The city has not changed its normal aspect although all schools and some shops have been closed.

2. Most of the male British subjects were arrested last night and were locked up at the quarantine station. As this is a very unpleasant place besides being in the military defense area I objected and the High Commissioner has promised to remove them at once to a more suitable locality. Women have not been molested.

3. Most of the military section of the High Commission have been moved to other quarters, leaving only some of the civil bureaus in the present large and very conspicuous building.

4. On the whole the British appear to have encountered more French military resistance than they had anticipated but hardly any of the local French believe that it will last long.

5. All both official and unofficial and most of the Italians left Beirut and Damascus yesterday and today for Aleppo. Several of them have told their friends that they would be back soon and mentioned the recent air raids on Alexandria as an example of what happens to cities under British protection.

6. British bombing of Aleppo airdrome has destroyed radio station and barracks on south camp. German personnel of some 20 men has now moved to north camp where they live in the same building as French personnel near the gasoline dump.

7. Germans at Aleppo are under command of Von Manteuffel and are making no preparations to leave immediately. There are also some German soldiers who returned from Iraq. It is my considered opinion that they will remain until the last possible moment in the hope that the British will be held up by the French sufficiently long to enable German planes to bring enough German forces to Aleppo to hold northern Syria. It is therefore imperative that the British take Aleppo with the least possible delay especially as 500 tons of aviation spirits are expected to arrive there for the Germans from Rumania via Turkey in the immediate future.

8. British should also occupy as quickly as possible railway between Kameshli and Tell Kotchek as the French intend to blow up bridge at Wadi Rumeli.

9. German military mission has recently been inspecting Latakiasee my 181, May 31 97-and is undoubtedly continuing plans for the landing of troops there by sea and air.

Please inform British authorities.
Repeated to Vichy.

97 Ante, p. 716.

ENGERT

740.0011 European War 1939/11820: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Leahy) to the Secretary of State

VICHY, June 9, 1941-6 p. m. [Received June 10-12:11 a. m.]

660. This morning's press of course contains little but sensationally head-lined accounts of events in Syria. Marshal Pétain's 98 message to the French in the Levant has been prominently published on all front pages as have the several bitter communiqués against the De Gaullists and the British. The attack on Syria is characterized as a natural sequel to previous actions of the perpetrators of Mers-el-Kebir, Dakar, Gabon and Sfax. The directives to the press, copies of which we have obtained, instruct the papers to develop arguments in their editorial columns emphasizing the four following points:

1. That the Syrian affair was undertaken only after Iraq was finished and the "occasional flights of German aeroplanes" in transit had been terminated; the bombardment of Syrian aerodromes had provoked no military reaction on the part of France. It is to be emphasized that there are "no German troops" in Syria.

2. To remind the public of the "campaign of lies" of the British Government to convince the world of German troop landings in Syria as a justification for British intervention. The words of the Marshal on the radio have destroyed all these legends.

3. That "Admiral Darlan saw perfectly clearly the British game which he unmasked in irrefutable terms in his message of May 31" (certain paragraphs from Darlan's declarations to the press are reprinted in these instructions to help the editors).

4. That the French who fight in Syria are fighting not only through discipline and to obey their leaders but to stand by the French Empire: "They fight thus as Frenchmen defending their country. They struggle also to obtain for their country an honorable peace. Each soldier who fights and falls in that far off land drenched with French blood gives one more argument for France to refind the place in Europe which is her due".

While it is difficult to evaluate as yet the reactions of the general public there is no evidence that these efforts of the press and radio to stir the people up to the desired pitch of indignation have succeeded. While the people seem to be somewhat confused there is no evidence of excitement in Vichy today nor, as far as we can ascertain, in Lyon or Marseille.

LEAHY

98 Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain, French Chief of State.

741.51/488

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

[WASHINGTON,] June 9, 1941.

The French Ambassador 9 came to see the Secretary at 11:00 a. m., Monday, June 9, 1941 at the Secretary's apartment at Wardman Park Hotel, the Secretary having changed the appointment from his office because of a slight cold. This call was made on the Secretary at the request of the French Ambassador.

The French Ambassador opened the conversation by stating that the French Government had done everything in the world it could to cooperate with the British-had even made the supreme sacrifice of going to war and shedding blood for the British. He pointed to the sadness caused by the spectacle of the British now attacking the French in Syria without, he said, any justification whatever. He said that Marshal Pétain and Admiral Darlan had stated that the French would take no military initiative against the British and had fully complied with that position. The Ambassador repeated the trials and sufferings through which the French had gone since the capitulation almost a year ago, and the effort made by the French Government at Vichy to obtain an amelioration of the conditions of the armistice for the relief of the civilian population, the return of the French prisoners from Germany, and the freedom of communication between the two separate parts of France. The Ambassador recalled that he, himself, had worked during his term of office in Washington for a better understanding between the British and the French but had only been able to give hope to his Government for some betterment of this relationship without any effective steps having been accomplished.

The Secretary listened patiently to the exposition of the Ambassador which was based almost entirely on the statement that the French had not taken any initiative with respect to military acts against the British, although he apparently avoided the issue as to whether the French could have been justly expected under the terms of the armistice to grant the right of use of airdromes in Syria to the Germans in their plan for military assistance against the British forces in Iraq. The Secretary, for his part, drew the picture presented by the acts and utterances of the French governmental leaders, particularly Admiral Darlan and previously Laval,1 indicating an attitude of helpfulness and collaboration with the Hitler forces far beyond the requirements of the armistice terms. The Secretary further

9 Gaston Henry-Haye.

1Pierre Laval, former French Minister for Foreign Affairs and Vice President of the Council of Ministers under Marshal Pétain.

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