The Foreign Service Journal, November 2023

56 NOVEMBER 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Germany would take advantage of the French territories in the Americas to carry out hostile actions against the United States and seize the gold of the Bank of France that had been sent to Martinique in June 1940. A military occupation of Martinique, where most of the French armed forces in the Americas were concentrated, was considered by the Roosevelt administration. The plan was finally discarded, thanks to the “gentlemen’s agreements” concluded between Admiral Georges Robert, high commissioner for the French territories in the Western Atlantic (based in Martinique), and Rear Admiral John W. Greenslade, senior member of the General Board of the U.S. Navy, in August and November 1940. The “Greenslade-Robert Agreements” guaranteed the neutralization of French forces in America, the securing of the gold stored in Martinique, and limited U.S. surveillance of the island, with the U.S. agreeing, in return, to supply the French colony with food, fuel, and raw materials. These provisions considerably strengthened the role of the American consulate in Fort-de-France, to which a naval observer was now attached. On Dec. 8, 1940, while conducting an inspection cruise in the West Indies aboard the USS Tuscaloosa, President Roosevelt approached within about three miles of the coast of Martinique. He summoned the U.S. consular representative, Vice Consul Vinkler Harwood Blocker, and the naval observer, Commander Ernest J. Blankenship, to inquire about the situation in Martinique and Guadeloupe, and to relay specific requests to Admiral Robert. Roosevelt insisted, on this occasion, on the need to prevent any Nazi control and influence in these French territories. The Greenslade-Robert Agreements, confirmed after Germany’s declaration of war on the United States on Dec. 11, 1941, were fairly faithfully executed by both parties. They were implemented with the essential assistance of the U.S. consulate, whose diplomatic activity was combined with intense intelligence and analytical work. The consular mission was also very busy with the European refugees who arrived in Martinique and wished to immigrate to North America. Appointed consul in Fort-de-France in 1941, and then consul general the following year, Marcel Etienne Malige (a fluent French speaker who was born of French parents who immigrated to the United States) played a crucial role in American policy toward Martinique and Guadeloupe at this time. The panorama changed with the severance of diplomatic relations between the United States and the Vichy regime in November 1942. Five months later, in April 1943, Washington denounced the agreements made with Admiral Robert, recalled Malige, and put an end to American assistance to the French West Indies, leading to a worsening of shortages in these territories. The consulate in Fort-de-France nevertheless remained open and was entrusted to a consular officer whose activities were to be strictly limited to “the protection of American interests” and exclude “any negotiations of a political character,” according to a State Department note dated May 1, 1943. This situation was short-lived, however. In July, after Henri Hoppenot, a representative of the French Committee of National Liberation, arrived and took power in Martinique, Malige was sent back to Martinique, and the United States restored its aid to the French West Indies. The Long Cold War World War II was followed by the Cold War, which led the American consuls in Martinique—a French department since 1946—to pay special attention to the island’s social and “racial” problems, and their exploitation by the communists. In 1946 Consul William H. Christensen wrote in a note to the State Department: “Hitherto the French had established a Martinique’s strategic interest for the United States increased dramatically in June 1940. Presidents François Mitterrand and George H.W. Bush at Habitation Clément, Martinique, on March 14, 1991. FERNAND BIBAS/COLLECTIVITÉ TERRITORIALE DE MARTINIQUE