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

The Spanish Ambassador called to see me this morning. The Ambassador said that he was very much disquieted and disappointed by his inability so far to obtain action from his own Government providing for the release of the remaining American prisoners of war in Spain. He said that in accordance with his promise to me he had cabled his Government and had written fully urging that this action be taken immediately since the retention of the American prisoners in Spanish prisons was of no benefit whatever to the Spanish Government and naturally and inevitably created a very bad impression in the United States. He stated that in reply to his cable his Government had telegraphed saying that the assurances given to Ambassador Weddell last summer had covered solely those prisoners who are not awaiting trial and that no assurances had been given to Mr. Weddell covering the American prisoners against whom charges are pending and who are awaiting trial. I told him that Ambassador Weddell had cabled textually the assurances given him at the time by General [Page 819] Franco and by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and that there was no indication whatever that in these assurances any distinction had been made between any categories of American prisoners. The Ambassador said that he fully shared my own opinion, and that he was doing everything within his power to obtain a favorable decision.

The Ambassador said he had received a telegram from the Spanish Minister of Commerce asking what terms could be obtained here for the purchase by the Spanish Government of 200,000 tons of wheat. I told the Ambassador that I would be glad to consult the Secretary of Agriculture and other authorities of the Government and let him know what the situation might be.

The Ambassador spoke with great apprehension and disquiet regarding the European situation. He said that, while naturally any sympathy that had previously existed in Spain for Germany had immediately ceased upon the announcement of the German-Russian alliance, he nevertheless feared that Russian and German propagandists in Spain were utilizing Red Spanish elements who had entered the Falange after the end of the civil war in order to spread dissension and to try and obtain from the Spanish Government some attitude favorable to Germany. The Ambassador stated that it was inconceivable that his Government could ever undertake a policy of friendship with Germany under existing circumstances, and that he was confident, after his own contacts with Spain last autumn, that the Spanish Government would maintain an attitude of rigid neutrality and would try and work out satisfactory economic agreements with France and Great Britain. He was extremely depressed as to the economic situation in Spain which he said was naturally deteriorating on account of the war situation and which made it easier for propagandists to stir up malcontents.

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S[umner] W[elles]