740.0011 European War 1939/18492

The Chargé at Tangier (Childs) to the Secretary of State

No. 503

Sir: I have the honor to report that since our entry into the war I have observed a growing improvement in the attitude of certain of the Spanish officials in Tangier toward us, an improvement which my British colleague has also noticed in the relations of the same officials toward him.

On December 10, my British colleague and I were invited to luncheon by our Spanish colleague who is now Chief of the Diplomatic Cabinet of Colonel Uriarte, Delegate of the Spanish High Commissioner for Morocco in Tangier. At this luncheon the guests included Colonel Uriarte and the leading Spanish officials in Tangier and both Mr. Gascoigne, the British Consul General and I found the Spanish attitude toward us surprisingly cordial.

During the course of the party my Spanish colleague referred to the desire of the Spanish authorities to see an American vessel calling in Tangier and also the desire that the flow of supplies from the [Page 445] United States to Tangier and the Spanish Morocco should not be interrupted by the suspension of American export licenses to this area. The request was made of me informally that I be good enough to use my influence in furtherance of these aims.

I stated that I would be quite frank in informing my host that I had already communicated with the Department when our Neutrality Act was changed10 and had at that time suggested the desirability of an American vessel calling at Tangier. I added that immediately upon the suspension of American export licenses as of December 15, 1941 for certain specified areas including Tangier and Spanish Morocco, I had telegraphed the Department and sought information concerning this development but had had no reply. I stated quite frankly as I had previously stated to Señor Propper as reported in my telegram No. 396 of December 14, 12 noon,11 that there were two categories of merchandise to be considered at the present time; one, those consisting of strategic materials which might benefit our enemies and the other of goods such as foodstuffs for consumption by the local population. I said that I hoped it would be possible to bring in non-strategic goods for the strictly current needs of the Spanish Zone and Tangier but that it must be understood that our entry into the war probably made the realization of this much more difficult but I would do what I could in this regard.

My British colleague informs me today that he has had a very interesting discussion with our Spanish colleague on yesterday which showed his especially friendly disposition. On this occasion the Spanish Consul informed the British Consul General very confidentially that the Germans had made a demand on the Spanish to permit two Germans to be appointed to the local Spanish schools in Tangier, one of them to teach German and one to impart German “culture”. The Spanish Consul stated that he hoped the British would make a similar request as there was no reason why the British should not have the same facilities as those sought by the Germans. At the same time the British Consul General was requested to do everything possible to facilitate the shipment of 400 cases of condensed milk badly needed by the infant population of Tangier and the Spanish Zone. It was stated that a request for such goods had been made of the German Consul who had been quite rude in refusing to do anything to satisfy the Spanish request.

In view of the foregoing developments and the distinctly more friendly attitude shown the Legation by a number of Spanish officials recently, it is suggested that it would strengthen the Legation’s hand in dealing with the local authorities if the Department could [Page 446] give the Legation some assurances that favorable consideration would be given at least to those applications for export licenses covering non-strategic commodities intended for the strictly current needs of Tangier and the Spanish Zone which might be supported by us.

In view of the statement made to me by my British colleague that the feeding of Tangier and the Spanish Zone was likely to become more and more difficult from British sources, I suggest, and in this connection I refer to the Legation’s despatch No. 493 of December 13, 1941, that if practicable some system be worked out in dealing with applications for export licenses for supplies for Spanish Morocco and Tangier whereby such applications might be referred to the Legation for its preliminary comments. If that is not feasible it is suggested that the Department pursue a policy of excluding all shipments for the time being of petroleum products, that with respect to shipments of tires and tubes the licenses be issued only to firms known to the Legation or the British Consular authorities in Tangier and Spanish Morocco and that such licenses be issued in this class of goods subject to the understanding that any distribution of the tires be subject to approval by the Legation after arrival at destination. In the case of foodstuffs such as flour, condensed milk and other groceries it is suggested that licenses for these be issued in moderation in accordance with the estimated current needs of Spanish Morocco and Tangier and upon, if that may be practicable, the recommendation of the Legation.

Respectfully yours,

J. Rives Childs
  1. Repeal of sections 2, 3, and 6 of the Neutrality Act of 1939 approved November 17, 1941; 55 Stat. 764.
  2. Not printed.