The Minister in Sweden (Johnson) to the Secretary of State
[Received December 17—3:25 p.m.]
5152. After delivering the aide-mémoire quoted in my 5151, December 17, 9 a.m. Grafström stated that the Government’s decision had been made on purely political grounds. He explained (a) that all of the interested departments and agencies had recorded their approval and that the specialists who had been called to the Government’s hearing yesterday morning to analyze the project had recommended acceptance, but (b) the Government whose “hobby is neutrality” had been scared off by the military nature of the project. The Government, he added, had felt that Sweden’s neutrality and sovereignty would be seriously compromised if the Government should permit uniformed foreign military personnel to operate a foreign military base on Swedish soil. (See my 4756, November 21, 3 p.m. and 4841, November 25, 10 p.m.)55
It is quite clear from Graf Strom’s subsequent off-the-record remarks that in his considered judgment we would have received an immediate [Page 687] affirmative reply to our request had we not emphasized the military nature of the proposed enterprise. He believes that ultimately we shall receive the desired permission and as reason for this belief he pointed to the Government’s authorization to us to import the ground installations for the proposed base and to store them here so as to be immediately available when it becomes possible for the Government to approve the projected operations.
Grafström thought we might profitably after a reasonable period resubmit our request in modified form and that in the interim we might prepare the Government by (a) requesting permission for certain technicians to enter Sweden to receive the radio equipment and other ground installations for the proposed air base and to instruct the Swedes regarding proper storage and maintenance and by (b) requesting permission for a certain number of instructors to come here to instruct the Swedes how to operate a modern transatlantic air base.
Grafström suggested that our project might be resubmitted in due course as a United States Government project not labelled as military with ground personnel operating in civilian clothes. He thought there would be no objection to ATC56 insignia on the airplanes. He believed that it would be helpful in obtaining approval if Swedish personnel could be employed to operate the weather forecasting service. It was his impression that one of the reasons why the Government “had been scared off” was our condition that the weather service would be handled in secret cipher not available to the Swedes.
The Government, according to Grafström, had been disturbed at the possibility that ATC’s military personnel would be in a position to receive and send military operational messages unknown to and uncensored by the Swedish authorities which would constitute a violation of Swedish sovereignty and neutrality. Weather service, incidentally, has according to Grafström, been prohibited by the Swedish Government since the beginning of the war. He suggested that we devise a code for weather and other operational messages which could be made available to the Swedes who would furnish the desired technical services under American instruction and Swedish supervision.
Our insistence that this should be an open military operation is, in my opinion, the major factor back of the Government’s decision. See immediately following telegram.57
I have been reliably informed by another source (not Foreign Office) that General Count Ehrensvard, Chief of the United Defense Staff, recommended that the project not be approved as a military operation but on a civil basis only.