American diplomat, Robert Daniel Murphy, was Roosevelt’s ‘man in Algiers’. French general, Maxime Weygand, was posted to Algiers as the Vichy government’s ‘Delegate-General’ to their North African colonies.
In his book Maxime Weygand: A Biography of the French General in Two World Wars (McFarland, 2008), Brock University historian Barnett Singer describes how the two men first met in Rabat in December 1940.
Their conversation led to the Murphy-Weygand Accord, an agreement under which the United States would provide French North Africa with (non-war) materials such as coal, cotton goods, medicines, and petroleum.
The Germans were suspicious. Churchill was unimpressed. He was against the idea of aid for anywhere that Vichy held sway. Britain had her own (undeclared) war with Vichy, evidenced by the Royal Navy’s attack against the French fleet at the Algerian ports of Mers-el-Kebir and Oran, and Britain’s support of Free French leader, Charles de Gaulle, in his ill-fated venture at Dakar. Even the top officials in Vichy were wary. Pétain would have signed but his deputy, Admiral François Darlan, feared German retribution.
In the end, the document was simply initialled by Murphy and Weygand in Algiers, 26 February 1941. It would take effect exactly two months later.Murphy thought US aid would help French North Africa maintain its relative independence from Nazi-dominated France. Roosevelt was in agreement. Weygand’s credibility was high in the United States. He was a former Commander-in-Chief of the French army—and he had been on the cover of Time magazine!
To assure that goods arriving in North Africa would not be reshipped to France (thence possibly to Germany), Weygand gladly agreed to allow American consular officials to monitor the shipments on arrival.
Thus he approved the appointment of numerous American vice-consuls—in reality agents of the OSS, the Office of Strategic Services. The secret intelligence that they gathered served the Americans well and was used in planning the Anglo-American invasion of North Africa in 1942 (Operation Torch).