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.

B[reckinridge] L[ong]

Suggested Statement on Unconditional Surrender, Prepared by the Assistant Secretary of State (Long)

In speaking of our coming victory over the evil forces of Nazi Germany we have used the phrase “unconditional surrender.” That is a military term. It applies to the armed forces of the enemy. From them we shall expect unconditional surrender. By that term is meant that the German military authorities will be unable to place any conditions upon their own surrender to the Allied forces.

The term does not apply to the civilian population except that they will be individually and collectively expected immediately to cease all activities which have any bearing upon the military effort of Germany whether it be in transportation, in factories engaged in war production or in any other activity in support of the armed forces.

The term does not apply to the ordinary dealings of the people in the ordinary affairs of their daily life in their homes and farms and [Page 505]in the market places. Nor does it forbode any harsh treatment of women and children or those citizens dissociated from the activities of the Nazi party, except those individuals who may be branded as, war criminals.

As regards the satellites of Germany, they may be assured that their desertion of Germany and in recognition of any material contribution they make toward hastening Germany’s defeat will earn them some reward and after their surrender we may be able to discuss with them such questions as military collaboration against Germany, the rendering to them of assistance against the German armed forces, and, the reestablishment of a government of their own choosing.

The same statements as made above concerning the civilian population of Germany would apply as a matter of course to the civilian, populations of the satellite countries immediately upon their surrender to the Allies.

B[reckinridge] L[ong]

(Note: The last paragraph is a paraphrase of part of Article 4 of Mr. Eden’s telegram to Lord Halifax under reference above.)

[In a memorandum of April 5, 1944, to Secretary of State Hull, President Roosevelt summarized his position on modification of the principle of unconditional surrender regarding the Axis satellites. as follows:

“I understand perfectly well that from time to time there will have to be exceptions not to the surrender principle but to the application of it in specific cases. That is a very different thing from changing the principle.”

For complete text of the memorandum of April 5, see page 592.]

  1. Not printed; for a summary, see memorandum by the Secretary of State to President Roosevelt, March 25, p. 584.
  2. For complete text, see Department of State Bulletin, August 28, 1943, p. 124.
  3. Joint statement by President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill, August 14, 1941 Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. i, p. 367.