855.001 Leopold/3–2645: Telegram

The Ambassador in Belgium (Sawyer) to the Secretary of State

374. The possibility of King Leopold’s early release and the attendant problems were discussed by the British Ambassador,55 General Erskine56 and me at length this morning. It was agreed that the problems presented and the procedure to be adopted deserve careful consideration by civil and military authorities.

All feel that it would precipitate serious difficulties if the King were to come immediately to Belgium. In our opinion he should first go to a neutral country perhaps Switzerland where he could be visited by the Prince Regent57 perhaps the Prime Minister58 and others before any decisions are made as to the date or manner of his return. [Page 116]One important question in this connection is—what persons shall be given passports and visas to see him? Several elements are anxiously-awaiting the chance to see him first. There are deep differences even in the Royal family and the situation holds dynamite for Belgium and perhaps for Europe. Apparently his accession to the throne would not be automatic even if he should return at once. Procedural as well as substantive questions should be discussed while he is outside the country. We assume that the demand for the King’s return and the procedure immediately thereafter is purely a military question which will be decided by General Eisenhower.59 Inasmuch, however, as the effect of his decision will be largely political, it was agreed that it would be well for General Eisenhower to discuss the problems involved with the British Ambassador and me as well as General Erskine. Erskine is planning to see him immediately.

While in Washington I was shown the draft of a paragraph involving a demand for the delivery of King Leopold proposed as an insertion in any armistice terms. If this was agreed to, I should appreciate an exact copy of this provision together with any other instructions or suggestions which the Department may care to forward.

My British colleague is sending a similar cable to his home office.

Sawyer
  1. Sir Hughe Montgomery Knatchbull-Hugessen.
  2. Gen. George W. E. Erskine, British Chief of SHAEF Mission (Belgium).
  3. Prince Charles, Count of Flanders.
  4. Achille Van Acker.
  5. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force in Western Europe.