The Ambassador in Spain ( Bowers ), Then in France, to the Secretary of State
No. 1649

Sir: I have the honor to submit some observations on the present attitude of the Rebel Government of Burgos toward the United States.

In the first days of the war it will be recalled that every effort was made to create the impression in the United States that the military rising was not against the Republic or Democratic institutions, and that General Franco in his interview given the United Press for distribution in the two Americas specifically said as much. I had no faith in his statement at the time.

Until a few months ago my contacts here with Franco supporters, and on a few occasions, known to the Department, with Franco officials, I got the impression that the insurgents were very eager to maintain friendly relations with us. This was shown in (1) the case of the death sentence of Dahl the aviator,2 (2) in the case of the unprecedentedly quick release of the Nantucket Chief and the pardon of its captain,3 and (3) in the request that I act as intermediary in the exchange of prisoners,4 and the granting to us the first exchange of military prisoners during the war.5 I was given to understand in so many words until recent months that the rebels realize that at the end of the war they will be in need of loans for rehabilitation purposes, and that they look hopefully to us.

But during the last three months there has been a radical change in the attitude of the rebels toward the United States. It is significant that this change came with the reactions in the United States toward the rape of the Czechs. The rebel press which is wholly a controlled press enthusiastically followed the Hitler Government and the German [Page 716] press on this and began making hostile comments on the United States. To me this seemed more in harmony with logic of the situation than the protestations of friendship, since more and more Franco has become a dependant of Germany and Italy, and more and more an enthusiastic supporter of the Rome–Berlin Axis. The Fascist element has notoriously become the dominant element in rebel Spain, supported and encouraged by the German and Italian Ambassadors in Burgos. It must be kept in mind that Franco has been recognized by Germany, Italy and Japan; that the fascist technique, the use of the red herring of “communism”, has been used by Franco in Spain as it was used in Austria, Czechoslovakia, and China, and that the Spanish fight is a vital part of the plan for the Fascist World Revolution.

The extravagant attacks on our program at Lima,6 with the personal abuse of the President, of Mr. Hull, and of Americans in general, with special reference to “American womanhood”, went beyond the bounds of common decency. These were published conspicuously with glaring headlines of a hostile character. They urged the South American Republics to oppose Mr. Hull’s program and went into ecstasies over the attitude of Argentina which has, in reality if not in theory, been militantly pro-fascist in Spain, whatever it may be in the Argentine.

This seemed to me inevitable, and I have frequently reported to the Department my opinion that the result of the war in Spain would have important repercussions in South and Central America affecting our policy on the continent to our South. However, I was astonished at the vehemence and indecency of the tone of these attacks.

Following close upon the jubilant tone of the rebel press over what it describes as the failure of Mr. Hull’s plans, come the attacks, in an equally offensive tone, on the President’s Address to Congress.7

This all vindicates my conviction, long held and expressed, that the foreign policy of Franco is dictated by Germany and Italy, and in the event of a Franco victory this domination certainly will continue and we shall find ourselves with another problem nation in Europe.

In striking, and natural contrast with this, is the attitude of the press in Government territory which has consistently praised our own policy, and has shared our views regarding Munich, the Czechs, the persecution of the Jews, and which warmly supported Hull’s policy at Lima, and President Roosevelt’s speech to Congress.

To sum up, it seems utterly impossible by any rule of reason to escape the fact that the Franco regime is hostile to the United States, its leaders and its principles and policies.

Respectfully yours,

Claude G. Bowers
  1. See ibid., 1937, vol. i, pp. 528555 passim.
  2. See ibid., 1938, vol. i, pp. 264272 passim.
  3. See telegram No. 487, May 19, 1938, from the Ambassador in Spain, ibid., p. 285.
  4. See telegram No. 510, August 8, 1938, from the Ambassador in Spain, ibid., p. 316.
  5. For correspondence concerning the Eighth International Conference of American States held at Lima, December 9–27, 1938, see Foreign Relations, 1938, vol. v, pp. 1 ff.
  6. Congressional Record, vol. 84, pt. 1, p. 74.