711.62114 Sick/11

The British Ambassador ( Halifax ) to the Secretary of State


On May 31st last, His Majesty’s Embassy addressed a note No. 371 to the State Department, stating that certain proposals had been received from the German and Italian Governments for the immediate repatriation of seriously sick and seriously wounded Axis prisoners from North Africa, in return for the repatriation of all British and American seriously sick and seriously wounded prisoners of war in German and Italian hands. In this note it was stated that His Majesty’s Government would like to concert their reply with the United States Government and to have the latter’s views on the most convenient and rapid method of conducting negotiations with the Axis Governments and of issuing the necessary instructions to the military and naval authorities to implement any agreement reached. The note went on to give the provisional views of His Majesty’s Government.

In view of the urgency attached by the Foreign Office to an early decision on this matter, a further note No. 389 was addressed to the State Department on June 9th,12 enquiring whether the Embassy might soon expect to receive an intimation of the Department’s attitude to the questions raised in the Embassy’s first note, referred to above. On June 19th, in its note No. 740.00114, European War 1939/3909,12 the Department acknowledged receipt of the two above notes and stated that the matter was receiving urgent consideration and that a further communication would be addressed to the Ambassador at the earliest opportunity.

On June 24th this communication was received, in the shape of the Department’s note of that date12a (bearing the same reference number as the Department’s note of June 19th) transmitting the reactions of the United States Government to the suggestions contained in the Embassy’s note of May 31st. The contents of this note were immediately telegraphed by the Embassy to the Foreign Office, who replied with certain observations and counter-proposals. These were embodied in the Embassy’s notes Nos. 446 and 447, both of July 10th, to the State Department.

These two notes were acknowledged by the Department in its note No. 711.62114 Sick/4 of July 15th,13 in which it was further stated that the matter was receiving consideration by the appropriate agencies of the American Government and that a further communication [Page 61] would be addressed to the Ambassador as soon as a decision should have been reached.

Since that date a number of conversations have taken place between members of the Embassy staff and the Department, and also between members of the British Joint Staff Mission and the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff. As yet, however, no reply has been received to the Embassy’s two notes of July 10th.

His Majesty’s Government fully appreciate the complexity of the question under discussion and the need for consultation between the various agencies, both military and civilian, of the United States Government, including the need for reference to North Africa. They are, however, most disturbed at the lack of progress in these negotiations and greatly fear that this may produce a most adverse effect on their final outcome. Ten weeks have now passed since the enemy’s proposals were received, and His Majesty’s Government are most anxious to avoid any further loss of time in replying to them.

  1. See footnote 5, p. 55.
  2. See footnote 5, p. 55.
  3. See telegram No. 3866, June 24, 9 p.m., to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom, p. 54.
  4. Not printed.