Gaston Henry-Haye

Given NameGaston


ww2dbaseIn 1940, Pierre Laval of the Vichy French government sent Gaston Henry-Haye to Washington, DC, United States as the new French ambassador. On arrival, he took over the handsome house on Kalorama Road, left by the previous ambassador. He was well respected in France, but upon arrival in Washington, he was ridiculed, sometimes to his face, by the diplomatic circle, which denounced him as a servant of the Nazi regime. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) told the State Department that it was keeping an eye on Henry-Haye, fearing that he was harboring Nazi intelligence agents in the embassy (and it is understood that he did allow German agents to operate out of the embassy). While the diplomatic scene in Washington was typically filled with social events, few invitations reached him. When questioned by American Secretary of State Cordell Hull on the rumor that the French Navy was to be given to the Germans, Henry-Haye responded that it was "impossible for the American people to understand why the French government would hand to Hitler a loaded gun with which to shoot at their friends." He complained directly to President Franklin D. Roosevelt that he was insulted that representatives from France, the United States oldest ally, was alienated. On 6 Jun 1941, he issued a statement noting that America's understanding of Vichy France was largely through "false rumors or intentional exaggerated reports", with denial of the rumor that German troops were operating in French territories around the world, and the declaration that France would not oppose the British. To the Americans, Henry-Haye did not represent France, but rather a mere puppet government sponsored by Germany. As time went on, it was easy for him to tell that the Americans were opening his mail, tapping his phone lines, and monitoring his radio activities. In Nov 1941, Vichy France cut relations with the United States, and Henry-Hayes was sent home without much fanfare.

ww2dbaseSources: the New York Times, Washington Goes to War.

Last Major Revision: Sep 2007

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