384.11/27: Telegram

The Chargé in Ethiopia (Engert) to the Secretary of State

73. At a meeting I called this morning I communicated to nine representatives of American missionary institutions, including two women, the substance of the Department’s telegram number 44, August 10, 2 p.m. and reminded them of the previous messages from the Department urging them to depart immediately. After a discussion which lasted 2 hours they informed me that the following were their views and could be considered as those of practically all American missionaries in Ethiopia.

1. While appreciating the Legation’s solicitude for their welfare they do not feel they can all abandon their work at the present time. They fully realize the risks involved in living in a primitive country but they have counted the cost and are willing to take a chance.

2. Apart from their work they have very valuable property, such as modern hospitals, involving investments of large sums of money contributed by American friends for the protection of which they considered themselves responsible. The medical missionaries feel particularly strongly that a time of crisis such as may occur would afford them an opportunity of rendering unselfish service to the people of this country when it was most needed.

3. They all admit that the attitude of the natives in any given locality under conditions of stress is a matter of uncertainty but so far they have had no reports of signs of unfriendliness. On the contrary they believe Americans are on the whole safer than other nationalities.

4. As regards married women with children they are quite prepared to leave as soon as hostilities have actually broken out or seem imminent. Single women workers, especially those connected with hospitals, do not want to depart so long as male protection is available.

The consensus of opinion seems to be that unless and until the situation becomes definitely threatening to them they do not wish to abandon their posts whether in the interior or in the capital. This is their life work and they must not quit merely because of the possibility of danger.

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I believe the above views are, to a certain extent, due to the fact that no other government except the Italian has so far instructed its nationals to submit and the Americans do not want to appear more alarmed than other foreigners. I have repeatedly discussed the situation with the British and French Ministers who assure me that they have merely advised their nationals to hold themselves in readiness to leave on short notice and they feel certain that even then by no means all would go.

The British Minister tells me confidentially that his Foreign Office never contemplated complete evacuation of British nationals and that preparations for planes et cetera were chiefly for personnel of Legations and possibly a few others in extreme emergency. He does not share the Department’s view (see Department’s 27, June 26, 2 p.m.) that the problem is more difficult in the capital but believes foreigners will be safer here than in the interior except perhaps those within easy reach of contiguous British possessions.

My own personal opinion is that so long as Ethiopian forces have not suffered serious reverses and the Emperor remains alive the authorities will in good faith make every effort to protect foreigners both here and in the interior but I have not expressed this view to the missionaries.