123 Armour, Norman H./3–2445: Telegram

The Ambassador in Spain (Armour) to the Secretary of State

629. I presented my letters to General Franco2 at 1 p.m. today. The ceremony, which was much simplified even as compared with that of the Italian Ambassador who was received about a month ago when the throne room was used, took place in one of the smaller rooms of the palace. Only the ceremonial officers and members of Franco’s civil and military households were present. There were no speeches and after presenting my letters and introducing the staff, Franco took me and the Foreign Minister3 into an adjoining room for an interview which lasted three-quarters of an hour.

I opened the conversation with a reference to Mr. Hayes,4 whom I had seen before my departure and who had, I said, asked me to convey his greetings. Franco expressed warm appreciation of the very able and tactful way in which the Ambassador had accomplished his mission during a particularly difficult period initiated at a time when the war was in its most critical stage.

Franco then passed on to a somewhat philosophical dissertation on the war. He attempted to make the point, as I note he had done in several of his conversations with Mr. Hayes, that there were really two wars in progress: in Europe and in the Pacific. So far as the European war was concerned, of course, Nazism was doomed—the Germans were on the verge of defeat—but Spain could not remain indifferent to the dangers presented by communism in postwar Europe. [Page 669]As to the war in the Pacific, there were no two ways of looking at the matter.… He referred bitterly to the atrocities committed against Spanish citizens in the Philippines adding that a strong note of protest had already been sent to the Japanese Government and that Spain would no longer be willing to represent Japanese interests. In this connection he said that some time ago when his Government had learned of the barbarous treatment accorded our prisoners by the Japanese his Government had warned the Japanese Government that if this continued they would have to withdraw further representation of Japanese interests. He did not however give any indication to confirm the current reports that his Government was planning to break relations and I deliberately refrained from questioning him on this point having in mind the Department’s instructions.

Taking up the point Franco had tried to make in distinguishing between the European and Pacific conflicts, I told him that he must understand that so far as we were concerned it was one war: That as he had truly said the battle in Europe was approaching its victorious conclusion and that once unconditional surrender of the Germans was an accomplished fact the full power of Allied arms would be concentrated on the Pacific. In the meantime, we were entirely satisfied with the progress made in that area. I could well understand the feelings of Spain and the Spanish people over Japanese atrocities committed against their citizens but I had been glad to note that he realized that acts of similar barbarity had from the initiation of hostilities been committed by the Japanese against those unfortunate enough to fall into their hands. As regarded his reference to the dangers presented by communism following the defeat of the Nazis, I had noted that he distinguished between Russia, our Ally in the war, and communism per se, the distinction clearly brought out by Mr. Hayes in his letters to the late Count Jordana more than a year ago.5 I felt, with Mr. Hayes, that communism was an essentially internal problem and a menace that could best be met by not permitting to exist in a country conditions conducive to its growth. So far as the United States was concerned, the question would never arise.

As to the fears he had expressed of Russia dominating Europe and spreading communism in its wake, I felt that Russia had changed greatly during the last years and we were confident that the same cooperation we were receiving in the war would carry over into the peace. Russia would require a good deal from us in the way of materials and cooperation in the postwar period and I felt that we would be able to exert considerable influence and this would doubtless be exercised particularly in behalf of those countries which had put their [Page 670]own houses in order and were attempting to live in peace with their neighbors.

I then told General Franco that I had had a talk with the Foreign Minister (see later) last evening and had explained to him that while I realized that in this first interview it might not be customary to take up more fundamental aspects of our relations, in order to avoid any possibility of later misunderstanding and in compliance with the President’s wishes as expressed in a talk I had with him just prior to my departure, I felt it was important that I make my Government’s position entirely clear in this our first talk. Franco nodded agreement, indicating that Lequeriea had taken the matter up with him. I then stated our case along the lines set forth in the President’s letter of March 10. I said that while I had come to Madrid with every desire to see our relations improved and would do whatever I could towards that end, my presence must not be interpreted as meaning that my Government was satisfied with the existing situation or approved the structure of the present regime in Spain. While this was, of course, an internal question and while I need not assure him that it was against the policies of our Government to interfere in the internal affairs of other governments, nevertheless, as he must know there were elements in the United States covering a wide range of public opinion who were opposed to the continuance of official relations with his Government. My Government had not deferred to the wishes of these groups as my presence here indicated but, in all frankness, I must make it clear to him that so long as the present type of government was maintained with the Falange, a government within a government and along totalitarian lines, it would not be possible for my Government to enjoy the relations of complete confidence and understanding that we would like to have and that our friendship for Spain and for the Spanish people would normally indicate. He must realize that the Falange represented for our people the symbol of the collaboration with our enemies during the days when the war was not going so well for us. We realized that Spain had gone through difficult days. No one wished to see the country again plunged into civil war or civil strife. But we had hoped to see an evolution in the government take place that would be in line with the trend of events and the new spirit abroad in the world; an evolution that would enable Spain to occupy the role that properly belonged to it in the postwar world. I mentioned the Foreign Minister’s recent speech in which he discussed Spain’s role in the Americas as an example of one of the many contributions that Spain might make to the cause of world peace if and when she made it possible for us to welcome her participation in the family of nations. Franco listened attentively and apparently took my remarks in good part (the Foreign Minister offered no comment, in fact throughout the [Page 671]interview took no part in the discussion). He then entered into a long dissertation on the very evident misunderstanding abroad of the present regime in Spain. The Falange was, he insisted, not a political party but rather a grouping together of all those having a common interest, an objective—the welfare of Spain, the maintenance of order, the development of the country along sound religious, cultural, and economic lines et cetera. It was open to anyone to join and included representatives from all walks of life. He referred to the accomplishments of his regime in rebuilding the devastation caused by the civil war, and in healing the wounds arising out of the bitterness the conflict had engendered and pointed out that many administrative posts under the Government were now held by those who had been on the other side during the civil war. I asked Franco if it was not true, however, that many thousand political prisoners were still held, adding that as he must know, knowledge of this and reports that executions were still continuing had produced a very painful impression in our country. He replied with some warmth that these reports were greatly exaggerated; that only those who had been proven guilty of gross crimes and assassinations were still in prison and that the number, did not exceed 26,000. He remarked that he had heard that some press reports had put the figure at 225,000 which was fantastic. As a matter of fact there were not prisons enough in Spain to hold a fraction of that number nor did any concentration camp exist, but this showed the type of propaganda to which his Government was subjected abroad.

The interview terminated with Franco’s saying that he hoped we might soon have an opportunity for another talk when we could go more into detail on certain of the points brought out in the conversation. In the meantime he wished to assure me that I could count on his full support and cooperation in all matters. In thanking him I told him that the President had asked me to convey his greetings. General Franco said that he had the highest admiration for the President, and he hoped that I would convey to him the assurances of his highest respect and esteem.

Last night after Butterworth9 and I had decided that it would be advisable not to permit this first interview with Franco to pass without getting down to certain fundamentals, I arranged to see the Foreign Minister and outline to him the main points that I proposed to make. Lequerica was well disposed and agreed that it was important that the circumstances of my appointment should be made entirely clear from the start, adding however that he felt I should not attempt to go into too much detail.

  1. Generalissimo Francisco Franco, Spanish Head of State.
  2. José Felix Lequeriea.
  3. Carlton J. H. Hayes resigned as United States Ambassador to Spain on February 20, 1945.
  4. Ambassador Hayes’ letters to Count Jordana, dated October 29 and December 27, 1943, not printed.
  5. W. Walton Butterworth, Counselor of Embassy in Spain.