740.00114A European War 1939/104: Telegram

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

582. My 573. I asked for an appointment last evening with Orgaz for this morning which was accorded me without delay. He received me at noon. Before enquiring concerning the interned American aviators I thought it appropriate to state that I fully appreciated the difficulty and delicacy of his position at the present time and that he might count on my full cooperation in approaching our common problems with complete understanding and my desire to resolve them with the least possible difficulty.

Orgaz replied he had just returned from Madrid where he had been with the Generalissimo when the assurances of President Roosevelt had been conveyed to the latter.88 In as much as he realized that these assurances applied to Spanish Morocco, he was not surprised by my assurances.

I observed that we had been associated together over a period of more than a year during which time we had exchanged views with perfect frankness. I had had the privilege of having not only formal relations with him but that we had dealt with problems together in the informal atmosphere of friends. I added I hoped this would continue.

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He replied that he fully reciprocated my feelings, that the times were indeed most difficult and that there would be obstacles to overcome but he had no doubt we would successfully overcome them.

I said that we had had certain exchanges of views regarding the economic problem of Spanish North Africa and that I hoped he would feel free to raise with me at any time the solution of any particular problem he might have to overcome in this regard and that he would have my backing in these matters pending the decision of my Government concerning the entering into negotiations at Madrid for the correlation of the economic needs of this area with those of the peninsula.

Orgaz replied that his immediate problems were not economic. He said that “where I need the backing of your Government and yourself is in the preservation of a correct and strict neutrality in Spanish North Africa” which he intended to maintain and I could render him the greatest service in assisting him to that end. He added by way of illustration that he hoped there would be a check on the activities of “American agents”.

I inquired as to what particularly he had in mind in that connection. I motioned toward Booth89 who was present as interpreter and said that I assumed he was not making reference to the activities of the Petroleum Attaché.

He smiled broadly and threw up his hands in remonstrance remarking that that was farthest from his thoughts. He added that what he had in mind was that we should refrain from adding to his difficulties by propaganda amongst the natives in particular or publicity activities which might incite the population (there is no doubt that these authorities are concerned by the ebullition of public opinion in our favor particularly amongst the Republican elements). I said that he might count on my loyal and sincere efforts to cooperate with him in the direction he had indicated.

I then said that I had a few matters of incidental importance to take up with him and inquired whether I was trespassing on his time. He answered in substance that whatever I had to discuss with him was of importance to him and that his time was mine. I then referred to the draft of a statement he had submitted to me a few days previously giving publicity to our petroleum shipments. I remarked that Booth and I found this statement in general quite satisfactory. Orgaz said he regretted that since sending me his letter the situation had changed in these last few days and he preferred that any publicity be suspended for the time being in line with his desire to avoid anything that might be suggestive of propaganda. Not feeling the moment propitious for pressing this question, I answered that I did not [Page 515]think that there would be any objection either from Mr. Booth or from me as to the suspension of this question for the time being.

I then said that I had heard there were several parties of American aviators who had been obliged to make forced landings in Spanish Moroccan territory and I asked if full details might be given me, if I might have the opportunity of visiting any men who might be found in Tetuán and of sending a representative to see any others elsewhere.

Orgaz replied that some 54 Americans had landed in Spanish Morocco of whom 9 were in Tetuán and the others in Targuist, halfway between Tetuán and Melilla (according to a memorandum later given me there appear to be 3 captains, 5 lieutenants and 42 soldiers at Targuist). He gave me the fullest possible assurances that everything would be done for their welfare and added that I or any member of the staff of the Legation would be given access to them if I would give my word that we would make no effort to assist them to escape. I immediately gave him this assurance. He emphasized that naturally these men would not be treated as prisoners but as internees.

I asked if he would accord them liberty of movement and he said he would if they would give their word not to escape.

I asked if it might be possible for these men to come to Tangier and he replied that this would not be possible. I have hopes, however, that it might be possible to arrange this a little later. He stated that they would either be concentrated for the time being in Tetuán or [in Xauen?] but that they would under the conditions mentioned be permitted to have a certain liberty of movement in the district where they might be installed.

Repeated to Madrid.

  1. For text of President Roosevelt’s message to General Franco, see vol. iii, p. 306; for General Franco’s reply, see telegram No. 1766, November 12, noon, from the Ambassador in Spain, ibid., p. 308.
  2. Walter B. Booth, Jr.