THE STATEMENT BY FRENCH AMBASSADOR GASTON HENRY-HAYE AT WASHINGTON
June 6, 1941
[New York Times, June 7, 1941.]
After perusing the statement issued by Secretary of State Cordell Hull, I am myself very much concerned about a situation which is steadily growing more complicated, mostly through false rumors or intentional exaggerated reports.
All the news pretending that German troops were at Dakar, Casablanca or French Mediterranean ports have been emphatically denied, and the official representatives of the United States in those places can assert that these informations are contrary to the truth.
Untrue also is the statement that German forces landed at Lataquie [Latakia], Syria.
Furthermore, I am able to deny formally today that any airborne Axis troops ever landed in the French possessions of the Near East.
But true is the statement of the leaders of France that they will defend French territories against any attack.
Incontestable is also the declaration that French forces will never, by air, sea, or land, take the initiative of any operation against the British.
Therefore, it is difficult for the French Government to understand the reasons for the accusations made against its policy.
I beg to remind you that all those made against the government of Marshal Petain during the last year have been proved totally unjustified.
Is it necessary to recall that the French soldiers and the French people, who fought and resisted almost alone last May and June, have made sacrifices comparable to none others, and after the defeat of our armies the French people in the occupied and unoccupied zones went proudly through the most cruel Winter with starving rations?
We are deeply grateful to the American Government for the four shipments of food sent to France, through the good care of the American Red Cross, but may I be permitted to recall that our most urgent needs were estimated at roughly 170 shiploads to be purchased in the United States with the frozen funds accumulated through the thrift of our forefathers.
It is most painful to recall that even a request to use $2,000,000 from our funds to buy meat for our war prisoners was rejected.
Frenchmen have the greatest difficulty to understand why, in these financial matters, they are much more severely treated than the Japanese, the Italians or the Germans.
Despite the most cruel and unjustified attacks at Oran and Dakar, where hundreds of French lives were lost amongst the sailors, who fought gallantly to protect the British Isles, we refused to take arms against our former ally.
Every day the populations of the cities of the French coast are stoically enduring British bombardments and never a complaint is made about that.
It is perfectly clear that the United States Government's policy is based on aiding Great Britain, but is it because we Frenchmen, who have been the first to aid England by declaring a war at her suggestion, by mobilizing all the men of France between 20 and 50, by putting all our resources, blood, money, material, land to aid Great Britain in this struggle; is it because we have made such tremendous sacrifices that we should be denied the right to defend French sovereignty?
I want to emphasize that, far from attacking and oppressing other nations, France always gave a helpful hand to other countries.
Before this war and after the Armistice, France has been the land where millions of people of all races and religions found refuge and are now, according to American observers on the spot, receiving the best possible treatment in view of the terribly precarious situation in France.
It has been our privilege, since the days of Rochambeau, de Grasse and Lafayette, to have the most cordial relations with the United States of America. We intend to keep this friendly collaboration as far as it is possible. Never did we commit any unfriendly gesture against the United States. On the contrary, we have given to the American Government all conceivable assurances and guarantees about the French possessions of this hemisphere.
The government of Marshal Petain, namely, the government of all the Frenchmen heartily united behind this great soldier. with the exception of a few thousands of refugees residing abroad, claims for our nation the right to live and asserts its will to maintain the sovereignty of France.
It is impossible to conceive that such action might interfere with the interests or ideals of the Americans.
No propaganda, no false rumors, can prevent the French nation, which has such a long and glorious past, from following the road of her destiny.
I can assure, solemnly and most sincerely, that, in the French conception, the destiny of France can never be opposed to that of America.