Roosevelt Papers

Draft Telegram From the Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Brazil ( Caffery )1


Secret from the Secretary for the Ambassador.

Please communicate orally and in the utmost secrecy the following message from the President to President Vargas:

You will remember that when I had the opportunity of meeting with you at Natal last winter and of talking over with you the problems with which our two countries are confronted, we agreed upon the necessity of taking every precaution to see that certain islands of the Atlantic should not become a source of grave danger to the defense of the interests of the Western Hemisphere.2

As you know, this Government has stated officially and publicly to the governments of both Spain and Portugal that it harbored no aggressive intentions against the sovereignty or territorial integrity of any other country. The policy of the United States today, like the policy of Brazil, is based upon the inalienable right of self-defense which we recognize as the rightful policy of other sovereign nations.

Since the time of our meeting I have become increasingly anxious because of the constantly expanding acts on the part of the German Government to extend the theater of operations of its submarines and particularly because of the efforts which the Germans are making to establish bases either openly or secretly on islands which by their very situation in the Atlantic threaten the shipping routes and, consequently, the security of the Western Hemisphere. As far back as 1941 I pointed out the dangers to our hemisphere which would result if certain of these Atlantic islands were to come under the control or occupation of forces which solely pursue a policy of world conquest.

Information is now at hand which indicates that the German Government has actually under contemplation the establishment of U–boat [Page 309] bases and U–boat supply stations in the Azores without any previous warning to the Government of Portugal. We may at any time be faced with a fait accompli.

Your own deep interest in this question and your own offer of helpful cooperation in the solution of this problem should the need therefor arise leads me now to ask whether you would be disposed to consider a secret approach on your part to the Government of Portugal in order to ascertain whether the Portuguese Government would be willing for the period of the war either to lease these islands to the Government of Brazil or to authorize the Government of Brazil together with the Governments of the United States and of Great Britain to establish such air bases and security controls in the Azores as would protect them not only from aggression by the Axis powers, but which would likewise prevent the use of the harbors and local resources of the islands by enemy submarines now preying on United Nations shipping.

Should you be willing to consider such an approach to the Portuguese Government I would of course be glad to have you restate the assurances I have offered in the name of this Government regarding the maintenance of the territorial integrity of Portuguese territories as set forth in my message to General Carmona in November 1942.3 I would assume that the terms of the British-Portuguese alliance would need no reaffirmation.

Because of the special ties which unite Brazil and Portugal, I feel as I have already said to you that any confidential and friendly approach which you would be willing to make in this matter to the Portuguese Government would be exceptionally helpful.

I shall be most grateful if you will let me have your views with regard to this question and inform me whether you would consider it possible for you now to take the intiative in this matter on behalf of the three Governments, Brazil, Great Britain and the United States, which are primarily concerned in maintaining the security of the Atlantic.

  1. Transmitted to the President under cover of a memorandum by the Secretary of State dated May 19, 1943, and reading as follows: “In accordance with our personal conversation I herewith enclose a draft of the proposed message from you to President Vargas. Please advise me as to whether you approve its sending. CH” The memorandum bears the handwritten marginal notation “Not sent”. This is presumably the draft telegram read by the President to the Third Plenary Meeting, May 19, 1943, ante. p. 120.
  2. For documentation regarding the conference between President Roosevelt and President Vargas of Brazil at Natal on January 29, 1943, see Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. v, pp. 653 ff.
  3. For text of the message from President Roosevelt to the President of Portugal, General Antonio Oscar de Fragoso Carmona, in connection with the Allied invasion of French North Africa, which was released to the press on November 8, 1942, see Department of State Bulletin, vol. vii, November 14, 1942, p. 905.