740.0011 European War 1939/3050: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Bullitt) to the Secretary of State

682. Personal for the President. In connection with Paul Reynaud’s request for destroyers for use in the Mediterranean I had a discussion with the Minister of Marine78 today and he brought Admiral Darlan, Supreme Commander of the French Naval Forces, into the conversation by telephone.

The Minister of Marine and Darlan asked me most urgently to obtain your consent for purchase or lease by the French Government from the American Navy 12 of our old destroyers.

I understand that we now have 151 old destroyers in commission of which 52 are doing neutrality patrol and that we have 68 old destroyers [Page 223] not in commission which it would take 2 to 3 months to put into commission. Since the need is immediate I trust that if it is possible to sell or lease 12 of these old destroyers you might be able to take 12 of the best of those that are now in commission.

The Minister of Marine also said that he understood that we had 54 old patrol bombers which our Navy considered obsolete but which would be most useful to the French in destroying submarines in the Mediterranean. He asked me urgently to obtain permission from you for the French Government to purchase these 54 old bombing planes. These planes are I understand marked P. B. S., were manufactured in the Navy aircraft factory, are equipped with Pratt and Whitney motors and make approximately 225 miles an hour.

In the course of our conversation Campinchi showed me telegrams from the French Naval Attaché in Madrid which gave the following facts.

Yesterday the Spanish Minister of Marine78a stated to the British Naval Attaché that the Italian Government had invited the assistance of the Spanish Government for the laying of minefields in the western Mediterranean. The Spanish Government had refused this assistance.

The Spanish Minister of Marine had then stated that he feared greatly that the Italians would attempt to seize the Balearic Islands. The Spanish Government had decided to resist any attempt of the Italians to land in the Balearics and in case the Italians should attempt such a landing would be grateful to have the assistance of the British Navy.

Another telegram from the Naval Attaché in Madrid stated that Serrano Suñer79 was building up with the assistance of the Italians a tremendous “fifth column” organization designed to bring Spain into the war on the side of Italy.

I see no reason why the 54 old patrol bombing planes cannot be sold to the French at once and I hope most heartily that you will also be able to sell to the French the 12 old destroyers.

Please cable me at the earliest possible moment an affirmative answer to these requests. Incidentally the requests were made personally and unofficially and will not be presented in official form unless you should desire.

  1. Cesar Campinchi.
  2. Salvador Moreno Fernández.
  3. Spanish Minister of Interior.