740.0011 European War 1939/11410½: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom ( Johnson ) to the Secretary of State

2200. Personal for the President from the Former Naval Person:

“1. We cordially welcome your taking over Iceland12 at the earliest possible moment, and will hold ourselves and all our resources there at your disposal as may be found convenient. It would liberate a British division for defense against invasion of the Middle East. It would enable us to concentrate our flying boats now there on northwestern approaches. If it could be done in the next 3 weeks or less, or even begun, it would have a moral effect even beyond its military importance. You have only to say the word and our staffs can get to work at once.

2. Spain and Portugal. At any time now Hitler may obtain air bases in southern Spain or in North Africa, Spanish or French, from which he can make Gibraltar harbour unusable by our fleet. The moment this happens, or we are sure it is going to happen, we shall send our expeditions which have long been prepared and are waiting beside their ships, to occupy the Grand Canary, the Cape Verde Islands and one of the Azores. The code names for these three expeditions will be cabled in a separate message.

[3.] We cannot provide an army to defend Portugal on the mainland, and the same is true of Spain, though we would try to help a guerilla there. Meanwhile we were about to offer Portuguese antiaircraft and other equipment to defend Azores and Cape Verde Islands, and were encouraging them to withdraw their Government there if overrun by the Nazis. If Salazar accepts our help and protection in the islands we would of course welcome assistance of United States support. As we are already discussing with Salazar help to Portugal, had we not better go ahead and try to obtain his approval of the idea [of] withdrawing to the islands? It is a matter of approach and method. These could be discussed forthwith between State Department and Foreign Office. Whatever Salazar’s decision we should in the event have to obtain control of the islands for which United States cooperation would be invaluable.

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We should welcome collaboration with an American token force, before, during or after occupation of Atlantic Islands and if you wish would turn them over to you as a matter of mutual war convenience.

4. We should naturally welcome United States occupation of Dakar, and would afford all facilities in our power. We have some rather costly experience and knowledge of this place. Surest method by landing tanks from specially constructed vessels on neighboring beaches. I suggest that immediate consultation between your officers and ours should be given to make a workable plan, and have it ready in case circumstances should require its use.”

  1. See pp. 776 ff.