No. 689

249.111–Oatis, William/7–1751: Telegram

The Ambassador in Czechoslovakia (Briggs) to the Secretary of State 1


47. Notwithstanding Siroky’s sound and fury on receipt latest US note (Embtel 40, July 162) Oatis case thus far has been practical well dividends for Czecho [sic]. Commies have derived extraordinary propaganda benefits from public spectacle broken Amer correspondent confessing sins and implicating Emb personnel, all at no greater cost to Czecho than FonMin’s intermittent self-inflicted indignation. Dept’s denunciation of trial eloquent document3 but publicly ignored in Czecho, whereas declaring Czecho out of bounds to US citizens, only positive step taken by US Govt during three months since Oatis arrest, hardly impressive in terms effect on Commies.

In opinion non-Commie Prague diplomats including those most friendly to US, Amer prestige seriously jolted by Oatis case and failure strike solid blow in return. While I give this view no exaggerated importance, spectacle American being kicked around with impunity is hardly encouraging to Czech resistance sentiment.

There is of course no guarantee Amer retaliation will produce early Oatis release or won’t lead break in relations. Nevertheless [Page 1381] for reasons mentioned Embtels 6, July 24 and 24 July 85 and previous, unless Oatis immed set free once more urge adoption all possible retaliatory steps including those available Ger. Believe furthermore value of retaliation increased by application thereof without further delay, to end that Amb Prochazka be faced on arrival next week with relations in worst possible condition and inference they will remain there until Oatis released. Measures specifically recommended include:

Denial access air space over US zone Ger to Czech planes in conjunction Brit and Fr if possible but otherwise alone.
Blocking Czech assets in US (Embtel 696, May 56).
Public campaign against Czecho and Czech products, to be in full cry when Prochazka steps off ship next week.

  1. Repeated to Frankfurt for HICOG.
  2. Supra.
  3. Regarding the Department’s statement of July 4, see Document 686.
  4. In telegram 6, Briggs agreed that some sort of retaliation should follow the conclusion of the Oatis trial, because the United States could not afford to let pass such treatment of an American citizen-correspondent, even though there was no action available that could bring about his immediate release. (249.1111–Oatis, William/7–251)
  5. In telegram 24, Briggs expressed belief that it was important to “keep record straight” and have an early meeting with Široký to denounce Oatis’ trial and demand his release. (249.1111–Oatis, William/7–851)
  6. Not printed, but see footnote 5, Document 672.