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pression of majority feeling in Ireland if I was approached about arms from Washington in the absence of instructions to the contrary I would not recommend that he get them without undertakings beyond what I understood that he had given. He declared that he had promised Britain that her arms would at no time be used against her unless she were an aggressor. I replied that was not enough and said to the Premier “suppose the Germans invade and you ask for British aid and together you expell the enemy. Your neutrality has been violated. You are in the war. The British have saved you and wish to remain and to use air and naval bases undertaking to withdraw at the end of hostilities. If you refuse to grant these facilities and they insist on staying, do they become aggressors against whom you would use their arms?"

He replied ["]the British have never asked for such an undertaking and I would not make any promise as to what I would do if such a situation arose. ["] He made the point that the United States entered the last war not as an ally but an associate. I commented that I

. thought that this was a distinction without a difference and that we saw the war through to a victorious end; that he naturally could act as he pleased but unless he gave some undertaking to meet a situation of such a nature as I pictured I personally could not take the responsibility of recommending his getting arms from the United States.

He then began to talk about his rights. I told him that the way I saw [it?] at present the only right that [he?] and myself enjoyed was to believe in our religion and to be burned for it if need be. Every other right depended upon force to maintain it and that he was steering a very [apparent omission) course if he thought otherwise. He called my views the greatest exponent of force he has ever met. I made it clear that it was a case of facing realities.

Curious but almost friendly, I grow fond of Mr. de Valera as we argue. I said to him I would be glad to cooperate with him on any specific proposal that was reasonable. Memorandum of talk by pouch.8


841D.24/29 : Telegram

The Minister in Ireland (Gray) to the Secretary of State

DUBLIN, February 24, 1941–7 p. m.

[Received 9:06 p. m.] 23. Saturday afternoon, February 22, I had an interview with the Prime Minister at his request. He informed me that his Government had decided to send a special representative to Washington to explore the possibility of obtaining arms and other supplies; that it was thought desirable that he should be of Cabinet rank and that Frank Aiken, Minister for the Coordination of Defense had been selected. I said I thought it very advisable to send such a representative, as he would have his Government's viewpoint clearly in mind and would be able to bring back authoritative information as to the American position. I said I understood that Mr. Aiken had the Premier's complete confidence and was in unconditional sympathy with his policy regarding the existing crisis. I added that I understood he represented Leftist opinion in the Cabinet, but the Prime Minister said "not left, but center". I said that in any case he was a man not likely to become influenced either by blandishment or pressure. Mr. Aiken took part as a boy in the Black and Tan War' and in the Civil War 10 opposed the treaty. He became Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army and is reputed to have been of great service to the Government in influencing the Republican veterans organization to join with the Government in their recent defense measures. The Premier told me that he believed the most important service Ireland could render the Allied cause was to organize a quarter of a million highly trained and fully equipped fighting men who would protect England's flank. I said that this was highly desirable but again raised the question as to what undertaking he would make that American arms and munitions would not be used against the British. He said that it was obvious that this could never occur unless the English came as aggressors, since if they came as an enemy they put themselves on the same plane as the Germans. I asked him if he still felt that he could not give undertakings conditioned on the events of German invasion. He said it was evident that they would wish to see the thing through but that he would not bind himself as to conditions which might arise and which he could not foresee. I said that this was the same reason that made the British unwilling to promise that no matter (apparent omission) situation arose they would not seize the ports; that it created a vicious circle from which men of good will should try to escape by mutual compromise. I asked him if it was true that as I am informed that a defensive front against Ulster had been organized! He replied

8 Not printed.

a that unfortunately it was a fact; that his Government had been forced to this measure by the effects upon the public mind of the British Prime Minister's reference to the ports in a public statement. He deplored the fact that as a result of this action Anglo-Irish [relations ?] had steadily deteriorated.

He talked with great frankness and parried no questions. I was impressed with his good faith and sincerity though not subscribing to all conclusions expressed.

GRAY Conflict between the Irish Republican Army and British forces, 1920–21.

Conflict between the Irish Republican Army and the Free State Army, 1922-23.


841D.24/29 : Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Ireland (Gray)

WASHINGTON, February 28, 1941–6 p.m. 11. Your No.23, February 24,7 p.m.

(1) Your telegram contained the first intimation which we had received that the Irish Government was contemplating sending such a mission to this country.

(2) Although we have received no inquiry from the Irish Government as to whether the arrival of such a mission would be agreeable to this Government, we have received a telegram from the Embassy, London, requesting that we arrange clipper passage for Aiken and Nunan, and we are endeavoring to comply with this request.

