740.0011 European War 1939/10391a

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

The Irish Minister called to see me this morning at my request. I communicated to him orally the contents of the Department’s instruction No. 18, April 25, 6 p.m. to Minister Gray in Dublin.

When he had heard the instructions communicated to Mr. Gray, Mr. Brennan seemed to be torn between two separate emotions—one of deep satisfaction at the decision to permit the Irish Government to obtain two ships to transport food supplies to Ireland, and the other of great annoyance at … the expression of the unwillingness of the United States to make available to Ireland munitions and military matériel so long as Ireland persisted in its present policy of noncooperation with Great Britain and the other nations resisting aggression.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

He said that if the British Government would only make a commitment that Great Britain would not invade Ireland, which it had steadily refused to do, Ireland could withdraw all of the troops now on its northern frontier and use them to great advantage in the southern part of the island in making plans to resist a threatened German invasion.

The Minister then asked what this Government meant by “a more cooperative attitude towards Great Britain and the other nations resisting aggression”. Since the tenor of his remarks at this stage made it clear to me that Mr. Brennan was under the misapprehension that the instructions to Mr. Gray had been sent after consultation with the British Government, I told him specifically that the phraseology used was solely that determined by the officials of this Government and that there had been no discussion of the matter with the British prior to the sending of this instruction, nor had there been any indication from the British Government that it hoped that such an instruction would be sent. Having made this clear, I said that the view of many of our own military and naval experts was that when a German attempt to invade Great Britain took place, the first step would be the invasion of Ireland. I asked the Minister in that connection and as in the nature of a reply to his inquiry, whether the Irish authorities [Page 229] had ever discussed cooperative measures with the British to go into effect should Germany attempt to invade Ireland. To this the Minister answered that Mr. de Valera had publicly stated that should Germany attempt to invade Ireland the Irish Government would request the British to come in and help them. I asked whether this meant that any definite plans for cooperation had been discussed or worked out. The Minister replied that no such conversations had taken place because if they had taken place, it would at once have become known to Germany and would probably result in an accelerated invasion of Ireland by Germany. I remarked that this seemed to me exactly the point of view which had been taken by all of the European governments now occupied by Germany, namely, that they would not agree to preliminary decisions as to the measures of cooperation to be undertaken in the event of an invasion and that, consequently, when actual invasion took place, no plans had been worked out and complete confusion resulted. I said we had seen the results of this policy only a few days ago in the case of Yugoslavia whose previous government had refused to discuss any form of military cooperation with Greece or Turkey or Great Britain and consequently the present government, when the invasion took place, was left to fight alone without any means of effective cooperation from its allies. Mr. Brennan replied that any other policy on the part of the Irish Government would result in disunity among the Irish people, which he felt was the greatest evil which Ireland could confront. I said that I believed that the conversation we had just had made it clear that the Irish Government was determined, when and if an attempted invasion of Ireland by Germany took place, to meet that crisis without any previous preparation or consultation with other nations opposed to Germany. To that Mr. Brennan made no reply.

The Minister told me that he expected that Mr. de Valera would send him a message immediately with regard to the negotiations for obtaining the merchant ships mentioned in the Department’s instruction to Mr. Gray and that as soon as he received such word, he would communicate with me personally.

S[umner] W[elles]