811.20 Defense (M) Portugal/1457: Telegram

The Minister in Portugal ( Norweb ) to the Secretary of State

896. The British saw Dr. Salazar last evening at which time he presented Prime Minister Churchill’s letter. The essence of the ensuing discussion which lasted some two and a half hours is as follows:

According to Sir Ronald Campbell this démarche proved “a lemon”. Salazar was adamant in refusing to entertain the suggestion of imposing an embargo on the exports of wolfram to Germany though he apparently realized the gravity of his decision. He indicated that he had reason to believe that Germany would regard any such action as a hostile act and he summarized his attitude by saying that he did not propose toying have Portugal drawn into the war directly or indirectly through the wolfram issue. He took up Mr. Churchill’s suggestion that he give a lead to Spain through imposing an embargo in Portugal by stating that he had already exerted all efforts to effect a satisfactory settlement in Spain that because of the steps taken by the United States an embargo in Spain could not now be obtained though some compromise should be able to be effected. He also hinted that some limitation on exports to Germany from Portugal might be arranged but he gave no indication that this would be of a drastic character and British Ambassador, in order not to weaken his representations for an embargo, did not take up this line for discussion. Salazar also made much of fact that it would be morally indefensible for him at this stage of the war suddenly to deprive [Page 100] Germany of wolfram and even went so far as to compare such an act to Mussolini’s stab in the back to France, though maintaining at same time that wolfram was not a decisive factor in prolonging war but merely one of many important elements in war situation.

Campbell has telegraphed a full report of his conversation, which will no doubt be made available to the Department through the British Embassy in Washington. He awaits further instructions from London as well as Salazar’s formal reply to Mr. Churchill.

I may add that I offered to accompany Campbell to see Salazar but he obviously preferred to act alone on Mr. Churchill’s instructions. In accordance with your 811 of March 20, 9 p.m., I am, of course, ready to complement his representations but the question arises whether it would not be preferable for me to hold my fire until the next step is decided on between Washington and London. However, I shall seek occasion to reiterate with what gravity we view the situation.

As Campbell was on the point of leaving Salazar called him back to discuss Azores questions and understandably enough appeared amenable to hastening arrangements under discussion. Accordingly in order to make capital of the circumstances, the British reply to Portuguese memorandum will be submitted forthwith and Campbell will promptly seek an interview with Salazar to this end.

Pending further instructions from Washington and London, American and British negotiators will take no further steps in the matter of supply purchase conversations which in any case must await a response to Legation’s 882, March 23.62

Sent Department. Repeated to London as 128 and Madrid as 75.

  1. Not printed.