884.001 Selassie, Haile/2–2745

The Minister in Ethiopia ( Caldwell ) to the Secretary of State

No. 371

Sir: For record purposes, I have the honor to report as follows regarding the meetings of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I with the President and the Secretary of State14 of the United States.

[Here follows an account of arrangements for the Emperor’s visit, the composition of his party, and its travel to Egypt.]

On Tuesday afternoon, February 13, the Emperor and his party were flown to Deversoir, where they were met by Admiral Leahy15 [Page 6] and Minister Tuck and taken by automobile to the pier and thence by launch to a United States warship.

The President received them on deck about 5 p.m., and after a brief conversation between the President and the Emperor, the latter, with most of his retinue, was escorted over the ship, and then met the President in his cabin for tea.

Conversation through tea was conducted between the President and the Emperor in French; after tea conversation was in Amharic and Mr. Deressa16 acted as interpreter, the only persons present being the President, the Emperor, Mr. Deressa, and (at the request of the President) myself.

The conversation on official business lasted more than an hour and covered, among other matters, Ethiopia’s need for a port; in reply to the President’s question as to whether this should be Djibouti or in Eritrea, the Emperor said that from a short term point of view Djibouti would be the best port because of the existing railway, but that a long term policy required a port in Eritrea. The President inquired regarding the possibility of building a railway to such a port and was told it could be done; he advised that in case this were undertaken by an American company too much should not be paid for its services, and added that he would give the same advice in regard to petroleum in case that matter should ever come up. The Emperor read from several pages of notes in Amharic, which were translated into English as read, and on some points of which there was very brief discussion. When mention was made of Italian Somaliland, the President asked whether it had been at some time a part of Ethiopia, and the Emperor replied in the affirmative. No English translation of these notes is available, but they covered almost the same ground as the enclosed copies of memoranda in English regarding: “Access to the Sea”, (enclosure no. 3); “Franco-Ethiopian Railway”, (enclosure no. 4); “Arms”, (enclosure no. 5); “Eritrea”, (enclosure no. 6); “War Crimes and Reparations”, (enclosure no. 7).17

[Here follow discussion of activities by British officials to arrange a meeting of the Emperor with Prime Minister Churchill and British [Page 7] Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Eden, and a brief account of their meeting at the British Embassy at Cairo at 6 p.m., on February 16.]

J. K. Caldwell
  1. For an account by the Secretary of State of his conversation with the Emperor and the remarks made to the Secretary by President Roosevelt concerning his conversations with the three sovereigns, see Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., Roosevelt and the Russians, The Yalta Conference (Garden City, Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1949), pp. 288–289.
  2. Fleet Adm. William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief of the United States Army and Navy; for his account of the Great Bitter Lake conversations, see I Was There: The Personal Story of the Chief of Staff to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman Based on His Notes and Diaries Made at the Time (New York, Whittlesey House, 1950), pp. 325–327.
  3. Ato Yilma Deressa, Ethiopian Vice Minister of Finance.
  4. None printed. Minister Caldwell explained in despatch 377, March 7, 1945, that these documents were rather lengthy, that they were read by the Emperor in Amharic and were translated into English by Mr. Deressa, a procedure which “occupied most of the period of the conversation.” As far as the Minister was aware “no commitments, promises or assurances of any kind were given by the President in response to the requests of the Emperor for assistance” made in connection with the five memoranda. The Minister further remarked that “all the important political matters mentioned during the conversation were brought up by the Emperor.” (884.001 Selassie I, Haile/3–745)