740.00119 Council/9–1146: Telegram

Mr. Jefferson Caffery, Member of the United States Delegation, to the Acting Secretary of State

secret   urgent

4594. Delsec 941. Attention Catudal and Radius. Personal letter from Bevin to Secretary of September 951 states British prepared to return submarine cables to Italy and will at earliest appropriate time enter into negotiations with Italians and agree on arrangements and time for return. (Reference Secdel 854, September 1052).

Letter states British will lay down two conditions: (1) Cables directed from Malaga to Gibraltar shall continue to run through Gibraltar and be operated there; (2) no expense should be placed on British taxpayer. In all recent discussions with British we have avoided question of Gibraltar relay, in hopes that basic question might be settled without understanding on this point. We hoped that basis might be provided in this way for possible later shift of relay point Rome–Horta cable from Gibraltar to Tangier. Bevin’s letter now confronts us squarely with issue.

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It is not clear to us on what basis we can object to maintenance of Gibraltar relay point. Only possible basis we have been able to think of is following argument:

Diversion this cable effected under orders Combined Chiefs and therefore not appropriate for British to lay down conditions.
No security reasons exist for running this cable into Horta, since connections at Horta run only to British Isles and Western Hemisphere countries.
In view of fact diversion was combined action, we would be open to severe criticism by American interests if we left this channel of communication, which is of great interest to United States, under British control.

We are uncertain as to facts in (a) and (b). We have been informed by Admiral Stone that (a) is fact but lack basic data. As to (b), old cable map in our possession indicates connections from Horta to St. Vincent, Cape Verde Islands, and thence to Brazil, which would, if still in existence, constitute an uncontrolled method of communication between South America and Europe.

It has been our thought that Bevin’s letter should be acknowledged without reference to Gibraltar relay point. This would probably be construed by British as tacit acceptance of their position, but in absence of convincing case for objection, we see no other course of action.

Request Department’s comments most urgently. British decision communicated to Secretary personally in confidence and information concerning it should be closely restricted. It would be most embarassing to us if there were to be any leakage.

  1. Foreign Secretary Bevin’s letter of September 9 was in reply to Secretary Byrnes’s letter of August 22, 1946, which suggested a meeting to discuss the question of the Italian cables before the relevant provisions of the Italian treaty came up for consideration before the Peace Conference. Neither letter is printed. (CFM Files)
  2. The telegram under reference here is not printed. It read in part as follows:

    “At its meeting Sep 4 the Telecommunications Coordinating Committee expressed hope Dept would do all in its power to see to it that Italian cables were removed from British relay points since retention by Great Britain of control over cable communications between US and Italy is highly detrimental both to commercial and national interests of US.” (740.00119 Council/9–1046)

    The Telecommunications Coordinating Committee, an inter-departmental body, was the highest American policy committee in the communications field.