740.0011 European War 1939/34872/10: Telegram

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

1524. Personal for the Secretary. Brief summary of the political and military situation as I see it here.

There is a terrific agitation going on, accelerated by the return of the powers who have very emphatic complaints against the Chamberlain39 administration for lack of preparedness, to turn out the members of the old Government who are still in the present Government: Chamberlain, Halifax, Kingsley Wood,40 Caldecote,41 Butler.42 I saw Chamberlain and he admits that the situation is very tense and that he is ready to go if Churchill so desires. I understand that Churchill will not force either Halifax or Kingsley Wood or Chamberlain out but that the force of public opinion may bring this about. Beyond that there is no political discussion at all. Everybody is with Churchill and his Government and it is unlikely that there will be much criticism aside from that directed against the old crowd while the military situation remains so tense.

From the military point of view most people feel that the French, if the pressure gets very heavy, will quit. The British are determined to fight on and Bracken43 told me today that the fleet will not surrender in any event and that he considers that regardless of any deal the [Page 33]politicians may make regarding France, that the French naval crowd will join the British naval crowd. The French are crying for airplanes and there is now a plan going forward today to give them the use of a substantial number of British planes, to be flown by the French, the British say their flyers are too tired to go over there now. A plan is also being considered today to send the B. E. F.44 now in England although not properly equipped to France and use French equipment and artillery.

There is also being discussed today here a very definite financial deal whereby England and France and their respective Empires pool their assets so that neither country will sell to the other what it needs but will hand over without charges. This is to keep the French reasonably happy.

There is constant agitation here in the newspapers, alleging that the Allies have asked for help from the United States; planes are mentioned most often and destroyers occasionally. I think it is important that some kind of statement should be made over there by some important person or over here after the policy has been decided explaining just why the United States is limited as to what she can give the Allies. I suggest this in order to save a great deal of ill-will that will arise towards the United States if nothing is done because refusal to give them destroyers or planes will unfortunately appear to the British public as American unwillingness to help them in their battle of death rather than because the United States has not the equipment that would be of service to them. If it is not deemed advisable to make such a statement in the United States, I could make an occasion for doing it here if you send me the material. I regard this as a major matter to be attended to because there is no point in having the Allies expect what there is no physical possibility of their getting, and it would be much better to explain why we could not meet their wishes than to hope the matter go by default. Particularly if at some later date we might want the British to take action on the Navy, that might be of service to us. We do not want a united hostile people in England.

  1. Neville Chamberlain, British Lord President of the Council of Ministers; formerly Prime Minister, May 28, 1937, to May 10, 1940.
  2. Kingsley Wood, British Chancellor of the Exchequer.
  3. Viscount Caldecote, British Secretary of State for the Dominions.
  4. Richard Austen Butler, British Parliamentary Under Secretary of State.
  5. Presumably Brendan Bracken, Parliamentary Private Secretary of the Prime Minister.
  6. British Expeditionary Force.