811.34544/111/12: Telegram

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

2856. Secret and personal for the President from Former Naval Person.

“I am most grateful for all you are doing on our behalf. I had not contemplated anything in the nature of a contract, bargain or sale between us. It is the fact that we had decided in Cabinet to offer you naval and air facilities off the Atlantic coast quite independently of destroyers or any other aid. Our view is that we are two friends in danger helping each other as far as we can. We should therefore like to give you the facilities mentioned without stipulating for any return and even if tomorrow you found it too difficult to transfer the destroyers, et cetera, our offer still remains open because we think it is in the general good.

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I see difficulties and even risks in the exchange of letters now suggested or in admitting in any way that the munitions which you send us are a payment for the facilities. Once this idea is accepted people will contrast on each side what is given and received. The money value of the armaments would be computed and set against the facilities and some would think one thing about it and some another.

Moreover Mr. President as you well know each island or location is a case by itself. If for instance there were only one harbor or site how is it to be divided and its advantages shared. In such a case we should like to make you an offer of what we think is best for both rather than to embark upon a close cut argument as to what ought to be delivered in return for value received.

What we want is that you shall feel safe on your Atlantic seaboard so far as any facilities in possessions of ours can make you safe and naturally if you put in money and make large developments you must have the effective security of a long lease. Therefore I would rather rest at this moment upon the general declaration made by me in the House of Commons yesterday,86 both on this point and as regards the future of the fleet. Then if you will set out in greater detail what you want we will at once tell you what we can do and thereafter the necessary arrangements, technical and legal, can be worked out by our experts. Meanwhile we are quite content to trust entirely to your judgment and sentiments of the people of the United States about any aid in munitions, et cetera, you feel able to give us. But this would be entirely a separate spontaneous act on the part of the United States arising out of their view of world struggle and how their own interests stand in relation to it and the causes it involves.

Although the air attack has slackened in the last few days and our strength is growing in many ways I do not think that bad man has yet struck his full blow. We are having considerable losses in merchant ships on the northwestern approaches, now our only channel of regular communication with the oceans, and your 50 destroyers if they came along at once would be a precious help.”

  1. In his speech of August 20 to the House of Commons Mr. Churchill announced that suitable sites in British transatlantic possessions were to be leased to the United States to facilitate the defense of the Western Hemisphere and that the British and American democracies “will have to be somewhat mixed up together in some of their affairs for mutual and general advantage.” He indicated that if Great Britain were seized by Germany the British Government would provide as far as possible for the naval security of Canada and the Dominions and make sure they had the means to carry on the struggle. For text of speech, see Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, 5th ser., vol. 364, p. 1159.