The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Kennedy)
2316. Please deliver as soon as possible the following message from the President to the former naval person:
“I have been studying very carefully the message transmitted to me through the British Ambassador in Washington on August 8, and I have also been considering the possibility of furnishing the assistance in the way of releases and priorities contained in the memorandum attached to your message.
It is my belief that it may be possible to furnish to the British Government as immediate assistance at least 50 destroyers, the motor torpedo boats heretofore referred to, and, insofar as airplanes are concerned, five planes of each of the categories mentioned, the latter to be furnished for war testing purposes. Such assistance, as I am sure you will understand, would only be furnished if the American people and the Congress frankly recognized that in return therefor the national defense and security of the United States would be enhanced. For that reason it would be necessary, in the event that it proves possible to release the matériel above mentioned, that the British Government find itself able and willing to take the two following steps:
- Assurance on the part of the Prime Minister that in the event that the waters of Great Britain become untenable for British ships of war, the latter would not be turned over to the Germans or sunk, but would be sent to other parts of the Empire for continued defense of the Empire.
- An agreement on the part of Great Britain that the British Government would authorize the use of Newfoundland, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Trinidad and British Guiana as naval and air bases by the United States in the event of an attack on the American hemisphere by any non-American nation; and in the meantime the United States to have the right to establish such bases and to use them for training and exercise purposes with the understanding that the land necessary for the above could be acquired by the United States through purchase or through a 99-year lease.
With regard to the agreement suggested in point 2 above, I feel confident that specific details need not be considered at this time and [Page 66]that such questions as the exact locations of the land which the United States might desire to purchase or lease could be readily determined upon subsequently through friendly negotiation between the two Governments.
With regard to your reference to publicity concerning the contingent destination of the British fleet, I should make it clear that I have not had in mind any public statement by you but merely an assurance to me along the lines indicated, as for example, reiteration to me of your statement to Parliament on June 4.
I should welcome a reply as soon as may be possible.”