740.00112 European War 1939/4927: Telegram

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

116. Lieutenant Colonel Eddy and I had a most cordial interview with the subject of Murray’s letter of February 17 when calling on him to present Eddy. (See also my telegrams 4 and 10 of January 5 and 8 [7].) Taking advantage of the extreme affability of my host, I remarked that General Noguès had stated to me recently he hoped to see peace maintained in North Africa and particularly in Morocco. I asked whether these hopes were shared and how they might expect to be realized.

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He replied he also earnestly hoped that peace would be maintained in Morocco. He mentioned that Spanish Morocco was like a sandwich between General Noguès on the one hand and the sea on the other and that through these he counted on preserving peace.

He then stated “and what about tires”. I replied that I had been in communication with Washington on the subject of supplies for Spanish Morocco and that I had had the recent visit of our Commercial Attaché in Madrid who had not [now?] met General Uriarte with whom he had discussed the supply situation. I added that according to the information given me by the Commercial Attaché, conversations were proceeding between our two Governments concerning the supplying not only of Spain but also of Spanish Morocco and Tangier.

I added that he could count on my cooperation in this regard and stated I had had occasion to assure Uriarte that he could count on my approaching always the common difficulties confronting us in these exceptional times in a practical and cooperative spirit.

My host replied that he had learned with pleasure from Uriarte of my cordial relations with the Tangier authorities.

I asked what the particular needs of Spanish Morocco were besides tires and gasoline. He said foodstuffs generally. I stated I would be lacking in frankness if I did not again emphasize the very great difficulty in making available tires and petroleum products. I added I above all did not wish to raise any false hopes. He observed the shortage of tires and gasoline was becoming such as to make acute the problem of transportation particularly between Tetuán and Melilla.

I said that while of course he could count on my cooperation it must be emphasized that gasoline and tires were strategic products about which we were naturally concerned that they should not fall into the hands of those who might use them against our interests. He expressed full understanding with this.

I then asked what if any assurances could be given by him that supplies sent from the United States would not pass into such hands, adding that I would like to forward to Washington any assurances he might give me in order to facilitate my Government’s consideration of this problem.

He replied he could give me his solemn personal assurance, formal and without reservation, that nothing which might be sent would ever fall into the hands of our enemies or be used against us.

Eddy then asked what would be the position of Spanish Morocco if it were invaded. He asked by whom. Eddy said by the Axis. He replied “We would resist to the limit of our power and we would resist ably.” Eddy then asked what would be the position if a change in foreign policy in Madrid permitted the Germans to enter the [Page 454] zone. He sidestepped this point smiling “We would not know the answer to that until the day itself.” He then asked what change in foreign policy was referred to. Eddy said he was thinking of the possibility that Madrid might join the enemies of the United States at which the reply was made with considerable force “I consider it inconceivable that Spain should ever go to war with North America and would therefore rule out that possibility.”

It was obvious that he did not wish to be drawn into a discussion of the possibility of action by him independent of or contrary to Madrid. It is noteworthy that he did not commit himself to stating he would follow Madrid in all circumstances.

I asked him pointedly whether he had any other needs besides tires, gasoline and foodstuffs. I think he caught the significance of the inquiry but his answer was in the negative.

Taking advantage of his unexpected frankness and affability I remarked that I hoped he and his wife would soon lunch or dine with me. He replied at once that he was going to Madrid for a few days but upon his return would be delighted.

Such an occasion would give me an exceptional opportunity to see him alone to place before him any detailed proposals the Department might have in mind.

Both Eddy and I feel he has given us an opening which may be taken advantage of as circumstances warrant. We both feel he is well disposed to us, strong in his determination to defend Spanish Morocco and deeply conscious of the great resources of the United States.

We are not certain the time is right for making other than economic proposals. He has indicated (for which I had long been hoping) a consciousness of his dependence on our good will. I feel we should utilize that by some concrete offer of supplies, however small, accompanied by whatever conditions may be deemed desirable. Such proposals would serve the very useful purpose of keeping open our contact and should strengthen our hand appreciably with him.

During the conversation I mentioned that it would facilitate consideration of the supply question if he would let me have information on the stock position of the commodities in which he was interested with an estimate of the monthly needs of the zone. He stated that he would look into this.

It is planned to arrange the date of his dining with me some time toward the end of March but I shall be guided therein by any indication the Department may give me as to whether and when I may expect any detailed proposals to be presented to him.

Repeated to Madrid.