Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

The Spanish Ambassador called to see me this afternoon. I said to the Ambassador that I wanted to have a very frank conversation with him and that I wished to emphasize very vigorously my serious dissatisfaction by reason of the fact that the Spanish Government had not as yet released eight American citizens, prisoners of the Spanish Government who had been captured fighting on the side of the Loyalist Government during the civil war. I gave the Ambassador the following summary of what had transpired in connection with this matter:

[Here is omitted the summary of efforts from May 13 to November 4, reported in telegrams printed ante.]

In conclusion I said to the Ambassador that, as he well knew, the Department of State had gone out of its way during recent months to evidence in every practicable way its desire to cooperate in a friendly manner with the Spanish Government and to pave the way for the creation of those cordial relations between the two countries in which both the Ambassador and I were so deeply interested. I said, however, that in this case, notwithstanding the formal assurances given both by General Franco and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, four months had elapsed without any sign of interest on the part of the Spanish Government in releasing these prisoners. I said I felt that this attitude on the part of the Spanish Government was inexplicable. The Ambassador would readily appreciate, I remarked, what harm it would do to relations between our two countries if these facts were ventilated in the American press, and such a possibility was of course [Page 818] great. On the other hand, I said, what possible benefit to the Spanish Government derived in keeping these men in prison for this long a period. I said I felt it consequently indispensable to good relations between the two countries that the Spanish Government immediately make good the assurances previously given and turn over these remaining eight prisoners to our Ambassador on the French frontier.

I also took occasion to express my great dissatisfaction at the failure of the Spanish Government to take any satisfactory action with regard to American citizens held in jail in Spain for alleged offenses, not of a military character, and I likewise expressed my particular concern by reason of the failure of the Spanish Government as yet to work out any satisfactory solution of the problems of the International Telephone and Telegraph Company in Spain.

The Ambassador stated that he agreed with me 100 percent in what I had said, and that if I would send him a memorandum covering the data which I had relayed to him he would immediately telegraph his Government and follow up such a telegram with a most emphatic despatch urging that preferential attention be given to a prompt and satisfactory solution of all of these questions.

I expressed my appreciation of the Ambassador’s attitude and said I hoped his representations would bring early results.

S[umner] W[elles]