The Chargé in France (Wilson) to the Secretary of State
[Received April 6—3 p.m.]
549. Reference your 194, April 1, 6 p.m.43 In the event of a collapse of the Spanish Government we shall be faced in France with a serious problem as regards the reception, care and repatriation of wounded and able-bodied American volunteers who have been serving in Spain.
A small group composed of Edgar Mowrer of the Chicago Daily News, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Sweeney and others are taking particular interest in this matter. Mowrer who has talked with me at various times now states that he is hopeful of obtaining sufficient funds from the organizations which sent these volunteers to Spain to cover the cost of their care and repatriation. Mowrer has been trying to set up a committee to deal with this problem and has approached among others Dean Jay, president of the American Hospital. Jay has come to me to say that in case the funds which Mowrer hopes to receive should not materialize he feels that a relief problem will arise which will be beyond the possibilities of the American community here to handle. While no exact estimates are available it is possible that there might be several hundred wounded and as many more able-bodied Americans in destitute condition landed in France. Jay expresses the opinion that the problem is of sufficient magnitude to warrant its being dealt with officially by the Government of the United States and has suggested the despatch of a naval hospital vessel. I have informed him that there are no official funds available for repatriation of Americans who may be evacuated from Spain and that I am informed by the Naval Attaché that the only hospital ship now in commission is with the fleet at Honolulu.
It is my thought that providing Mowrer obtains his funds the problem will be largely one of organization of activities for relief and repatriation and that in this the Embassy can be helpful in a number of ways, for instance by detailing one or more of our personnel to go to the port where Americans are landed and to assist in organizing activities there. If it turns out that Mowrer is unable to obtain funds then we shall indeed be faced with a serious problem and one in which it will be essential to obtain funds from America. The Department may care to discuss this angle of the matter with the American Red Cross.
The Foreign Office has also spoken with me concerning this problem. They say that in case of an emergency they will do what they can [Page 281] before the arrival of American naval vessels in Spanish ports to evacuate Americans from Spain. They point out however that the French authorities are going to be swamped with the arrival in France of great numbers of Spanish refugees and they urge that Americans evacuated from Spain be repatriated to America directly if possible. If they are to remain in France for a short time then the French Government hopes that all expenses will be paid from American sources. They also state that ports near border such as Port Vendres will be overrun with Spanish refugees and they urge that American naval vessels evacuating Americans from Spain land them at Marseille or Nice. I have told Mowrer of the views of the French Government and have also urged him to consider making arrangements to use the steamer Oregon at Valencia for the evacuation of American volunteers.
The Naval Attaché informs me that the Raleigh will leave Villefranche on April 11 for Marseille, departing from Marseille on April 12 for Algiers and leaving Algiers on April 19 for Gibraltar. The Claxton is now at Gibraltar leaving there on April 22 for Villefranche. The Manley is at Villefranche. If there is danger of a sudden collapse of the Spanish Government the Department may wish to consider maintaining these three vessels relatively near at hand, say at Marseille or Villefranche.
I would appreciate an expression of your views regarding the foregoing matters and any instructions you may desire to send me.
Mowrer and his group are especially apprehensive that if there is a collapse in Spain the wounded Americans in hospital there may be massacred by Franco’s Moorish troops. It is of course obvious that Mowrer and his friends whose sympathies have been openly with the Government have no possibility of approaching, themselves, Franco in this matter.