740.0011 European War 1939/21266

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Acting Secretary of State

The Soviet Ambassador called to see me this afternoon at my request.

I said to the Ambassador that he would remember that in January 1941 I had secretly communicated to the Soviet Government confidential information obtained by the United States which gave the German plan to attack the Soviet Union in the early summer of that year.56 Subsequently, last summer, I had communicated to Mr. Oumansky57 confidential information concerning Japanese plans in the Pacific.58 I said that I now had confidential information of the most authoritative character which I felt it necessary in the interest of both governments to ask him secretly to transmit to Moscow. I said that this Government had learned that the German Government had as its objective the dealing of a knockout blow to the Soviet Union as rapidly as possible. It appeared that Germany and Italy both hoped that by disposing of the Soviet Union in this way they could continue to achieve a more or less undisturbed state of affairs in their own countries from which to continue to launch their attacks. It appeared that the German plan in order to deal a crushing blow to the Soviet Union was to attack first in the south and then simultaneously in the Eastern Mediterranean and Africa, attempting to fight through the Caucasus to the Indian Ocean. A Japanese invasion into the Indian Ocean would be eagerly welcomed by Germany since thereby contact between Europe and Asia would be brought about.

It appeared thereafter to be the intention of Germany to attack England and to endeavor to cut off any American communications and to abolish American influence in Asia and Africa as well as in Europe.

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Germany was pressing Japan to lend its full cooperation to this effort by pushing through the Indian Ocean into the Persian Gulf and into the Red Sea and thus attain a cutting off by the Axis powers of any United Nations access into the Near East and into the Persian Gulf.

The Ambassador expressed his gratitude and said he would immediately transmit this information secretly to his Government. The Ambassador asked me how we had obtained this information. I said that I was not in a position to give him any details but merely to let him know that this Government regarded this information as authoritative.

The Ambassador asked what recent information I might have received with regard to conditions in Turkey. I said that the last reports from Ambassador Steinhardt had indicated a continued intention on the part of the Turkish Government to resist any attack or pressure from Germany. I said that we were doing our utmost to strengthen Turkish morale by giving Turkey such assistance as could be given under the Lend-Lease Act.59 I said that only today I had asked Ambassador Steinhardt to communicate detailed information as to the assistance we were rendering to the Turkish Government.

The Ambassador expressed his own opinion that Germany would not attack Turkey or bring pressure upon Turkey of a military character until after the German offensive against the southern Russian front was under way and until and unless the Germans had met with success in southern Russia. He said that if the Germans achieved success in that area, Turkish morale and will to resist would be lessened and he believed it was at that time that Germany would make demands upon Turkey and possibly invade Turkey. He was quite strong in his opinion that Germany did not possess sufficient men nor material at this time to undertake, a march through Turkey if at the same time she had to undertake an all-out effort against the Soviet armies and an attack against the Suez Canal.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. See Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. i, p. 772, footnote 98.
  2. K. A. Umansky, Soviet Ambassador in the United States, 1939–41.
  3. For information concerning Japanese plans in the Pacific, see memorandum of July 3, 1941, by the Acting Secretary of State, Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. i, p. 787.
  4. Approved March 11, 1941; 55 Stat. 31. For correspondence on lend-lease aid to Turkey, see Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. iii, pp. 814 ff.