740.0011 European War 1939/5010½

The British Ambassador (Lothian) to President Roosevelt

Dear Mr. President: I enclose, as I promised, a note summarising an appreciation of Hitler’s probable future strategy sent to the Prime Minister by General Smuts.82

[Page 62]

I also enclose a note of the proposals about landing grounds and naval facilities in British possessions off the East Coast of the United States which Mr. Churchill would agree to as one of the elements in the possible deal about destroyers. It is important that no public statement should be made about this as His Majesty’s Government have to make the necessary arrangements with the various Colonial Governments concerned.

Believe me, Dear Mr. President,

Yours very sincerely,

[Enclosure 1]

The British Embassy to the Department of State


General Smuts was sent a copy of the Aide-Mémoire presented to the State Department on July 12th83 setting forth the anxiety of His Majesty’s Government as to possible economic peace proposal to be launched by Hitler. The essence of this proposal was that the world would enter a new and unparalleled era of prosperity if it accepted the totalitarian management of Europe by Germany and that the only obstacle in the way of this era of prosperity was the resistance of Great Britain. To this General Smuts has replied saying that he thinks that it is probable that Hitler will start a peace offensive at an early date with either suggestions for a conference or of peace proposals launched before or after an attack on Britain. General Smuts has doubts about a blitzkrieg on Britain for the present because he thinks that British naval supremacy and the efficiency of the Royal Air Force are two formidable obstacles.

General Smuts thinks therefore that an alternative plan may be in contemplation, that would consist of further encirclement of Great Britain by attempts to seize the Faroe Islands and Iceland on the right flank and Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar on the left. Hitler would then have isolated Britain from Europe, especially if the surrender of Gibraltar entailed the withdrawal of the British fleet from the Mediterranean and the loss of the middle East. With practically the whole of Europe in his hands and with Russia and the Balkans in his pocket Hitler might think that the auspicious time to launch his peace offensive would be just before winter comes. He would then pose as the regenerator of an effete European system and would propose a United States of Europe composed of so-called free states, between whom tariff walls and economic barriers would have been abolished and some currency plan of Dr. Schacht’s84 devising would [Page 63]have been instituted. Being in fact master of Europe Hitler could afford to restore a semblance of freedom to his victims. America would then be plausibly reminded of the Monroe Doctrine and the Continent would well have become a closed German market from which Britain and America would be largely excluded.

A scheme of this kind could be dressed up in such a plausible appearance as to make a formidable appeal to world public opinion sickened by the horrible destruction of war and the spectre of threatened famine in Europe. If, in addition, Hitler were big enough to renounce annexations and indemnities the appeal might become irresistible and might induce Europe to accept a peace which would be a moral and political disaster of the first magnitude. General Smuts thinks consultation and agreement with the United States on a positive alternative plan will be essential. Meanwhile a warning note could be sounded in the press and in speeches in both countries to help prepare public opinion against Hitler’s manoeuvres. Advance ridicule, Smuts thinks, might well take much of the strength out of it.

[Enclosure 2]

The British Embassy to the Department of State

The facilities which His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom are prepared to extend to the United States Government are as follows:—

The continuation of the facilities already granted to the United States Government in June, 1939 allowing United States aircraft and ships to use the waters of Trinidad, St. Lucia and Bermuda and the United States naval authorities to lease premises, land stores and in general make use of the ports in these three islands. Leases embodying these facilities were drawn up and signed by the United States authorities and the appropriate British Colonial authorities in the second half of 1939.
American military aircraft to be allowed to land at Jamaica, British Guiana and Trinidad.
Pan-American Airways acting as agents of the United States Government to be allowed to lease a small area approximately 1500 feet by 500 feet adjacent to the Trinidad aerodrome where they could store supplies, erect a small radio station etc.
Pan-American Airways acting as agents for the United States Government to be allowed to lease an area of approximately one square mile near Georgetown, British Guiana on which an aerodrome could be constructed.
Pan-American Airways acting as agents for the United States Government to be allowed to construct an aerodrome near Kingston, [Page 64]Jamaica on similar terms to the seaplane station which the Company already operates there.
The United States Army aircraft to be authorised to make occasional training flights to Newfoundland and make use of the airport there.

  1. Jan Christian Smuts, Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs and Defense, Union of South Africa.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Hjalmar Schacht, Reichsminister without Portfolio.