841.79658/76a: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant)

1472. With reference to our 802, February 1, Noweg, we now learn informally from the War Department that the British Air Ministry is withholding its consent to the operation and may have indicated that a formal request therefor from this Government to the Foreign Office will be required before further consideration can be given to the matter.

The question of evacuating as many as possible of the Norwegians in Sweden has been taken up with this Govenment by the Norwegian Ambassador on many occasions during the past two or more years [Page 1210] and is dependent on the question of improvement of air service between Scotland and Sweden. As you know, even before the United States entered the war we turned over to the Norwegian Government for operation by the British a number of transport planes to be used on this service. Other planes have been turned over since. Unfortunately the urgent need for space on these planes for American and British official personnel and mail and for critical materials such as ball bearings has made it impossible to utilize the planes entirely for their original purpose, namely, transportation of Norwegian personnel.

During the past year or more both the British and Norwegian Governments have pressed us continually to allocate a number of additional transport planes to this service. The urgent need for transport planes elsewhere made it impossible however to accede to their request. The present operation results from a request addressed to our Air Forces by the Royal Air Force Transport Command for assistance in providing facilities for the movement of these Norwegians. Our Air Force found that while it had no planes available for transfer to the Royal Air Force Transport Command it would be practicable for the operation to be carried out at this time by American units presently available in the United Kingdom. The American operation has the consent of the Swedish Government and as you are aware of the Norwegian Government in London, and the Norwegian Ambassador on instructions of his Government inquired of me yesterday regarding the reasons for the delay in commencing the operations. In view of the past history we are at a loss to understand what objections if any the British may have toward our proceeding immediately with the operation.

The War Department informed us that you have already interested yourself in the matter presumably at the request of the American Army authorities in London. We wish you to pursue the matter further with a view to ascertaining the precise British objections to the operation, particularly whether they are based on military or political considerations or both, or are related in any way to British civil aviation plans.