711.00111 Lic. Wolf, Rudolf/51/51: Telegram

The Ambassador in France ( Bullitt ) to the Secretary of State

210. Reference our 176 February 8, 1 p.m. and previous telegrams regarding the airplanes at Havre.

This morning Wilson37 called on Laugier, Delbos’38 Chef de Cabinet, at the latter’s request. Laugier said that the Foreign Office had been delaying action upon a request for permission to export these planes to Varna. He said that under existing legislation the French Government had no authority to refuse permission for exportation of these planes to a country other than Spain. Existing legislation would forbid their exportation directly to Spain or to other countries in transit for Spain. However, there was no authority according to the competent services of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to refuse application for export to a third country in the absence of proof that that country is not the country of destination. In order to have such authority it would be necessary for the Government to obtain a modification of existing legislation. Under present circumstances regarding foreign assistance being furnished Spain with the public knowledge that large numbers of troops and important shipments of aeroplanes, artillery, and munitions are being made by Italy and Germany [Page 572] for the assistance of Franco it would be embarrassing and difficult for the French Government to obtain approval of the Parliament to a modification of existing legislation so as to prohibit the exportation of aeroplanes to third countries. He said that while the French Government had a bill already prepared which would cover such cases as this and would in general tighten up control over shipments which might find their way to Spain, nevertheless, the Government was naturally waiting before requesting the enactment of this bill by the Parliament until agreement had been reached with other Governments through the London Committee for the simultaneous putting into force of effective measures of control.

Laugier referred to the fact that the Embassy had been keeping the Foreign Office confidentially informed of developments regarding the shipment of these aeroplanes to Havre and in this connection inquired whether it had been the desire of our Government to request the French Government to make every effort possible to prevent the export of these planes from France and whether our Government now desired to request the French Government to introduce a bill for the modification of existing legislation so as to prohibit the departure of these planes for Spain.

Wilson replied that the Department of State had kept the Embassy informed regarding the facts of the issuance of the licenses for export of these planes from the United States and of subsequent developments relating to the exportation of these planes. The Department of State had authorized the Embassy to keep the Foreign Office confidentially and informally advised of these facts, believing that they might be of interest to the French Government in connection with the enforcement of its own laws and regulations relating to the exportation of material to Spain. The Department had asked to be kept advised of what disposition was made of these planes and of the attitude of the French Government regarding their reexportation since the Department would probably receive similar requests for permits in the future and wanted this information for future guidance. These were the instructions which the Embassy had received; the Embassy had carried them out and had put the French Foreign Office in possession of all the information which it had regarding this matter.

Laugier then asked Wilson to go into the next room with him to see Delbos. Wilson did so and practically the same conversation as is reported above took place with Delbos. Delbos reiterated that his services reported to him that under existing legislation the French Government had no authority to prohibit the exportation of these planes to a third country in the absence of convincing proof that this country was not in fact the country of destination. He said that in this regard the French Government stood in much the same position as the American Government which had found that it could not decline [Page 573] to issue the permit for exportation of the planes from the United States. He stated that under present circumstances it would be “extremely embarrassing” for the French Government to request its Parliament to vote a modification of existing legislation although if the American Government should “request” this, the French Government would endeavor to do so.

Wilson replied as he had to Laugier (see above) and especially pointing out the policy of our Government with which the French Government was familiar regarding complete noninterference in the Spanish situation and the efforts made by our Government in every appropriate way to see that American nationals did not act in a manner contrary to this policy.

It was evident to Wilson that permission for exportation of these planes will probably be issued shortly. We will endeavor to check up on this and report later.

  1. Edwin C. Wilson, Counselor of Embassy in France.
  2. Yvon Delbos, French Minister for Foreign Affairs.