President Roosevelt to the Under Secretary of State ( Welles )

Please read enclosed from Admiral Stark, sent me last night, Sunday.

Stark is absolutely right and gives in paragraph #13 the only solutions possible.

F[ranklin] D. R[oosevelt]
[Page 1155]

The Chief of Naval Operations ( Stark ) to President Roosevelt

Memorandum for the President:

This memorandum contains the report requested by you in your note of yesterday, June 1st, enclosing a despatch from Mr. Wilson and a memorandum from Mr. Welles.
In regard to the withdrawal of any of our forces in the Pacific, that is, the weakening of the fleet in Hawaii:
This might and probably will be interpreted by Japan as an indication that we do not intend to oppose her in the East Indies; in other words, the deterrent effect on Japan will be weakened.
Another, and certainly not an impossible interpretation of such a move, will be that we expect the Allies to lose and are making the first of a redistribution of our naval forces to that end.
In weakening our fleet in the Pacific we are to a certain extent weakening the position of the Allies in the Pacific. Our presence there, in force, undoubtedly relieves their minds of concern over Pacific affairs, which in turn strengthens their effort in Europe.
The barometer of Nazism in South America may go up and down as the position of Germany in Europe grows stronger or deteriorates. The absence of any show of force by the United States might encourage subversive elements. On the other hand, the presence of some of our ships may have a deterrent effect on Nazi activities or may at least encourage the Army and Navy of an affected country to remain loyal to their government.
Just how much of a deterrent to a flare up of Nazism in South America the presence of some of our ships will be, is highly conjectural. The days of the old fashioned landing party and bluff such as occurred when I was a midshipman in Caribbean and South American waters are over. If a test should come and our ships should take no physical action, the ultimate effect might be unfavorable.
I would like to point out that Mr. Wilson’s idea would seem to be that sending ships to South America is for the purpose of giving

“effective assistance in case of aggression either from overseas or from subversive elements with Nazi support within their own countries”.

In regard to giving effective assistance to oppose
“Subversive elements with Nazi support within these countries”.
I believe it would be dangerous to make any such commitment or to create any such impression in South American countries at this time. By the Monroe Doctrine we are committed to effective assistance in the [Page 1156] case of aggression from overseas. It is believed that Squadron 40T (our light cruiser and two destroyers in Europe) and the Vincennes group en route Europe, the Quincy in the South Atlantic, as well as the vessels of the Atlantic Squadron in our own waters contribute to accomplishing this obligation.
It seems to me that interference in the internal affairs of a temperamental and suspicious people may have the opposite effect to that which is desired; it may be likened to interfering in a family quarrel.
The movement of a large group of ships to South America is almost certain to be accorded Mr. Wilson’s interpretation, that is, one ready to oppose actively a Nazi inspired subversive movement. This may raise the old cry of imperialism and should be very carefully considered at this time. Such a move might also affect the conversations we are just now initiating with South American governments through our Army and Navy officers. Just what the effect would be is a matter of conjecture.
It appears then, that we must balance the probable weakening effect on stability in the Pacific against a possible strengthening of the situation in Latin America—In the last analysis our own hemisphere is of course the vital consideration.
Pending development immediately ahead in Europe it would seem well to hold on in the Pacific for the time being.
In addition to the Quincy now enroute to Rio de Janeiro we could send immediately one more heavy cruiser, namely the Wichita, Admiral Pickens’ flagship. We can follow this with the Vincennes on completion of her present mission in Europe. The fourth ship of this division, the Tuscaloosa, is undergoing overhaul, and due for completion at the Navy Yard, New York on 30 June. The Vincennes is scheduled to go in the yard when the Tuscaloosa comes out, but her going to the yard could be delayed temporarily at least.
If the above were put into effect this would distribute our ships in the Atlantic as per attached sheet.
I offer the following solutions:—
Dispatch one additional 8´´ cruiser to South America.
Continue destroyer shakedown cruises to South America.—
If desirable at a later date:—Reinforce the above by another heavy cruiser, and or a squadron (9DD) of destroyers.
For the present utilize ships now in the Atlantic, thus not weakening the fleet in the Pacific.
I have gone into the above at some length, because I want to give you my thoughts. Of course you know you have my cheerful Aye, Aye, to whatever you decide.
I should be glad to come and talk this over if you would like to have me.
H. R. Stark