Abstract: American Business and France, 1940-1941

Martin Horn


When in June 1940 France collapsed under the weight of the German invasion, the shock was palpable. For American businesses that operated in France—companies such as Ford, J.P. Morgan, IBM, General Motors, Standard Oil, and many others—the new reality posed difficult choices. What should their response be? The paper examines the choices made by American companies in 1940-1941, the period when the United States was not at war with Germany and when relations with Vichy France were cordial. It poses two questions: Why did some American companies opt to shutter their French operations and others continue on? Second, what do the decisions made by American multinationals in France in 1940-1941 tell us about the view that the American multinational fragmented in Europe during the Second World War? The paper argues that while there were various reasons underlying the disparate choices made by American companies in response to the French defeat, the extent to which dissolution of American multinationals occurred has been overstated.