The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant)
845. I continue to be in receipt of numerous appeals dealing with Americans resident in Great Britain who urgently desire to return to this country. Although it is abundantly of record that the Department has done everything within its power in behalf of these Americans many of whom voluntarily declined to avail themselves of the repeated opportunities to return on special American vessels sent to the British Isles expressly for this purpose, their lot continues to have the Department’s sympathetic consideration and I wish to explore any and all possibilities for their safe return to their homeland.
I should be grateful therefore if you would let me know confidentially how many Americans you believe would desire to avail themselves of an opportunity to return to the United States at their own risk on belligerent vessels if it should be found that such accommodations could be made available to them and their passports exceptionally validated for such travel. Your estimate should be based on indications already of knowledge to the Embassy as it is most undesirable that it should be known that the Department is at this time even considering such a possible solution of this distressing [Page 400] problem; otherwise hopes might be raised that may well prove of necessity to be false.
I should likewise be grateful if you would in the strictest confidence inquire of the appropriate British authorities whether passenger accommodations commensurate with your estimate of the probable demand could be made available to American citizens desiring to use such means of travel to the United States, if it were found possible exceptionally to validate their passports for that purpose; and what assurances of safe passage could be given in the light of the military operations in the waters adjacent to the British Isles. I should also like you again to inquire concerning the possibility of increasing the number of planes in service between London and Lisbon. You may appropriately intimate that an offer from the British Government to endeavor to assure to Americans as safe means as possible of returning to the United States if desired would doubtless have a good effect upon American public opinion.
Based upon the probable fares on such British vessels as might be available and the probable number of wholly or partially destitute Americans without means of obtaining funds from relatives, friends or business connections, an estimate of the funds that might be required in the way of loans to those in this situation who might wish to avail themselves of such an opportunity of returning to the United States if offered them would also be helpful to the Department in considering the matter.
Finally, I should like to have your own comments upon the feasibility and advisability of endeavoring to put such a repatriation plan into effect.
If you should believe that the plan we are exploring could not be accomplished without undue risk, or should not be undertaken for other reasons, you should of course let me have the benefit of your views and await further instructions before pursuing the matter.