852.00/2889: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Third Secretary of Embassy in Spain (Wendelin)

102. The United States Destroyer Kane left Gibraltar at 8:12 a.m., August 30, en route to Bilbao to assist in the work of evacuating American nationals. According to report from her Commanding Officer, at 4:10 p.m., August 30, while the vessel was at 36 degrees, 33 minutes north and 7 degrees, 35 minutes west (approximately 38 miles from the Spanish coast) an unidentified, tri-motored, low-winged monoplane flew over the Kane and dropped two bombs which exploded near the vessel. The Kane was flying the American flag at her foremast head and in addition had an American ensign horizontal on top of the well deck awning. When this attack was made, the Kane increased her speed to maneuver away from the plane. At 4:25 p.m., the plane again flew over the Kane and dropped a third bomb. At 4:26 p.m., the Kane’s anti-aircraft gun fired two rounds in the direction of the plane. At 4:32 p.m., the plane again flew over the Kane and dropped three more bombs, making a total of six. The Kane’s anti-aircraft gun fired nine rounds in the direction of the plane during its approach and retreat.

The attitude of the American Government in respect to the conflict in Spain is well known. The American Government has stressed the complete impartiality of its attitude and has publicly stated that, in conformity with its well established policy of non-interference with internal affairs in other countries, either in time of peace or in the event of civil strife, it will, of course, scrupulously refrain from any interference whatsoever in the unfortunate Spanish situation.

Since the Government forces in Spain have in the friendliest spirit, made every possible effort to avoid injury to American nationals and American property, it can only be assumed that the attack on the [Page 688] United States Destroyer Kane, if made by a government plane, was due to her identity having been mistaken for a vessel of the opposing forces. Because of the friendly attitude of the Spanish Government toward the United States and the absence of any motive whatsoever for an attack upon an American vessel, it is not conceivable that a government plane would knowingly make such an attack. The American Government feels confident that it is fully understood in every quarter that the sole purpose of the presence of American naval vessels about the shores of Spain is to afford facilities for the removal of American nationals from Spain.

Since the plane making the attack was unidentified, the President has directed that this incident be brought to the attention of the Spanish Government through you and informally, with no intention as to recognition, to the attention of General Franco through the American Consul at Seville,6 with the request that both sides issue instructions in the strongest terms, as the American Government feels confident they will desire to do, to prevent another incident of this character.

Take up this matter immediately with the Spanish Government in the sense of the foregoing, endeavor to obtain a categorical statement as to whether the plane making this attack was a Government plane, and urge and insist upon definite assurance that appropriate instructions will immediately be issued to the Government armed forces. Telegraph immediately and fully the results of your representations.

  1. Telegram of the same date to the Consul at Seville not printed.