Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Villard)

Participants: General Hull, Operations Division, War Department
Mr. Murray95
Mr. Villard

General Hull came in to discuss a number of questions which had arisen in connection with our military occupation of French North Africa.

[Page 524]

General Hull described a decision arrived at by the military authorities to move a token force of American troops northward from the Casablanca area as far as the Sebou River in order to safeguard the lines of communication between Morocco and Algeria. This force would be stationed on the north bank of the Sebou River near Souk-el-Arba and to the east of that point. The purpose of the move would be to forestall the possibility that Spanish troops might seize the present moment to move south from Spanish Morocco and establish themselves at the line of the Sebou River, thus occupying an area long coveted by Spain.

General Hull said that he did not anticipate trouble from the Spaniards in this respect but that it was necessary to take into account the possibility that our communication lines by rail and road through that area might be cut off by some such move on the part of Spanish forces. General Hull explained that the American troops which would be moved up to the Sebou River constituted no threat to Spanish territory and would in fact remain at a distance of approximately 25 miles from Spanish Morocco. In the event that any alarm were manifested by the Spanish authorities, or any questions asked of us as to the significance of the move, we were authorized to state that the maneuver contained no threat whatever to Spanish interests and was merely a part of the general deployment of American forces in their task of occupying French Morocco.

Asked whether the War Department feared any military moves by the Spanish authorities, General Hull replied that there was no evidence at present along those lines. The Spanish situation was a puzzle, however, and until it was solved we have to be particularly careful. If Spanish troops should cross over into French Morocco and take up positions along the Sebou River it would be necessary to eject them by force, even if that involved us in hostilities with Spain. It would not be possible to permit Spanish occupation of this strategic region as it would interfere with our vital lines of communication between Casablanca and Oran.

  1. Wallace Murray, Adviser on Political Relations.