The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Winant )
3380. There is quoted below a memorandum of a conversation held on August 19, 1941 between Sir Ronald Campbell, Chargé d’Affaires of the British Embassy and Assistant Secretary Long:
“The British Chargé d’Affaires came in this afternoon at my request. I presented to him the situation that in Germany and occupied territory there were between 500 and 600 Americans unable to leave; that in Italy there were probably 150 and in Greece a remnant of 25 to 50. In Japan there were also about 200.
We were unable to get permission for our people to leave because we were not granting permission for Italians and Germans to leave the United States except for Europe. However permission to leave for Europe was not practical and was not being availed of by their respective subjects because the British could intercept them on the vessels which stop at Bermuda. The alternative was to give them permission to go to Europe via South America. We did not want to do that, but we might be forced to do so if it was the only means of getting our people out. I asked him to take up particularly the Italian problem. Provided we could find a formula to them I would then try to fit it to the German and subsequently the Japanese situations.
I explained to Sir Ronald that we did not want these people in Latin America because it would not be to our interest. Once they got in Latin America they could act as Italian agents. Back in Italy they would be perfectly safe. Neither did the British want them [Page 416] in Latin America, for it would not be favorable to British interests to have them there. There were not very many of them. We had canvassed the situation carefully. The matter had been presented to his Government before. Now we would like to present it rather definitely and hoped that he would recommend that this be done. We would not ask for them to allow to pass any persons who were particularly dangerous, but we would hope that they would accept our statement as to the persons in general principle so that we would not have to take up each individual case. If we did that it would require exchange of individual for individual with the Italians. There were more Americans in Italy and Greece than there were Italians in America desiring repatriation. So that the numerical phase would defeat our ends. Consequently we would like to come to an agreement on the general principle and ask the British to accept our nomination of persons to whom they would grant safe conduct with the assurance that we would be very careful of the persons whom we requested them to pass.
I then called attention to Sir Ronald’s own experiences passing through Italy when Italy permitted him to be accompanied by British private citizens of military age who had no diplomatic standing. He remembered the circumstances. I also called his attention to the fact that as the representative of British interests in Finland we were now engaged with the knowledge and cooperation of the British Government in arranging for the repatriation to England by a safe conduct from Germany of the British diplomatic mission at Helsinki and approximately 125 men, assumably of military age for they were Britishers who had gone to Finland to help fight Russia last year. The Germans were apparently about to agree to grant safe conduct to these persons along with the diplomatic representatives and to carry them through Sweden, Denmark and Germany and German-occupied territory and to deliver them through Spain to Lisbon. I hoped that his Government would consider that they were being benefited by the intercession of the American Government in this manner and would be willing to consider that benefit accruing to them in their decision in the present request. I told him further that we now were prepared and that I was authorized to say to him that the American Government considered this the last opportunity to get its citizens out of those territories and that consequently it assumed a very definite importance in our minds and that I was stating to him in the name of my Government that we wanted the British Government to accede to our request. We definitely asked the British Government to give us their consent. I told him it was semi-urgent because my conversations with the representatives of those other Governments were dependent on his reply and that it was of primary importance to us because the obligation of every Government is to protect its citizens.
Sir Ronald then, in response to my request as to whether he got the full picture, repeated in substance the whole story and said that he would be very glad to telegraph his Government and recommend that it be done; that he would ask for an urgent reply and would let me know as soon as it was received. Signed: Breckinridge Long.”
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