740.00119 European War 1939/2498
Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Long) to the Secretary of State
Mr. Secretary: I attach the following comment to the secret communication concerning unconditional surrender delivered to you by Lord Halifax on March 20, the same being a copy of a telegram to him from Mr. Eden as of March 17.69
For some time I have had the personal opinion that the phrase “unconditional surrender” could be used by Germany to frighten her people and through fright to bind them together and make stronger their resistance to the Allied forces, consequently prolonging the war.
It has been my thought that some modification or explanation of the term “unconditional surrender” would contribute to the surrender of the satellites of Germany and even to the surrender of Germany itself.
Consequently my mind is somewhat sympathetic to the proposals in Lord Halifax’ communication.
The President transmitted to the Congress the Eleventh Report on Lend-Lease under date of August 23, 1943.70 In that message he said in part, as you recently quoted in a letter to a number of members of the Congress:
“Except for the responsible fascist leaders, the people of the Axis need not fear unconditional surrender to the United Nations. I have said that we shall bring food for the starving and medicine for the sick in the areas liberated by the United Nations. We have done so, [Page 503]under lend-lease, in North Africa. We are doing so in Sicily. We shall continue to do so in other areas, as they are liberated, to prevent economic breakdown and to aid the liberated peoples to produce and to help themselves. We shall provide these necessary civilian supplies in support of our military operations and as a matter of simple humanity. The people of Axis-controlled areas may be assured that when they agree to unconditional surrender they will not be trading Axis despotism for ruin under the United Nations.”
The quotation from the text above does not include the full text, for the President then proceeded to state:
“The goal of the United Nations is to permit liberated peoples to create a free political life of their own choosing and to attain economic security. These are two of the great objectives of the Atlantic Charter.71
“But until the day of unconditional surrender, the United Nations will continue with the force of all their power to hit the enemy. We are striking hard and ready to strike harder. Greatly increased United States forces and greatly increased lend-lease supplies are on the way to the battle fronts. The longer this war goes on, the stronger the United Nations will become.”
It will be noted that in the quotation immediately above the President was speaking for the United Nations. It would seem to be unnecessary to redefine the term “unconditional surrender” in the name of the United Nations and further that it would be necessary only to come to some understanding with Great Britain and Russia to the extent to which it would be modified in case it is decided to make any modification or explanation.
What does not appear in the note of Lord Halifax or in any of the other documents on the subject with which I am familiar is the fact that “unconditional surrender” is a military term. It applies to a period of armistice. It does not relate to the treatment to be extended to the civilian population and to the events of their daily life.
It is further realized that an unconditional surrender must be followed by an action on the part of the conquering powers that would deprive the authorities of the surrendering government control of their communications (all of them), their public utilities, their war factories and their government offices. However, it would be the intention of the conquering powers to permit the ordinary activities of daily life, the carriage of food from producing areas to consuming areas, the operation of public utilities for public benefit such as telephones, water, sewage, garbage, hygiene, and the establishment of markets for the exchange of produce as well as such ordinary little affairs as are necessary to carry on the daily life.[Page 504]
The difficulty with the present situation is that the people of the enemy countries are convinced by their government that not only all of these activities will be interrupted but that they themselves may be butchered or led off into slavery. At least the situation permits their government to impress upon them that thought.
As we do not intend to carry our activities after victory to the extremes which have been portrayed to the minds of these people it would seem advisable from the interest of military as well as political policy to come to some understanding with our two great allies and to make some expression which would relieve the apprehensions of those people as to the extent to which they are personally and collectively to be subjected and thereby induce a “softening up” in their collective resistance.
Since the President has stated in terms the inference from which is patent and since our intentions are not those of mass murder and slavery or even total disruption of civilian life it would seem wise policy to make some declaration to that effect. Either one of the three governments might find opportunity to do so on some particular occasion in the near future with the approval of the other two governments or there might be issued a joint statement of policy to be released simultaneously.
In an effort to make a concrete proposal for consideration I have reduced to writing a suggested statement.
- Not printed; for a summary, see memorandum by the Secretary of State to President Roosevelt, March 25, p. 584.↩
- For complete text, see Department of State Bulletin, August 28, 1943, p. 124.↩
- Joint statement by
President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill, August
Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. i, p. 367.↩