740.00112 European War 1939/6357

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)

Mr. Hall90 came in to see me July 8 at my request.

I said I wished to take up two matters which were connected. One was the North African agreement; the other was the agreement which we were making with Orgaz91 in Spanish Morocco. I considered that the two, though separate, were actually connected in policy.

As to the North African agreement, I said that though both the British Government and ourselves had fully agreed that this should now go forward, the detailed negotiations of the commodities to be sent had resulted in a great number of objections and delays proceeding, apparently, from the Ministry of Economic Warfare in London. I referred specifically to a recent letter from Wyndham [Page 337] White taking objection to the sending of 2500 tons of cotton piece goods (the real figure being 1240) and to the sending of woolen broadcloths (I was advised that no such cloth was going). This action was merely typical of a number of objections which were delaying the program. I wondered whether this was merely economic, or whether there was some political objection—perhaps a divergence in political objection [objectives?] between the two departments of the British Government such as occasionally occurred in the United States Government.

I said I did not wish to enter into the details of the complaints since that was being handled by the War Trade people, but that I wanted to make an arrangement by which this could be cleared up, cleaned up, and got forward as rapidly as possible. I said our view was that military developments in Africa enhance the need for speed.

Mr. Hall said that he had observed various objections which he characterized as “sniping”. He said that before Halifax92 had left for England, he and Halifax had worked up a personal telegram to Eden93 calling attention to the delays and asking Eden to intervene with the Ministry of Economic Warfare in the sense that they should shut up and leave the details to be worked out in the negotiation on the basis of the best bargain possible. They had not, as yet, got the reaction from the cable. He agreed, however, to take another shot at this and see if he could extract a reaction from Halifax and Eden in London. He hoped this would solve the problem. I thanked him.

I then said that we had decided in principle to extend the North African agreement to Dakar largely to serve as an excuse for increasing our control officers there.

Mr. Hall said that they had anticipated that also and were in accord.

I then turned to the allied problem of the proposed agreement with General Orgaz. I said that here it looked as though we were running into complications. The principle had been fully agreed upon in London, but there had been vivid objection in Madrid chiefly proceeding from Sir Samuel Hoare.94

Mr. Hall observed that similar cables had reached them from Madrid.

I wondered whether possibly a somewhat similar situation might not exist in regard to this trade arrangement. We had acquired the feeling that the British Embassy in Madrid had a theory of Iberian-African matters not altogether on all fours with the London theory.

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Mr. Hall said he was not clear about that but felt that it had better go through in the same way as the North African agreement.

I added that any one of us was likely to be attacked for both the North African and the Spanish Moroccan agreements since these were not well understood and were unpopular publicly, being construed as attempts to “appease” Laval and Franco.95 However, we considered, as did the Joint Intelligence Committee, that there were some distinct military advantages and we were in the business of winning the war rather than getting praise. I thought that if we could assume the burden of a thing like that, we were entitled to all the help we could get from the British side. Mr. Hall seemed to agree with this also and I gathered that he would do what he could to clear up the difficulties.

Mr. Hall did not state clearly whether the so-called “sniping” reflected a concealed political objection or merely a view of the Ministry of Economic Warfare. He seems to think that in either case it ought to stop.

A. A. B[erle], Jr.
  1. Noel Hall, British Minister in the United States.
  2. Gen. Luis Orgaz, High Commissioner in the Spanish Zone of Morocco; for correspondence regarding these negotiations, see vol. iv , section under Morocco entitled “Negotiations between the American Chargé at Tangier and the Spanish High Commissioner regarding American economic aid to Spanish Zone of Morocco and Tangier.”
  3. Viscount Halifax, British Ambassador in the United States.
  4. Anthony Eden, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  5. British Ambassador in Spain.
  6. Gen. Francisco Franco, Spanish Chief of State.