The Spanish Ambassador ( Cárdenas ) to the Secretary of State

No. 8   Personal

My Dear Mr. Secretary: I am sincerely sorry not to have had the opportunity of seeing you after my return from Spain and before your departure for London.6 I think an exchange of views at that time would have been most helpful.

I must begin by saying that the recent statements and the position taken by some of the responsible officials of the Department of State have caused great surprise and concern to my Government since it does not appear to conform to the treatment customarily accorded to the recognized Government of an independent Nation. May I add that this policy has not only failed to advance the efforts I have constantly made during my long stay in the United States towards a better understanding between our two countries but it has served to hinder and nullify them.

It is indeed discouraging to discover that the more effort Spain is making to demonstrate her goodwill towards the United Nations and especially towards the United States, the more pressure is exerted upon her and the more warnings she receives. It seems that one of the grounds on which it is sought to justify this course is the allegation that the Spanish Government aided the Axis powers.

Generally, it can be established that any action favorable to the Axis powers by Spain was taken under pressure and in self-defense in order to prevent an Axis invasion which would have ruined Spain and caused incalculable injury to the Allied cause, on the other hand action taken favorable to the United Nations was prompted by a friendly feeling towards them.

The late President Roosevelt in his letter to Generalissimo Franco, in November, 19427 fully assured Spain that she had “nothing to fear [Page 1028] from the United Nations” and also said: “It is because your nation and mine are friends in the best sense of the word and because you and I are sincerely desirous of the continuation of that friendship for our mutual good that I want very simply to tell you of the compelling reasons that have forced me to send a powerful American military force to the assistance of the French possessions in North Africa.”

And Mr. Churchill, in his speech of May 24, 1944, in the House of Commons stated that “there is no doubt that if Spain had yielded to German blandishments and pressure, our burden would have been much heavier. The Straits of Gibraltar would have been closed and all access to the Mediterranean would have been cut off from the west, and the Spanish coasts would have become a nesting place for German U-boats. … I shall always consider it a service rendered by Spain, not only to the United Kingdom and the British Empire and Commonwealth, but to the cause of the United Nations. … I am here today to speak kindly words about Spain. Let me add this hope, that she will be a strong influence for the peace of the Mediterranean after the war. … The internal political arrangements in Spain are a matter for Spaniards themselves. It is not for us to meddle in these affairs as a government.”

Ex-Ambassador Hayes’ book Wartime Mission in Spain also clearly shows Spain’s goodwill towards the United States long before the end of the war. He says to this respect: … “The Spanish Government of General Franco has not been ‘thoroughly pro-Axis,’ but, rather, has long accorded a large number of important facilities to the Allied war-effort. Spain’s contributions to us in this respect compare favorably with those of any other neutral—Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, or Portugal.”

Current comment seems to be that documents found by the American missions in Germany raise a presumption against Spain. We have not yet seen these documents published. However, when I crossed Portugal on my recent trip to Spain, I saw in the Portuguese newspaper Diario de Las Noticias part of a correspondence between Hitler and Mussolini, referring to the Spanish position during the war and rebutting any such presumption. I quote a few paragraphs translated from the Portuguese text:

“Hitler to Mussolini—December 31, 1940—Spain, extremely uneasy by the situation, which Franco considers greatly changed, refuses to collaborate with the Axis powers. I think that Franco is making the greatest mistake of his life. I consider it extraordinarily naive his decision of accepting raw materials and cereal foods from the Democracies as some sort of reward for his avoidance of the conflict. They will thus keep him inactive until the delivery of the last grain of wheat and the time will come when these Democracies will attack [Page 1029] him. I regret it (Franco’s procedure) because for our part we had completed all the arrangements for a crossing of the Spanish border on January 10th, which would enable us to attack Gibraltar at the beginning of February. This, in my opinion, would permit us to achieve victory in a relatively short time. … I still entertain a very slight hope of a last-minute change of mind on his part, and that he, realizing at last the catastrophic effect of his conduct, will decide on another policy by attending to that front with whose victory his own fate is linked.”

“Hitler to Mussolini—February 28, 1941— … I take for granted that his (Franco’s) explanations mean that Spain does not want to enter the war either now or later. This is most annoying since we are thus deprived of easier ways to attack Great Britain in her Mediterranean possessions. On the other hand, the Spanish desertion is also deplorable because it eliminates the best opportunity of finishing once for all with the political unreliability of France.”

“Hitler to Mussolini—February 16, 1943—Should the Spanish Government have been ready to solve definitely Gilbraltar’s problem—and we had at our disposal at the time an unlimited supply of troops and armaments for the purpose—the whole Mediterranean campaign would have taken a different course. There would not have been then either Englishmen or Americans in North Africa but only Italians and Spaniards.”

“Mussolini to Hitler—March 9, 1943—Spain is yet a drawing card in our hands and, in spite of Franco’s fluctuating policies, I think we could play this card to a greater advantage for us, should the day arrive which would permit us to cross Spain’s territory to attack the Anglo-American defenses in North Africa on their rear. I know that our enemies are highly concerned over the eventuality of such a manoeuvre on our part.”

In what it refers to as the so-called Republican Government of Spain formed in Mexico, my letter to you of August8 clearly explains the true situation. May I add that the violent and persistent campaign against the Spanish Government is conducted by this group with the treasure stolen from Spain and brought to Mexico, and the help of all the Communist Organizations of the whole world.

In my letter before-mentioned I pointed out what the consequences would be should the policies announced by Dr. Negrin9 be imposed on Spain. I also pointed out who Dr. Negrin is and what is his standing among the Spanish people.

I shall conclude by repeating what I said to you in my letter of last August and in my statement to the press on my arrival in this country.

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Everybody in Spain, from Generalissimo Franco down to the humblest citizen of the smallest village, wish for the orderly and pacific evolution, to proceed without interruption to the consolidation of a permanent Governmental pattern, tending to have the Spanish people see their aspirations fulfilled and their needs satisfied. Spain is steadily and progressively restoring a political situation with a more representative system and a program is now being drawn for the present year in which the evolution already initiated with the announcement of Municipal elections for next March will be followed by the renovation of the “Cortes”, a liberal regime for the press, etc. Spain is ready for evolution but she needs time and peace to achieve it.

With the assurances of my highest consideration, I remain

Sincerely yours,

Juan F. de Cárdenas
  1. Secretary of State James F. Byrnes left Washington on January 7, 1946, to attend the General Assembly of the United Nations at London.
  2. The letter was released to the press November 8; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. iii, p. 306, or Department of State Bulletin, November 14, 1942, p. 906.
  3. Letter of August 30, 1945, not printed, but see the Secretary’s letter of September 11, 1945, in reply, Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. v, p. 688.
  4. Juan Negrin y Lopez was Premier of the Spanish Republic at the time of its defeat and was Premier of the Spanish Republican Government in Exile until August 1945.