340.1115A/1874: Telegram

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

1175. Your 845, March 13, 1 [11] p.m.

Regarding increased air transportation to Lisbon I find situation substantially unchanged since Johnson’s telegram No. 3907, November 29, 10 p.m.3 In conversation with Sir Archibald Sinclair,4 he told me on my inquiry that he thought the reason the Lisbon-England flying service had not been interfered with was because of the difficulties of interception of planes by the enemy. Lord Halifax5 told me in Washington that he understood the Germans allow these planes to go through because they were interested in getting copies of the London Times at Lisbon. I do not think that this is the fact and I personally think it would be dangerous for us to attempt to set up a ferry service between Lisbon and England.
In regard to Americans traveling on belligerent vessels, I have felt that because of the increased tax on British convoy protection and increased activity of the German submarines and aircraft with a larger number of sinkings as a result, it would not be wise in my opinion to press this plan at the moment. I fully appreciate the pressure on the Department in this matter and would personally be glad to see all Americans who desire to return home able to do so.
From information available in our files we believe there are approximately 300 Americans in Great Britain and Northern Ireland able and willing to pay a first-class passage up to $500 to the United States. The United States Lines estimated at the beginning of February that the number might be 400. The results of the Embassy’s inquiries made pursuant to the Department’s telegram No. 3058 of October 8 [9], 1940,6 when it was thought another American ship would come to England to repatriate Americans, are of interest. Figures elicited by the questionnaire at that time are as follows: American citizens desirous of returning to the United States, 1334; alien spouses and accompanying minor children, 262; making total of 1596. A total of 1438 American citizens returned “no” to the question as to whether they desired to return. The Consulate General believes that there are possibly an additional 1000 Americans who were not circularized or who did not reply to the questionnaire. Of the 1596 mentioned above who wished to return to the United States in October on an American ship it is believed that not over two-thirds would have been able to make financial arrangements for their passage and it is estimated that about 400 of those who desired to go would have required financial assistance either in whole or in part. This estimate can only be a very broad one, however, as the Embassy has no available information as to the present financial assistance of Americans in the British Isles. The only precise figure we have is one compiled by the American Committee. The secretary, who still keeps the office, says that she has on record 150 Americans who have told her they desire to return to the United States and ask for financial assistance in doing so. In summary therefore, of the 1596 who have expressed a desire to go home, roughly 300 would be able to pay passage up to $500, roughly 900 could defray the cost of their passage in varying amounts and roughly 400 would require complete financial assistance. In my opinion the proportion of the 1596 who would desire to return on a belligerent vessel at their own risk would not be a large one unless very assuring guarantees of convoy were given.

I realize with real regret that this is not a particularly helpful reply to your inquiry. It is a problem, however, which is constantly before us and I will promptly report any favorable development.

  1. Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. ii, p. 176.
  2. British Secretary of State for Air.
  3. Viscount Halifax, British Ambassador in the United States.
  4. Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. ii, p. 168.