The Ambassador in Spain (Hayes) to the Secretary of State
[Received February 1—3:45 p.m.]
305. The Portuguese Ambassador47 called on me today. He said he had been informed by Count Jordana 2 weeks ago of the importance both he and I attached to securing a favorable issue of important [Page 315] matters pending between Spain on one side and the United States and Great Britain on the other. The Foreign Minister had told him that he still encountered considerable difficulty with certain of his colleagues and suggested that the Ambassador could help him by going direct to Franco. This the Ambassador had done last Wednesday, January 26.
In the course of his 3-hour conference with Franco the Ambassador had presented his views about the need of Spain, as well as Portugal, frankly adopting a policy of benevolent neutrality towards the United Nations and of taking early steps to satisfy their requests. He discussed at some length the wolfram embargo, the release of Italian warships and merchant vessels, the withdrawal of all Spanish volunteers from the eastern front and Germany and the curbing of German agents and their activities, particularly their sabotage. Franco had raised only minor objections and these chiefly about the Italian merchant vessels and German sabotage. The latter he declared was being greatly exaggerated by the British and Spanish countermeasures were being correspondingly minimized. About the merchant vessels he had asserted with vigor Spain’s right to obtain two of them in compensation for two sunk by Italians. Nevertheless, when the Ambassador left Franco he carried away with him the distinct impression that he would support Jordana in arriving at an early settlement of all these matters satisfactory to us.
On the next day, Thursday, the Ambassador had seen Jordana who told him that this was at last cleared, he felt sure, for meeting the wishes of the Americans and the Foreign Minister seemed to be in very high spirits.
Then on Friday the Ambassador had seen Jordana again and found him very much upset by news he had just received of suspension of petroleum loadings and the publicity campaign being waged about it over the BBC. Jordana said that only the day before I had indicated to him that the United States might revise its program with the Spaniards unless a favorable response to our requests was promptly received but it was now obvious that the United States had taken most drastic action without special warning in advance and, what was worse, that we and the British were making political capital out of the situation and rendering it vastly more difficult for him to continue negotiations.
The Ambassador had seen Jordana once more this morning and the Foreign Minister begged him to intercede with me and with the British Ambassador to try to halt the publicity campaign. The Ambassador stated that he himself appreciated the exasperating delays of the Spaniards and he quite sympathized with our losing patience and temporarily withdrawing petroleum. He had acted [Page 316] similarly some months ago when he had withheld timber shipments from Portugal to Spain in order to secure certain commercial concessions here which the Spaniards had procrastinated about. He had been careful at that time however not to give any publicity to withholding of timber shipments with result that he had gotten what he had wanted without making trouble for Jordana. He wished I might have pursued similar tactics.
I explained to the Ambassador something about the exceedingly long delays which we had patiently endured and about the indirect warning which I had given to Jordana as early as January 3.48 I also stated that the requests we had long been making were quite within the power of Spain to grant without in any way violating her neutrality and indeed that some of them for example about the Italian warships and merchant vessels she simply had to grant us if she were to conform to requirements of a neutral.
The Ambassador pressed me to seek a curbing of the publicity. He said any assistance he could give us he was only too happy to give. I expressed my sincere thanks.
Repeated London and Lisbon.