Memorandum of Conversations, by the Chief of the Division of European Affairs (Moffat)
Bob Murphy81 telephoned me from the Embassy in Paris to say that it now appeared that the 81 American prisoners would be released from Spain tomorrow. The Friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade which had guaranteed to us their repatriation, had suddenly informed Mr. Murphy that they were “broke”. If their transportation expenses out of France could not be guaranteed, the French would refuse to admit these men and they might be returned to Spanish prisons for an additional three or four months.
I asked how the Friends could have gone “broke” when as recently as a week or ten days ago they had ample funds. Mr. Murphy said that they had had to pay up large sums in advance for the maintenance of the 120 aliens who were waiting at Le Havre for their papers to be in order. In other words, they were penalizing the Americans for the benefit of the aliens. Mr. Murphy agreed that this was true, but said that the tragedy of not getting them out of Spain would be so great that every effort must be made to induce the Friends to obtain and provide the funds by tomorrow morning. He suggested that there might be one or two “angels” that would help. For instance, Mr. Robert Strauss had expressed interest and likewise Mr. Bernard Baruch. As I understood Mr. Murphy, at first, he was suggesting that we contact these individuals. It later became clear, however, that he was merely suggesting that the Department urge the Friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade to make these contacts this very afternoon. I told Mr. Murphy that we would get in touch with the Friends without delay.
Mr. Dunn,82 who has been dealing with this organization, telephoned. Mr. McKelvey White was out but he spoke to Mr. John Gates. Gates replied that he knew the story,—was that minute expecting a call from his Paris representative,—and that they could obtain the funds. He promised to telephone back later in the afternoon.
At about four Mr. McKelvey White, the President, telephoned back to Mr. Dunn that they had enough funds provided the men were not delayed in France owing to troubles in documentation. He understood that the government had no money to meet these expenses and agreed to telegraph the Paris agent at once.[Page 809]
Mr. Wendelin83 then took up with Mrs. Shipley84 the question of documentation and found that the papers of 68 out of the 81 were in order, but that 13 were still in doubt but most of these were Puerto Ricans. They agreed to get off a telegram tomorrow morning which would speed the documentation and facilitate their immediate transshipment.