841D.01/206: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Ireland (Gray)

110. Personal for the Minister. I have received your 122, September 28, with your further suggestions on the proposed message to Ireland.

I believe we are all in full agreement on the purposes to be achieved by the proposed approach both as regards our more immediate military needs and in respect of our longer range relations with Ireland and Great Britain.

It has been my feeling, however, and this is also the President’s view, that any approach on this subject must be based on sound [Page 156] military grounds approved by the United States Chiefs of Staff. In our discussions with representatives of the Chiefs of Staff, they have very understandably taken the position that any approach which may lead to demands for supplies, military and otherwise, and shipping space must be weighed very carefully in the scales of military advantage. Since it is impossible for them to say now what military value bases in Ireland may have, they insist upon the more limited approach with no commitments on our part at this stage.

We realize that this limited approach may, as you suggest, have certain disadvantages in ignoring such matters as the presence of Axis diplomats in Ireland and the Irish Government’s unfriendly protest against the presence of our troops in Northern Ireland. We believe, however, that our approach is even stronger if made in friendliest terms and without reference to our just grievances against Ireland. This approach will leave no doubt that we have done all we can to meet Ireland half way and make it as easy as possible for de Valera to accept our request and assist in the United Nations war effort. If he should grant this limited request, we would not only have the bases but would then be in a much stronger position to ask as a next step the removal of Axis representatives as a necessary security measure. If he refuses, these other matters can then be laid on the record in an appropriate manner together with our proposed note and the Irish reply.

Should the Irish Government reply, as you believe it might, that it cannot give a decision on a question of such importance until bases are actually required, this would of course be regarded by the American Government as a definite refusal. Our draft note makes clear that we need to know now in planning our war strategy that we can count on the use of bases in Ireland whenever they may be needed. It is now in the planning stage that such assurances must be received if they are to have any value. Appropriate preparations would naturally have to be made in advance for the use of establishment of bases.

Your point that the message should not be addressed to Mr. de Valera personally is well taken. If and when the time comes to deliver the message we should, in line with your suggestion, make clear that it is from the American Government and addressed to the Irish Government. This would not necessarily preclude having the message sent in the name of the President and addressed to de Valera as Prime Minister. Having the message come from the President would of course add his tremendous prestige to the weight of our approach and the form adopted could make clear that the message is addressed to de Valera only in his capacity as head of the Irish Government. Your note transmitting the message might accordingly read as follows: “I am instructed by my Government to deliver to [Page 157] you in your capacity as Prime Minister of Ireland the following message from the President of the United States.” Then would follow the text of the message. When the British have approved the message, we will send you definite instructions in regard to its delivery.

We have not yet received the British Government’s views on this matter. Until that time I believe there is nothing further to be done either by yourself or by the Department. The British of course have copies of both drafts and they may well have views as to the manner in which any approach should be made. Their preliminary reaction left some doubts that they will approve the project. We are asking Winant to try to expedite a reply.

We will keep you informed of any developments.