Colored Troops in the French Army A Report from the Department of State Relating to the Colored Troops in the French Army and the Number of French Colonial Troops in the Occupied Territory
|3d Session||No. 397|
COLORED TROOPS IN THE
FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE RELATING TO
THE COLORED TROOPS IN THE FRENCH ARMY AND
THE NUMBER OF FRENCH COLONIAL TROOPS
IN THE OCCUPIED TERRITORY
PRESENTED BY MR. LODGE
February 15 (calendar day, February 14), 1921.—Ordered to be printed
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL.
Department of State,
Washington, February 14, 1921.
Hon. Henry Cabot Lodge,
United States Senate.
Sir: In response to an informal request made by your secretary ofMr. Bliss, of this department, on February 12, 1921, I have the honorto inclose for your consideration and that of your committee a copyof a letter, with its inclosures which I wrote to Mr. Porter, chairmanof the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House, on the subject ofFrench black troops on the Rhine; also a copy of a later letter toMr. Porter, with its inclosure, a copy of a telegram from Mr. Wallace,giving the latest figures as to the number of French colonial troopsnow in the occupied territory.
I have the honor to be, sir,
Your obedient servant,
Norman H. Davis,
COLORED TROOPS IN THE FRENCH ARMY.
January 17, 1921.
Hon. Stephen G. Porter,
House of Representatives.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter ofJanuary 10, 1921, with which you inclose a copy of House joint resolutionNo. 433, introduced by Mr. Britten, and request that I furnishthe Committee on Foreign Affairs with such facts concerning theconduct of French colored troops in the occupied territories of Germanyas may be in the possession of the Department of State.
Protests concerning the conduct of French black troops in theRhenish area began to reach the department toward the end of May,1920. On June 12, 1920, a telegram was sent to the American embassyin Paris requesting information as to the truth of these allegationsand asking what representations might be made to the FrenchGovernment, if the reports appeared to have a basis of fact. (AppendixI). On June 25, 1920, Mr. Wallace telegraphed that an investigationhad been promptly started and that he would arrangewith Gen. Allen, in command of the American troops at Coblentz,to secure all possible facts. In a further telegram of this same dateMr. Wallace gave a short summary of the number of colonial troopsemployed by the French in the occupied territories, reported whatMr. Dresel, American commissioner in Berlin, had told him of theagitation in Germany, and suggested that he speak informally of thematter to M. Millerand. (Appendix II.) The Department of Stateauthorized Mr. Wallace to speak to M. Millerand on the subject, andhe reported on July 22 that this had been done. (Appendix II.)
In the meantime, on June 22, the department telegraphed Gen.Allen for such information as he might be able to furnish. Thistelegram was answered shortly on June 26, giving the number andorigin of French colonial troops in the occupied region and an officialreport of the number of complaints made to the French during theperiod of occupation and the disposition made of these complaints.(Appendix IV.) On July 2 Gen. Allen submitted a full and detailedreport on the matter (Appendix V), in which he pointed out that theallegations of wholesale atrocities were false and intended for politicalpropaganda, that there had been cases of serious misbehavior whichhad been punished by the French military authorities, that thenumber of convictions indicated an earnest effort on the part of theFrench authorities to deal justly with the accusations, and thatthe discipline of the Senegalese troops had not always been good.I especially commend this report to your attention as a clear andimpartial statement of the case. That the French are attempting tomaintain good relations with the people of the territory occupied bytheir armies is made evident in a telegram from Gen. Allen of August19, in which he cites a French order instructing that “all membersof the Army must be dignified, courteous, and just, thus setting theexample to the German population of tolerance in order that goodwill and mutual respect may be established and promoted and illwill and hatred overcome.” (Appendix VI.)
The department also consulted in this matter the Americancommissioner in Berlin, stating on June 15, 1920, that it was receivingmany protests against the alleged misconduct of French black troopsand that the phrasing of the protests suggested possible inspirationfrom a propaganda bureau. (Appendix VII.) Mr. Dresel repliedthat protests in Germany were general, emanating from all classesand political parties, that an extensive press propaganda had beencarried on and that a mass meeting of protest was soon to be held inBerlin at which certain Americans were to speak. Mr. Dresel incloseda memorandum on this subject. You will note in this memorandumwhich includes translations from the German press and asummary of the discussion in the Reichstag, various examples ofgross exaggeration of facts, as, for example, the statement of theGerman foreign minister that France had transplanted “50,000black and colored troops to the heart of white Europe,” whereasGen. Allen stated that the number of such troops, including regimentsof Arabs, was in the vicinity of 20,000. May I call your particularattention in this memorandum also to the translation of the Frenchanswer to the German protests? I understand that there has beenno official interchange of notes between the French and GermanGovernments.
