The Chargé in Portugal (Crocker) to the Secretary of State
[Received 3:55 p.m.]
429. Culbertson and Hickerson from George. ReEmbs 401, February 21, 7 p.m.20 Crocker and I saw Sampayo again at his request on the 22nd and in this conversation it was evident that a deadlock had been reached. Sampayo asked me nevertheless to call another [Page 444] meeting with the Portuguese Technical Committee. I told him I would do so because he advised it but not because I felt any useful purpose could be served. Payne and I consequently met the Committee again the following day and it was immediately evident that neither side had anything to offer. I told them I had asked for the meeting simply because Sampayo had advised it and for no other reason.
We nevertheless took advantage of the opportunity to go over again the question of meteorological and communications services. We made no progress.
Following the meeting I drafted a personal letter to Sampayo reviewing the position in some detail and stating that I evidently had over-estimated Portugal’s interest in what I considered a very substantial and important opportunity—the material opportunity to develop and establish Lisbon on a main air route into Europe, and the moral opportunity to cooperate with us in the enterprise with which he was familiar. I said I had reached this conclusion reluctantly and was disappointed but that as agreement had not been reached on a fundamental point and as our problem was an urgent one no other course remained but for [me?] to return home at once and recommend that the ATC draw its plans along other lines than those projected. This note was delivered immediately, and I booked passage to leave Lisbon this morning. At 7 o’clock yesterday evening the Foreign Office contacted me and asked me to cancel the passage and see Sampayo again today.
I have just had a final conversation with Sampayo in which we reviewed again the fundamental question of communications. I said that the Portuguese Government had been interested in a principle, the principle of permitting or not permitting us to communicate secretly. The Government had concluded that we might communicate secretly, but only while the war continued in Europe. In other words, the qualms over this question of principle had been overcome, but strangely subjected to a time limit. I had always understood Portugal was interested in the war in the Pacific but Portugal was now in the position of asking us to reveal our secrets to the Japanese. That was what it amounted to, as the Japanese would be delighted to have the information concerning ATC movements. I said the Portuguese Government had always boasted of its logic, but that in this question there was a complete lack of logic and I would never be able to understand the position assumed.
I told him again of my distress at Portugal’s casting aside this opportunity and added that it would make my position in Washington no easier. I said he would understand this. I needed arguments, and the Portuguese Government was depriving me of arguments by denying [Page 445] us satisfaction on what was really a very simple question. He said he realized this and that he would have another talk with the Prime Minister today. He would repeat to Salazar all of our conversations and would try to produce some light. I told him I probably would leave on Monday morning21 and thanked him for his courtesies. The old man was very touching in saying good-bye to me and I got the impression that he himself sincerely wished to find some solution.
I do not think there is anything further for me to add here and I plan to return home without further delay. [George.]