740.00112 European War 1939/2683

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Villard)

Participants: Brigadier General Sherman Miles and Lieutenant Cranwell, from the War Department; Colonel Benson and Mr. Eccles, from the British Embassy;
Mr. Wallace T. Phillips, of the Navy Department;
Mr. Robert Murphy;
Mr. Murray, Mr. Alling,36 Mr. Villard.

Before proceeding with discussion of the functions of control officers proceeding to North Africa, it was explained that a telegram had been received from the Embassy at Vichy indicating that a total of 200 Germans might shortly be expected to be stationed in the French North African territories.37 While official confirmation was still lacking, it appeared that the French Government had agreed to permit this infiltration of Germans. Mr. Eccles stated that his Government would be definitely opposed to countenancing the shipment of any [Page 313]supplies to North Africa and would not be able to participate further in the plan under these circumstances. Further discussion of this subject was deferred pending the receipt of confirmation from Vichy.

Lieutenant Cranwell raised the question as to the status of the control officers in the event of hostilities between the United States and Germany. He pointed out that if they were acting in a civilian capacity but were found to be commissioned officers on active duty with the American Army or Navy, they would be subject to treatment as spies. In view of the risk these men would run, General Miles said that he would prefer to have them proceed with their full title set forth in their passports. (On questioning the French Embassy in regard to this later in the day, the reply was received that the sending of officers to North Africa with military or naval titles would cause the entire plan to break down.)

Various administrative problems were discussed in this connection. It was brought out that while an officer on active duty would automatically receive a salary from funds available, there were no funds available if the officers should proceed in a civilian capacity without being ordered to active duty. The question was also raised as to the source of funds for office space, clerical help, and local transportation.

It was made clear that any reports to the War or Navy Departments made by these officers were to be transmitted through the nearest consulate, and that all the control officers were to operate under the supervision of American consular officers and would report directly to the latter.

Mr. Eccles asked if information as to all types of suspicious cargoes leaving North Africa could be transmitted by the control officers to a central point such as Tangier in order that the British authorities at Gibraltar might be promptly informed. Since this would embrace products not included in the authorized lists of imports from the United States, it would involve an extension of the control plan which had not been envisaged. Further discussion of this point was reserved for a later date.

  1. Paul H. Alling, Assistant Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs.
  2. See telegrams Nos. 455 and 456, April 17, from the Ambassador in France, pp. 290 and 291, respectively.