740.0011 European War 1939/1178: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Brazil (Caffery)

237. From the Undersecretary. Your 432, December 15, 2 p.m., 434, December 15, midnight, and 435, December 16, 10 a.m. Please express to Aranha my appreciation of the very helpful opportunity he has afforded this Government of exchanging views with the Brazilian Government concerning the situation created by the recent naval action off the La Plata River.

Please state that this Government fully agrees that the suggested preliminary statement outlined in the Department’s circular of December 15, 1 p.m., should only be regarded as a first step. Our feeling has been that it was desirable that some immediate indication be given by all of the American Republics of the deep concern felt in this hemisphere as a result of the violation of the security zone and that if we should delay taking any action until after all of the facts in this case were confirmed, so much time would have elapsed as to give the impression to the belligerents that the American Republics were tacitly acquiescent to the violation of the zone.

I believe that the proposal contained in the second part of numbered paragraph 1 of your telegram 432, December 15, 2 p.m., warrants the very favorable consideration of the American Republics in the consultation which is now proposed. It may well be that if, after the facts are clarified, it is positively ascertained that molestation of merchant vessels within the security zone by the Graf von Spee was the cause of the naval engagement, the best course would be for the American Republics jointly to make a protest to the German Government and state that if any further violation of the zone were undertaken by a German naval vessel, such vessel would be interned if it took refuge in any port of the American Republics.

In view of all the circumstances, and in view of the fact that the Uruguayan Government has already announced its decision with regard to the status of the Graf von Spee, it would seem to this Government desirable with regard to the specific case of the treatment by the Uruguayan Government of the Graf von Spee to adopt alternative numbered (a) listed in your telegram 435, December 16, 10 a.m.

Finally, this Government fully shares the belief expressed by Aranha that no formal and public consultation take place unless it has been previously ascertained that all of the American governments are in general accord. [Welles.]