740.0011 European War 1939/34391: Telegram

The Acting Representative to the French Committee of National Liberation at Algiers (Chapin) to the Secretary of State

1744. From Murphy.30 At a meeting of the Political Committee AFHQ31 May 23rd Macmillan32 and I were requested to present the following situation to our Governments with a view to the issuance of instructions to the American and British Embassies in Madrid to transmit to the Spanish Government an identical and strong protest regarding attacks by Spanish anti-aircraft batteries on Allied aircraft operating off the coast of Spanish and International Morocco. These latter are reported by our naval authorities recently as increasingly frequent and now constitute serious interference with anti-submarine patrol work in that area.

[Here follows list of eleven specific cases of attacks by Spanish anti-aircraft on Allied aircraft, citing time and place.]

According to our naval authorities anti-aircraft fire on our planes from shore batteries located in Spanish Morocco and International Morocco is at most a daily occurrence when our planes are definitely outside territorial limits. Our pilots’ reports indicate that the accuracy of fire is improving at the longer ranges. It is considered that effective anti-submarine patrol by aircraft of the Strait area requires close approach to the Tangier 3-mile limit since enemy submarines are repeatedly reported inside territorial waters. We believe that our planes’ navigation is accurate and that the assertion that our planes are within the 3-mile limit is not valid and should not be accepted.

It is also suggested that in view of the fact that the United States has never recognized the Spanish right to fortify the International Zone and in view of the internationally accepted 3-mile territorial water limitation, the American and British Governments strongly protest and make quite clear that the Allies intend to take appropriate retaliatory action in the event of any further unprovoked and illegal action by Spanish batteries. It is considered that we should insist that the offending batteries be removed from the International Zone immediately. The Spanish Government should be asked for an official statement regarding its anti-aircraft policy in Spanish Morocco and in the International Zone.

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General Wilson naturally feels that diplomatic action should be exhausted before retaliatory measures are taken. Admiral Hewitt33 informs me that the patience of American pilots with the conduct of Spanish anti-aircraft batteries is rapidly coming to an end and that we may be faced with an incident if the situation is not improved immediately.

British Resident Minister is sending a similar telegram to the Foreign Office.

I should be grateful for Department’s prompt advice.

Repeated by courier to Madrid and Tangier. [Murphy.]

  1. Robert D. Murphy, U.S. Political Adviser on the staff of the Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean Theater.
  2. Allied Force Headquarters.
  3. Harold Macmillan, British Minister Resident at Allied Headquarters in Northwest Africa.
  4. Adm. Henry K. Hewitt, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Northwest African Waters.