740.0011 European War 1939/3435½

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

The British Ambassador36 called to see me this morning. The Ambassador talked about the military situation in Europe. He seemed to believe that it was desperately serious, although he felt that there was still hope that a counter-offensive could be undertaken under the personal direction of General Weygand37 which would prevent the Germans from achieving what now looked to be a crushing victory. The Ambassador said that he had heard that if Hitler succeeded in occupying Paris, Hitler and Mussolini would then jointly present Great Britain and France with peace terms in the form of an ultimatum with the proviso that if these terms were not promptly accepted, both countries would be completely destroyed. The Ambassador asked if I had any confirmation of this report.

I told him that I had no confirmation, but that it seemed to me entirely possible, although I nevertheless felt that what was more probable was that Great Britain would be subjected to bombing operations prior to the presentation of any peace terms.

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The Ambassador spoke of his conversation with the President a few nights ago in which the question of the disposition of the British fleet in the event of British defeat had arisen. The Ambassador stated that in his judgment there was still hope for the world of the ultimate defeat of Germany so long as the British fleet remained out of German hands and so long as the British fleet could cooperate with the United States in controlling the Atlantic. The Ambassador felt that so long as the American fleet was in the Pacific and so long as the British fleet, and perhaps a portion of the American fleet, was in the Atlantic, Germany could not win a decisive victory. He said he felt, however, that in the event of a British defeat, the United States would have to become the focal point upon which the British fleet and the policy of the British Dominions could be based. He stated that only in such a manner could Germany, in the event of a victory, be prevented from strangling the South American Republics economically and forcing them thereafter to submit to German political control, and that also only in such manner would the British Dominions be enabled to continue in the struggle.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. Marquess of Lothian.
  2. Gen. Maxime Weygand, Commander in Chief of the French Army.