Memorandum of Conversation, hy the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)
The British Ambassador called at Woodley4 last night, about 10:30 p.m., at his request.
He presented a note addressed to Secretary Hull, dated May 10th,4a relating to the concern of the United Kingdom and of the Netherlands Government about the safety of Aruba and Curaçao, and the oil refineries there, and to the decision that a small additional British force should be landed in Curaçao.
Prior to the visit of the Ambassador, McDermott5 had telephoned to me press reports that a French force had landed on Aruba from the cruiser Jeanne d’Arc. Surmising that this might be the subject of Lord Lothian’s visit, I telephoned the White House.[Page 734]
The President said that in his view the position immediately to be taken should be that we must insist that any forces landed must be so landed at the request of the Dutch authorities, subject to the command of the Dutch authorities, acting under the Dutch flag, and merely by way of temporary assistance. He suggested that I communicate with McDermott, so that the morning papers should not convey the impression that these landings amounted to a “taking over” of the islands.
When Lord Lothian handed me the British note, I stated that I had talked informally to the President on the subject, and that indeed Lord Lothian was familiar with the views of this Government, from his conversations held earlier in the day with Secretary Hull. We had undertaken an obligation to “consult” in the matter of the Dutch West Indies, should there be a “threatened change of sovereignty”, as the Ambassador was aware from the proceedings of the Panama consultation. On the other hand, I understood his communication to relate to a temporary landing of forces solely for the assistance of the Dutch authorities, carried out under Dutch command and under the Dutch flag, and not threatening in any sense the Dutch control of the island. Lord Lothian observed that this was his understanding, also.
I likewise pointed out (as the President had suggested) that our reports seemed to indicate that the Dutch authorities had the situation entirely in control. They had interned some ninety-three Germans or German sympathizers working in or near the oil refineries. They had likewise interned all Germans over the age of sixteen. They had taken over the German ships in their harbors; although one had resisted, and one German was killed, and the boat set on fire, the fire had been put out and the resistance promptly put down. According to all reports, the situation was well in hand.