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841D.01/325b: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Winant )40

2623. “On February 21, 1944 the American Government through its Minister in Dublin presented a request to the Irish Government for the removal of Axis consular and diplomatic representatives whose presence in Ireland must be regarded as constituting a danger to the lives of American soldiers and to the success of the Allied military operations. The Irish Minister in Washington on March 7, 1944 handed to the Acting Secretary of State your reply41 stating that it is impossible for the Irish Government to comply with this request.

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“Since the compelling circumstances giving rise to the American Government’s request were clearly set forth in its note of February 21, they need not be repeated here.

“Your reply states that the Irish Government was ‘indeed surprised that so grave a note as that of February 21st should have been addressed to them. The terms of the note seemed to them altogether out of harmony with the facts and with the traditional relations of friendship between the Irish and the American peoples.’ It seems hardly necessary to say that any situation in which the lives of thousands of American men are at stake is to the American Government a grave situation and one which requires its utmost endeavors to remedy.

“The Irish Government has not denied that the German Legation in Dublin until recently had in its possession a radio-sending set. Nor has the Irish Government denied that Axis agents, equipped with radio-sending sets, have been dropped on Irish territory by German planes. The fact that five parachutists are known to have landed in Ireland does not preclude the possibility, indeed it adds to the likelihood, that others have landed and have not been discovered by the Irish authorities. The American Government understands that one of the five parachutists mentioned in your note remained at large for 18 months and that twenty thousand dollars in American bills were found in the room which he occupied in the house of his German confederate in Dublin. The American Government understands that another of the German parachute spies who was apprehended shortly after landing and sentenced to imprisonment later mysteriously escaped from prison and remained at large for 6 weeks. It is evident that Axis spies could not remain at large in Ireland for such long periods without assistance from some quarter. The German Government apparently considers it possible for German agents in Ireland to operate radio-sending sets without detection; otherwise, they would not have equipped their spies as well as their Legation with radio-sending apparatus.

“The American Government’s request, far from being out of harmony with the traditional relations of friendship between the Irish and American peoples, would seem entirely in accord with such friendly relations and one to which the Irish Government might be expected to make a favorable response. As you stated in your speech of December 14, 1941, there is scarcely a family in Ireland that does not have a member or a near relative in the United States. These Americans of Irish blood and background are loyal American citizens and are making their full contribution to the war in every way. At home they are supporting the war effort as loyally as any section of the American population. They are contributing their full share of fighting men for duty in the armed forces overseas. Fighting with [Page 248]these American soldiers of Irish blood are many tens of thousands of other Irishmen from Great Britain and other countries of the British Commonwealth and including Ireland itself. Any steps to help safeguard the lives of these men and of all those fighting with them must surely strike a sympathetic chord in the hearts of the people of Ireland and indeed of all Irishmen everywhere. In making this request, however, the American Government is not asking a special favor of Ireland on the basis of Irish-American friendship. It is merely asking that steps be taken to insure that Irish neutrality shall not be used by the Axis powers to harm the United States and the United Nations.

“Your note states that the American Government ‘should have realized that the removal of representatives of a foreign state on the demand of the government to which they are accredited is universally recognized as the first step toward war, and that the Irish Government could not entertain the American proposal without a complete betrayal of their democratic trust.’ In this connection it may be noted that a number of other friendly nations have found it in their own interest to break diplomatic relations with the Axis nations, a step going beyond that requested of the Irish Government, without participating in the war or assuming the status of belligerents.

“The removal of Axis representatives, moreover, could scarcely be regarded as the ‘first step toward war’ in the same sense as the hostile acts already committed against Ireland by Germany. German planes have bombed Irish cities and destroyed Irish lives and property with impunity. A German plane has sunk a ship carrying a cargo of American wheat to Ireland, and Axis submarines have sunk still other ships carrying supplies to Ireland. The German Government by the very act of dropping parachutists with radio equipment on Irish soil surely shows little respect for Ireland’s neutrality or Ireland’s desire that the United Nations be given no ground for complaint against Ireland.

“The American Government finds it difficult to understand how the removal of Axis representatives from Ireland could possibly be considered a ‘betrayal’ of Ireland’s ‘democratic trust.’ Surely the people of Ireland are not unaware that their country and their democratic way of life have been spared only because powerful armed resistance has stood in the Nazi conqueror’s path. As the President emphasized in his message of December 22, 1941 to you,42 Ireland’s freedom is at stake no less than our own. Although Irish neutrality may, as you say, represent the united will of the Irish people and Parliament, the American Government cannot believe that the Irish people or their [Page 249]elected representatives desire that Irish soil be used by the Axis powers in ways which endanger United States forces and their operations.

“Irish neutrality is not the issue. The American Government has at no time questioned Ireland’s right to remain neutral—although it has doubted the wisdom of such a policy from the viewpoint of Ireland’s own best interests. Nor is it a question of Ireland’s maintaining diplomatic relations with the Axis countries, although the American Government would naturally like to see such relations severed completely. If the Irish Government considers its relations with Germany and Japan of such importance that diplomatic relations with these countries must be continued, maintenance of such relations through Irish representatives stationed in those countries would at least not constitute a direct danger to the lives of members of the American Armed Forces.

“Your reply, after reciting the various measures taken by the Irish Government to suppress Axis espionage, concludes: ‘Should American lives be lost, it will not be through any indifference or neglect of its duty on the part of this State.’ The American Government has already stated that it does not question the good faith of the Irish Government in its efforts to suppress Axis espionage. Unhappily, friendly intentions alone are not enough when so much is at stake. Despite all the precautions on the part of the Irish Government, the continued presence of Axis diplomatic and consular representatives in Ireland, operating under their special privileges and immunities, must be regarded as a danger to American lives and military operations for which the Irish Government cannot escape responsibility. The United States Government therefore hopes that further consideration of this matter will convince the Government of Ireland that its own interests as well as those of the United Nations require the removal of Axis representatives from Ireland at the earliest possible date.”

  1. Repeated to the Minister in Ireland on the same date as Department’s No. 57. This telegram contains text of note referred to in telegram 56, supra.
  2. See telegram 30, March 8, 6 p.m., to Dublin, p. 232.
  3. Quoted in note to the Irish Minister, December 22, 1911, Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. iii, p. 251.