740.00111 A.R./444: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Kennedy) to the Secretary of State

1936. Strictly personal for the President and the Secretary. Churchill sent for me this morning and following our talk sent me the following communication:

“My Dear Ambassador. The inclosures cover our conversation this morning. Yours sincerely, Winston S. Churchill.”

I am sending memorandum enclosed with Churchill’s note.

The following from Naval Person:2

[“] We quite understand natural desire of United States to keep belligerents out of their waters. We like the idea of a wide limit of say 300 miles within which no submarines of any belligerent country should act. If America requests all belligerents to comply, we should immediately declare that we would respect your wishes. General questions of international law would of course remain unprejudiced. More difficulty arises about surface ships, because if a raider operates from or takes refuge in the American zone, we should have to be protected or allowed to protect ourselves. We have mentioned several other instances to Mr. Kennedy. We do not mind how far south the prohibited zone goes, provided that it is effectively maintained. We should have great difficulty in accepting a zone which was only policed by some weak neutral. But of course if the American Navy takes care of it, that is all right.

Thirdly, we are still not sure whether raider off Brazil is Scheer or Hiffer, but widespread movements are being made by us to meet either case. The more American ships cruising along the South American coast the better, as you, Sir, would no doubt hear what they saw or did not see. Raider might then find American waters rather crowded, or may anyhow prefer to go on to sort of trade route, where we are preparing.

We wish to help you in every way in keeping the war out of Americas.”

[Page 86]

Following is note from Admiral Phillips who was present at the conversation with Churchill.

“My Dear Ambassador: In accordance with our conversation this morning, I enclose a short note on points which may arise concerning the Panama Conference proposal for a zone round the United States and South America. Yours Sincerely T. V. S. V. Phillips.”

Following is memorandum enclosed with Admiral Phillips’ note.

“While the proposal in general is welcomed, the following points will need attention.

From the point of view of international law, it would obviously be necessary to make it clear that British assent to the proposal was not any precedent and did not imply a recognition of a right on the part of a neutral to exclude belligerents from operating anywhere on the high seas (i. e. outside the 3-mile limit).
It would naturally be necessary for belligerent forces to have free access to their own or allied territory and territorial waters within the zone.
It would be a fundamental part of the scheme that it should be effective, i. e. not only that enemy action against territory, forces or shipping should be prevented, but also that the use of the area as a sanctuary in which raiders or supply ships might take refuge should be prevented. The question of the use of the area as a sanctuary is clearly very important because, unless such action were prevented, it would clearly facilitate greatly the operations of enemy raiders in areas outside the zone.
The extent of the zone to be finally accepted would presumably be linked up with the possibilities of effective enforcement.
The conversion of belligerent merchant ships into warships in ports within the zone would presumably be prevented.
It would naturally be necessary that a belligerent should retain the right to continue a pursuit of the forces of his enemy into that area, because otherwise the existence of the zone might frequently enable a raider to escape destruction and subsequently emerge from the zone to re-commence raiding in some other area.
We should of course hope to obtain any information concerning the movements of enemy forces within the area since otherwise the operation of the scheme would greatly reduce the possibilities of obtaining such information for ourselves.
The question of enemy merchant ships is also of some importance because the number now interned in various American ports might presumably, under the safety given by the scheme, resume trading on the American continent, so earning considerable quantities of foreign currency. Such trading would presumably in any case not be allowed unless the Germans themselves had accepted the scheme and respected it.”
  1. Code words used for Winston S. Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty.