Dept. of State Bulletin, Feb. 28, 1942. (Released to the press February 27.)
AT THE PRESS CONFERENCE ON FEBRUARY 27 THE ACTING SECRETARY OF STATE, SUMNER WELLES, SAID:
"The relations between the Government of the United States and the French Government of Vichy have been predicated upon the formal assurances given to this Government by the French Government upon repeated occasions that the French Government in its relations with the Axis powers will not exceed the terms of its armistice agreements with those powers, and in particular that the French Government will in no wise relinquish to those powers any control over or use of French territorial possessions nor any control over nor use of the French fleet. The assurances received by the United States Government in this regard likewise include the assurance that the French Government will give no military assistance to the Axis powers.
"On February 10th the President sent a personal message to Marshal Petain informing him that the Government of the United States has been advised that supplies had been shipped from Metropolitan France to North Africa for the use of the Axis forces in Libya. The President made it clear that the position of France and the limitations placed upon France through the armistice agreements which had been signed with Germany and Italy are fully recognized and understood by the Government and people of the United States. He stated, further, however, that in the opinion of the Government of the United States, if France were to ship war materials or supplies to the Axis powers and to render assistance to these powers, or to take any action in that regard which France was not obligated to take under the terms of her armistice agreements, the French Government would place itself in the category of governments which are directly assisting the declared enemies of the people of the United States The President further stated that he was confident that any such action would be contrary to the wishes of the people of France and disastrous to their aspirations and to their final victory.
"Since that time several additional communications have been exchanged between the two Governments.
"On February 24 the American Ambassador in Vichy received in writing a communication from the French Government.
"In the course of this communication the French Government stated that it affirmed once again its will to abstain from any action, under reservation of the obligations resulting to it from the armistice agreements, which would not be in conformity with the position of neutrality in which it had been placed since June 1940 and which it intended to maintain. The French Government further stated that it would not, therefore, lend any military aid to one of the belligerents in any place in the theater of operations; particularly the use of French vessels for the purposes of war, nor all the more, adopt a policy of assistance to the Axis powers beyond the terms of the armistice agreements.
"The British Government has been kept fully informed of the exchange of communications which has taken place between the French Government and the Government of the United States.
"While this statement of French policy as above set forth is of value in estimating the relations between this Government and the French Government at Vichy, further clarifications with regard to other important questions are awaited by this Government before it will be enabled to complete its examination of the present situation."