811.20 Defense (M) Portugal/1414: Telegram

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

71. The wolfram position in Portugal as indicated in Legation’s 2972, December 1134 is now such as to require a new approach on the highest political plane. The urgency of a decision is explained in my 66 of January 935 and telegrams referred to therein.

In our opinion there are no reasonable economic benefits which we can offer to Salazar36 which will of themselves have the effect of inducing him to prohibit or drastically curtail wolfram exports to Germany after the expiration of the old German-Portuguese agreement37 on February 28. Likewise we, as well as the British, are really morally committed to meeting Portugal’s minimum economic requirements. Whether the bargain was advantageous or disadvantageous the British did contract in return for the facilities in the Azores to supply such key products as additional shipping, increased coal and wheat and to use their good offices to ensure the availability of required materials from the United States. Now by seeking and obtaining a generalization of these Azores facilities38 to us we have in [Page 85] effect committed ourselves to continuing to make these supplies available to Portugal.

We would call attention to another relative consideration. During the past wolfram year unorthodox methods have borne the brunt of the burden of reducing wolfram exports to Germany. In the 9 months ending December 31, 1943, we have taken off the market by absorption, immobilization, and “C” traffic 1160 tons to which must be added another 400–500 tons, being the amount which moved across to Spain and was bought by us there when the Germans were out of funds last summer. We cannot hope to reproduce this extraordinary record in the next wolfram year. We shall indeed be fortunate if we can maintain it through February.

It is hard for us to see what reasons would induce Salazar to limit drastically exports of wolfram to Germany which would not also be sufficient to persuade him to stop wolfram exports altogether. Consequently if we decided to aid in the ending of the war during 1944 by drastic destruction of the Axis supply of this strategic commodity, we suggest that the time has obviously arrived to seek a complete embargo on wolfram exports to the Axis. In our opinion this could only be achieved by the invocation of the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance39 which would bring Portugal formally into the war against Germany.

On a lesser plane, a suggestion that the alliance be invoked but with an explanation that suggestion arose because of [the?] importance of wolfram might be sufficient to induce Portugal to undertake an embargo while still attempting to remain neutral. We might agree that the prohibition apply to exports to Allied destinations as well. We might also agree to continue buying wolfram, if desired, as well as to resume purchases of normal Portuguese exports. We could also offer to replace certain German supplied goods.

It must be recognized that facilities Allies have obtained in Azores are more importantly directed toward winning of Far Eastern than European war. So far as Europe is concerned, Portugal’s assistance to Germans particularly with respect to wolfram probably ranks in its benefits to Germany with importance of Azores to United States. Salazar has raised question of Portugal’s participation in Far Eastern war40 obviously desiring among other things to obtain benefits of becoming an ally and thus securing a voice in the peace without incurring any risk to metropolitan Portugal.

If we do not press the wolfram issue, we may succeed in this endeavor. In view of communication from British Joint Chiefs of [Page 86] Staff to British Embassy in Washington on this question of Portuguese participation in Far Eastern war and of American Joint Chiefs of Staff document 586/5 of December 6 (Mason’s41 copy), it appears to us that in certain circumstances our respective Chiefs of Staff are prepared to take the risk of Portugal’s becoming involved with Germany.

If this is so, for the first time our hands are freed and we may ask the Portuguese to take a metropolitan risk and to help us in the European war by placing a complete embargo on wolfram to the enemy. In view of Azores’ agreement of August 1742 and of the stage we have now reached in the war if drastic and effective results in denial of Portuguese wolfram to Germany are worth while, we believe the risk of invoking the alliance must be taken. In any case we require an answer within the next few days.

Sent to Department. Repeated to London as 15.

  1. Not printed; it reported increased economic concessions to Germany by Portugal and German approach to Portugal regarding a new wolfram agreement (841.34553B/31).
  2. Not printed.
  3. Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, President of Portuguese Council of Ministers and Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  4. This agreement was entered into in 1943 for one year’s duration.
  5. See pp. 1 ff.
  6. Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Alliance between England and Portugal, signed at London, June 16, 1373; for text, see British and Foreign State Papers, vol. i, p. 462.
  7. See ante, pp. 1 ff., and Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. ii, pp. 525 ff.
  8. Col. Grant C. Mason, technical representative of U. S. Army in Portugal, assisting in negotiations regarding military facilities in the Azores.
  9. Anglo-Portuguese Agreement, August 17, 1943, regarding waterport and airport facilities in the Azores. For text of Agreement, see British and Foreign State Papers, vol. cxlvi, p. 447.