124.521/170: Telegram

The Counselor of Embassy in Spain (Thurston) to the Secretary of State

1166. The rebel advance into Cataluna appears to be progressing relentlessly on all fronts, and if rebel claims are to be credited they [Page 720] have completed the initial stages of an enveloping movement which may result in the fall of Cervera—thus opening the direct road from Lerida to Barcelona. It is also claimed today but not confirmed that Tarragona has fallen.

The Government is making desperate efforts to meet the situation, and is attempting to establish new fortified lines and to assemble new reserves. Reports are in circulation regarding the receipt of fresh war material and the imminence of another Government offensive of diversion in the southern area. It is probable however that despite these measures the rebel offensive cannot be dominated in time to save Barcelona, and that (excluding the possibility of collapse) the Government must soon elect between capitulation and flight.

I respectfully recommend therefore that early consideration be given to policy with respect to the Barcelona Embassy and Consulate General regarding which my opinion is as follows.

(a) Under no circumstances short of personal danger should we run the risk of losing this important Consulate (as in the case of Bilbao) by closing it. I have been assured by Alvarez del Vayo that if the Government must succumb it will do so “with dignity,” but should disorders occur or war operations envelope the city the consular personnel could go aboard naval vessel until conditions improved.

In connection with the foregoing the Department may wish to authorize the Consulate General to warn the resident Americans that they remain here at their own risk and that no assurance can be given that an American naval vessel will be available to evacuate them in the emergency. Transportation to France is still available by highway, train and air. This would not of course preclude the evacuation of Americans (especially those of the bank, telephone company and correspondents whose work has held them here) if necessary.

(b) Should the Department regard the conquest of Cataluna as establishing Franco’s paramountcy and desire to enter into de facto relationship with his regime the retention of this office would be indicated; should it desire to maintain its Embassy near the Government of Spain so long as that Government exists it would be feasible for me to proceed to the new residence of the Government on a naval vessel and I am of course ready to do so. I have informed you of the statement of the British Minister as to his intentions in this respect and I shall report as soon as possible the attitude of the representatives here.