Roosevelt and Hopkins, an Intimate History

By Robert E. Sherwood | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXI
The Vichy Policy

There was another episode of the Arcadia Conference which must be treated separately because it could hardly be considered among the Conference's memorable achievements. Cordell Hull described it as "one of those footnotes of history that had dangerous possibilities of becoming whole chapters"; it did in fact become a chapter in Hull's memoirs, and it again becomes one herewith. The extraordinary resentment that it caused remained to affect other and far more important developments during the war years.

On December 24, while the President and Prime Minister were lighting the Christmas tree on the White House lawn, Admiral Emile Muselier led Free French naval forces (corvettes, escort craft, which had been aiding the Canadian Navy on the convoy routes) to the seizure of St. Pierre and Miquelon, two small fishing islands off Newfoundland. These were French possessions and under the command of Admiral Georges Robert, the Vichy Governor at Martinique some two thousand miles away. Unlike Martinique, these islands had little strategic importance but they had been objects of great interest to the U.S., Canadian and British Governments because there was on St. Pierre a powerful radio transmitter which might broadcast weather reports and other intelligence to German submarine and surface raiders. Therefore, it was obviously desirable that the islands be put under Allied control. A few weeks before Pearl Harbor, the Canadian Government suggested that it take the initiative in this matter and London and Washington agreed. However, this suggestion angered the redoubtable and incorrigible Free French leader, General Charles de Gaulle, who felt that such an action would be an insult to French sovereignty unless it were taken by French forces under his command. He accordingly sent Muselier to Canada to study the situation.

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