740.0011 European War 1939/25109: Telegram

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

523. For the Secretary and Under Secretary only. Repeated to Madrid for confidential information of Ambassador. My British [Page 506]colleague79 has raised with me the character of the communication which we might be authorized by our respective Governments to present to General Orgaz, Spanish High Commissioner in Morocco, in the event of an Allied landing in Morocco. Mr. Gascoigne, British Consul General, expressed the view that we should, in his opinion, be authorized both to assure Orgaz that (1) our Governments intended to respect the territorial integrity of Spanish Morocco providing Spain maintained a neutral status toward the occupation and (2) our Governments would give the most sympathetic consideration to Spanish claims to certain territories in French Morocco.

I informed Mr. Gascoigne that I presumed in the hypothetical eventuality which he was discussing I would be authorized by my Government to make a communication to Orgaz reassuring him concerning American intentions at the same time that the American Ambassador in Madrid80 was making such a communication to the Spanish Government. I added that it seemed to me highly desirable that under the circumstances envisaged assurances should be given both the Spanish and French authorities in Morocco disavowing any territorial aspirations in respect to Moroccan territory. I expressed, however, serious misgivings as to the advisability or the necessity for making any commitment to the Spanish authorities regarding the satisfaction of their territorial aspirations in French Morocco.

Mr. Gascoigne expressed the view that in the absence of some such assurance the Spanish military authorities might very well take matters into their own hands and proceed to the occupation of that part of French Morocco north of the Sebou line to which they had laid claim for so many years with the result that the situation might become most complicated in respect of the occupying forces and might even lead to war between Spain and the occupying country.

I informed Mr. Gascoigne that I did not at this time share his apprehensions. I had just visited Spain and had had the opportunity of talking with our Ambassador there, his Counsellor and the Minister Counsellor of the British Embassy. From what I gathered the general feeling is that Spain was farther than ever removed from the prospect of involvement in the war.

I observed that in the event of an Allied landing in Morocco we might expect Spanish forces in Spanish Morocco to march at once into French Morocco or to maintain an attitude of reserve while awaiting developments and it was to be presumed that the Allies would not make the fatal mistake of attempting an occupation of French Morocco with insufficient forces. Assuming therefore, that such forces would be adequate for their task it was extremely doubtful provided the Spanish [Page 507]Army did not act at once that it would be moved to act after a successful landing and occupation of French Morocco.

Whatever action the Spanish Army might take at the moment of an Allied landing it would appear a reasonable hypothesis that such action would have been determined upon some time in advance. It was considered extremely unlikely that any assurances we might offer to Orgaz would weigh the slightest in the scales of Spanish calculations the more particularly as any decision on the Spanish part to act would have been taken in advance with presumably full account taken of all the possible consequences. The Spanish would themselves have weighed the risks involved in intervening at the time of an Allied landing. They would doubtless take into account that any attempt to advance to the Sebou line for the sole purpose of staking their claim to that territory would involve them in the risks of belligerency which they seemed in the highest degree to avoid. While not minimizing the possibility of Spanish action we should not even estimate that possibility or fail to take into account natural Spanish hesitations to make an overt move should an Allied landing eventuate.

Moreover there was a further consideration of some weight so far as the French were concerned. It was presumed that at the same time that our Governments were conveying to the Spanish Governments evidences of our respective intentions to respect the territorial integrity of Spanish Morocco similar assurances would be given by us at least to the French peoples. Any assurance of our readiness to give sympathetic consideration to Spanish pretensions in French Morocco would tend to vitiate the assurances given the French people. Any sweeping assurances given the Spaniards would certainly become known and would do more than anything else to alienate popular French support which might be essential locally to the success of an Allied landing.

I therefore concluded that any assurances to the Spanish authorities which extended beyond a disavowal of any territorial aspirations with respect to Morocco would be inadvisable for the reason that such assurances would be inexpedient both morally and practically and could serve so far as I could see no useful purpose.

I naturally would not make any démarche whatsoever in the absence of specific instructions.

  1. A. Gascoigne, British Consul General at Tangier.
  2. Carlton Hayes.