124.52/120: Telegram

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

X–174. Department’s telegrams numbers 134 and 135, September 23 [22], 3 p.m., and 24, 11 a.m. After careful consideration of entire situation, I believe closing of the Embassy and withdrawal of Embassy and Consulate staffs from Madrid at this time would be premature for the following reasons: (1) military situation while grave is not yet desperate for the Government, and rebel threat to cut communications, especially railway to coast, not yet acute; withdrawal before [Page 728] rebel threat to Madrid becomes more definite would greatly weaken our future position, if possible Government reaction should occur; (2) withdrawal now while British and French Embassies remain would be blow to Government, inevitably associating us in public mind with Germans and Italians; (3) withdrawal of Embassy from Madrid would destroy much of the goodwill now enjoyed both by Embassy, Consulate and Americans in general and resultant hostility would endanger American interests now receiving favored treatment. Colonel Behn of International Telephone and Telegraph Company now in Madrid insists that our withdrawal would probably cause seizure of the telephone company by the Government which thus far has permitted Americans to retain control.

The above considerations are advanced only as justification for remaining in Madrid until such time as rebel threat to capital becomes definite and acute. This situation may develop in a few days or not for weeks. If rebels cut rail communications with coast, acute food shortage would develop in Madrid very quickly and whether city is captured immediately or is subjected to siege local situation would become very serious. Whether even so serious danger would be incurred by staff in the Embassy is matter of opinion here. In any event it would be necessary to throw Embassy open again as a place of refuge to some 140 American nationals. Latter consideration is most serious aspect of the situation as safety in Embassy cannot be guaranteed if condition of anarchy should develop. Majority of these nationals are Spanish speaking long domiciled in Madrid.

Balance of above considerations in my opinion counsels remaining in Madrid until rebel threat to city becomes more definite and then leave the country, if possible, in conjunction with British and French. If rail communications are cut off unexpectedly we are prepared to leave by automobile via Valencia.54

  1. In telegram No. 139, September 27, 8 p.m., the Secretary of State instructed Mr. Wendelin that he need not depart until in his judgment the rebel threat to the capital became definite and acute; he was to be guided in reaching his decision by paragraph 2 of Department’s telegram No. 134, September 22, 3 p.m., p. 724.