The Ambassador in Spain ( Bowers ), Then in France, to the Secretary of State
[Received February 18.]
Sir: I have the honor to report on my conversation, an hour in length, with Alvarez Del Vayo, Minister of State, in the Spanish Consulate at Perpignan on the evening of Thursday, February 2.
The Minister began by frankly setting forth the military situation in Catalonia and the reasons for it. He said that during the fighting on the Ebro the Loyalist army was over-matched in planes, tanks and artillery by at least four to one, but that it had been able to make a splendid fight and hold up the fascists for some weeks. He said the Government knew that from the first of November on German and Italian war material was pouring in to Franco but that it had greatly underestimated the amount. He said it was not an exaggeration to say that in the fighting against Barcelona the Loyalists had one machine gun to a hundred on the other side, one tank to sixty on the other side, one plane to twenty on the other side. This was due entirely to the enforcement of non-intervention against the legal government and the absolute freedom accorded the rebels to bring in Italian and German war material by the shiploads. As a result of the attitude of the great Democracies the Government had been forced to get contraband material and he said that one thousand machine guns and 60,000 rifles had been bought and were on the way but that they could not arrive in time to be of any service in Catalonia. He told me of his appeal to the French Government for permission to buy just a little artillery and of the “cold” rejection of the plea. He ascribed the French attitude to the pro-fascist attitude of Bonnet. In this connection, he referred to Jules Henry, the present French Ambassador, as a mere tool of Bonnet, hand-picked by the latter because of his own anti-democratic slant. He said that in normal times, when the Spanish Government was more of a free agent, and less under the necessity of not offending Paris, the Government would have refused to accept Henry because of his well-known hostility to the Spanish Government.
I asked him if it were true that on that day in the morning Henry had informed the Government at Figueras that the French Government advised a complete surrender. He appeared a bit stunned for a moment, but admitted it to be true. He added that the advice was instantly rejected.
I asked him the present intentions of the Government. He said that it was thought possible to maintain discipline in the Catalonian [Page 740] army for a few days but he made it clear that the Government had no expectation that any part of Catalonia could be held for any length of time because of the impossibility of getting war material. The purpose was for the Government to go to the central zone, to Madrid or Valencia, and continue the fight. He said that General Miaja has an army of 500,000 men who are better soldiers than those in Catalonia and that the machine guns, tanks and rifles would be available for them.
In compliance with instructions I inquired regarding the pictures from the Prado that were in the old fort at Figueras where the Government had its headquarters. At the time these paintings were taken there it was probably the safest place in Spain. But he said the Government had been greatly concerned over the possible fate of these canvases and that on the morning of the day I saw him arrangements had been made for the paintings to be turned over to the art section of the League of Nations to be sent to Geneva for the period of the war.
He asked me to convey to Washington the request of the Spanish Government that the American Government, separately or in conjunction with other nations, exert such influence as may be possible to prevent wholesale massacre in Barcelona. He said that reports had reached the Government that about five thousand people had then been shot, mowed down by machine guns as in Badajoz. The press correspondents were not permitted to send out anything on the proceedings in Barcelona. The correspondent of the London Mail, who managed to get into the city, told me that on trying to enter a certain section of the city he was stopped by a bayonet at his breast and told he could not enter that section. Later he tried to enter another section with the same result. He assumed that the “purge” was going on. Press correspondents told me that no one will know just what is happening in Barcelona until later on when witnesses trickle out from time to time.