859A.20/173: Telegram

The Minister in Iceland (MacVeagh) to the Secretary of State

217. For the Secretary and Under Secretary. The British Commanding General departed this morning and the supreme military command in Iceland passed to General Bonesteel.

In this connection, and following a procedure adopted last year by the British, General Bonesteel has requested me to inform the Icelandic Government secretly that in the event of an attack on this island of a nature sufficiently serious in his judgment to warrant such an action, he will instantly proclaim without further recourse to the civil authorities, the existence of a military government here. For the further secret information of the Icelandic Government he has furnished me with a copy of his proposed proclamation, together with a formidable list of penal laws and penalties taken from the rules of land warfare.

The General states that his proclamation has the full authority of the War Department, to which it was submitted for approval. He also says that he has been definitely instructed to proclaim military government and not simply martial law as was done by the British.

On account of the sweeping nature of his proposals, and the existence of an explicit promise on our part not to interfere with the Government of Iceland while our troops remain in the country, I believe I should take no action on the General’s request without instructions though speed in this matter is obviously desirable. The General tells me that the War Department has a copy of his proclamation and I can forward telegraphically a copy of the briefer British document if so desired. I ascertained in conversation with the Premier today that he would see nothing out of the way in our replacing the latter with a similar one of our own, though it would give our forces control of practically everything in Iceland, but I believe that a proposal on the part of our military to assume the name of the Icelandic Government [Page 6] under any condition but a request from that Government itself, could only result in ill will and obstruction.