811.34553B/50: Telegram

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

62. Shortly after 2:00 o’clock this morning the British Ambassador was called upon by Leitao of the Foreign Office to say that Salazar had just been roused from his bed by a telegram from the Portuguese military authorities at Terceira reporting that the senior British officer had stated that “two American transports with troops would be arriving the course of the night”.

Leitao said Salazar was at a complete loss as I had spoken only of technicians. Moreover Salazar alleged he had not given permission although he was on the point of doing so. He gave it now for technicians but if troops attempted to land they would be prevented by force. Salazar moreover had been amazed to realize that ships must have left actually before I had spoken to him.

Campbell said that he was equally at a loss as his American colleague had understood that permission had been given for technicians and construction personnel and on the strength of what I had told him had so informed his Government. He could not say exactly what force was composed of but he could guarantee it was not a combatant formation.

He then came to see me and I told him that I had not only explained in detail to Salazar at our interview on December 31 the [Page 5] nature and purpose of the American personnel and equipment needed by the British to be sent to Terceira but that on January 5 I confirmed to Salazar in writing the fact that two Liberty ships and two landing barges with such personnel and equipment were leaving for Terceira.

I urged Campbell to telegraph along the foregoing lines to the senior British officer at Terceira and to request that he should assist in arranging for the personnel and equipment to be landed as planned.

Campbell said he had informed Leitao that he would do so and that he hoped that Dr. Salazar also would take appropriate steps to prevent any risk of hot-headed action such as would land us in an “extremely grave situation”.

Campbell is also telegraphing the matter fully to London adding that he can only hope that Dr. Salazar while raising no objection during my interview nor to my letter or even to Campbell’s written statement of January 4 “that certain United States personnel are already being despatched to Terceira” was under the impression that permission would not be valid until it had been confirmed in writing.

Misunderstanding as to the character of the force arose presumably from the senior British officer’s use of the term “transport and troops” which Campbell explained to Dr. Leitao might well have been used by an officer accustomed to deal in such terms without realizing their significance in the present case.

I shall cable further details when Campbell receives a reply.