Mr. Dresel forwarded to the department also the original Germanedition of the pamphlet, “Colored Frenchmen on the Rhine,” theAmerican edition of which, published by the New Times of Chicago,appears to be a literal translation with the addition of the words,“An appeal of white women to American womanhood.” It isperhaps worth noting that this pamphlet was published not in theRhineland, but in Berlin, and that the avoidance of names makes itimpossible to verify or disprove the specific allegations. Furthermoreas Mr. Dresel has pointed out to the department, practically all thealleged instances of misconduct by the French black troops cited inthe German press give no reference to date or place and are thereforeof little value as evidence.
On July 15 the American commissioner in Berlin sent to thedepartment a translation of an account of the so-called Americanprotest meeting against the use by France of colored troops in theRhineland area, which was held in Berlin on the evening of July 4.In his covering dispatch Mr. Dresel pointed out that the addresseswere bitterly anti-American as well as anti-French and that MissRay Beveridge and Mr. Scheffauer, both American citizens, wereparticularly vehement in their attacks on the American Government.I have thought it worth while to inclose this dispatch, with theaccompanying translation, to call your attention to the competenceof the witnesses on whose allegations this propaganda appears inlarge measure to be based.
Miss Ray Beveridge was formerly employed by the Germanembassy in Washington and was the organizer of “embargo conference”meetings in 1915. She states that she held a public meetingin the Reichstag Building to protest against the signing of the peacetreaty. She refers to the former Emperor of Germany as “myKaiser.” Mr. Edwin Emerson, formerly a newspaper man in Berlinconnected with the antially Continental Times, has been living inGermany since 1917. During and since the war he has been carryingon antiallied propaganda work in Germany. John W. DeKaywas identified with the Huerta dictatorship and attempted to importinto Mexico rifles and ammunition, which were intercepted by theUnited States at Vera Cruz. He was indicted on nine counts in NewYork in 1913 for obtaining money on false pretenses and is a fugitivefrom justice in the Atlantic National Bank case. He is said to bethe treasurer of the bolshevist party in Switzerland. He carried aMexican passport in December, 1920, and was at one time granteda German passport by the German legation in Berne. Mr. H. G.Scheffauer, born in San Francisco in 1878, has lived in Germanysince 1913. As coeditor of the Continental Times he contributedanti-American articles under assumed names. On January 6, 1919,he was indicted for treason—for writing, publishing, and distributingarticles and propaganda in aid of the German cause. These peoplecall themselves Americans, and as far as the department knows arethe authors of most of the stories distributed in this country concerningthe misconduct of the French black troops. It is necessaryto speak of the Englishman, E. D. Morel, only because he is specificallymentioned in House joint resolution No. 433. Mr. Morel was,before the war, strongly anti-French and anti-Belgian. During theMoroccan crisis he upheld Germany and during the war was indictedunder the defense of the realm act for sending uncensored letters toSwitzerland. His articles on the “Black Terror” were published inthe London Daily Herald, an extremely radical paper alleged to besubsidized by the Russian soviet government.
Finally, it should be called to the attention of your committee thatthese accusations against the French troops are also reaching Americadirect from Germany. As evidence of this there are inclosedphotostat copies of two printed appeals sent in the mail from Germanyto American citizens and by them forwarded to the department.The leaflet entitled “The Black Evil” reached America inclosed ina German magazine. You will note that there is no printer’s markand that the American flag at the top is evidently intended to indicatethat it was printed in America. Several of these leaflets havereached the department and copies have been sent to the PostmasterGeneral for such action as he may see fit to take. The second leaflet,entitled “An Appeal to Americans,” contains the accusation againstthe French colored troops only as a further argument for Americanassistance.
As soon as the department received word of the introduction ofHouse joint resolution No. 433 I telegraphed to Mr. Wallace forinformation as to the present personnel of the French troops ofoccupation. When his answer is received I shall be pleased toforward it to you. May I, however, call your attention to the factthat no recent allegations of misconduct of French soldiers have beenmade so far as the department is informed, all those detailed in thevarious published statements referring to a time prior to June 1, 1920.
In consideration of what I have said above, the facts that, althoughthere were undoubtedly outrages, those proved guilty have beenpunished; that official American testimony as well as that given bymany reputable Germans largely disproves the specific but unverifiablecharges made by witnesses whose impartiality is certainlyquestionable; that the accusations appear to be a method of anti-Frenchpropaganda; that the French have long since withdrawn theSenegalese troops which were the only pure Negro troops used; thatthere appear to be no accusations against the behavior of suchFrench colonial troops as remain in the occupied territories; that Mr.Wallace has already discussed the matter with the French primeminister, it would appear to me inadvisable that the AmericanGovernment should be asked to take any further action at the presenttime.
I am very glad to be able to furnish you with full information inthis matter and request only that the inclosures herewith be consideredas