(3) In discussing this matter with the Prime Minister, you should make it clear that the production of the American munitions industry for periods varying from several months to more than a year is already preempted under orders received from our own Army and Navy, and from the British, the Canadian, the Chinese, and other governments that are engaged in resisting aggression. Therefore, although the mission may be able to place some few orders for delivery within a reasonable length of time, it must not expect if it acts alone without the assistance of the British Purchasing Commission to be able to place substantial orders for munitions for immediate delivery. We shall, upon arrival of the mission, be glad to place Aiken in communication with the authorities of this Government who will be in a position to assist him so far as the situation will permit. The work of the mission would, of course, be greatly facilitated if it were instructed to cooperate with the British Purchasing Commission. The latter has placed extensive orders and it might be possible for it to arrange to turn over to the Irish a portion of the munitions which will be delivered in the near future in exchange for others to be delivered later under contracts entered into by the Irish Mission.

(4) This proposed mission was brought up during Brennan's 11 visit to the Department yesterday.


740.0011 European War 1939/8740 : Telegram

The Minister in Ireland (Gray) to the Secretary of State

DUBLIN, March 3, 1941–4p.m.

[Received March 3—2:37 p. m.] 25. For the Under Secretary. On February 26 at my request the Prime Minister received me. I set forth the substance of the Under Secretary's letter to me dated December 26, 1940, with memorandum of conversations with Brennan enclosed.12 I pointed out I had left with the Prime Minister a copy of the paraphrased text of the Under Secretary's instructions to me dated November 19 13 when he received me on November 22 and that this text would obviously be conclusive as to what Mr. Welles said. The paraphrased text was produced from the files and he suggested that a misunderstanding must have arisen as between Brennan and his office. I made no comment on this point. He did not suggest that I had attempted to alter the text in conversation and accepted without objection the letter which I handed him and which he read in my presence giving my view of the transaction.

11 Robert Brennan, Irish Minister.




The Irish Prime Minister (De Valera) to President Roosevelt

DUBLIN, March 4, 1941. DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: This will introduce Mr. Frank Aiken, Minister for Co-ordination of Defensive Measures in our Government. He will give you first hand information on our position and explain to you our need for defensive equipment and for certain other supplies which we wish to purchase in the United States. The things we want are unfortunately those in general demand at the present moment, but in amount they are such a small fraction of your total production that I am hopeful they can be obtained. May I once more ask for your kindly intervention on our behalf.

With all good wishes for you and for the United States and with warm regards I am [etc.]


841D.24/32: Telegram

The Minister in Ireland (Gray) to the Secretary of State

DUBLIN, March 7, 1941--1 p. m.

[Received 3:23 p. m.] 26. Your 11, February 28, 6 p. m.

Aiken on his way to Washington. On March 3 I called on Prime Minister and transmitted your views as to existing priority situation for obtaining American arms and munitions and your suggestion that the envoy be instructed to cooperate with British Purchasing Commission to ensure quick deliveries. I subscribe wholeheartedly to the implications of this suggestion. Last summer I endeavored to enlist your good offices to procure arms for Irish Government direct from America.14 I wish formally to recede from this position in view of changed conditions and fuller knowledge. This is not to be taken as an alarmist warning but as common prudence in view of unfortunate possibilities. If, as I suspect, you believe the decision to arm Ireland to be primarily a British responsibility I agree entirely ...

1 The memoranda referred to are those of November 9 and December 9, Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. III, pp. 166 and 173, respectively; Under Secretary's letter not printed.

1 Telegram No. 77, November 19, 6 p. m., ibid., p. 171.


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740.0011 European War 1939/8921 : Telegram

The Minister in Ireland (Gray) to the Secretary of State

DUBLIN, March 10, 1941-4 p. m.

[Received 6:10 p. m.] 27. Colonel Donovan 15 spent 4 hours in Dublin Saturday.16 His mission very helpful though apparently obtaining no intimations [as] to change of Irish policy. I have written the Prime Minister thanking him on the part of Colonel Donovan for his courtesy and recording gist of Colonel Donovan's talk with me as follows:

In my short talk with Colonel Donovan on the way to the airport he explained to me that beyond reading to you the special message with which he had been entrusted he had endeavored to make it clear that he was not expounding the policy of the American Government, but seeking information and suggesting the trends of American majority opinion. The purport of this appears to be that the United States assumes in no wise to criticize the policy of the Irish Government, but sorrowfully regrets that we do not see eye to eye and stand shoulder to shoulder in this struggle for the survival of Christian civilization and the rights of small nations. They regret that the Irish Government does not agree with them in the conviction that the safety of Ireland as also the importation of all sea-borne supplies including arms depends upon British sea power. And they regret that the Irish Government is unable to find any formula that would contribute to the security of the ocean lanes.


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14 See Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. III, pp. 160 fr.

Col. William J. Donovan, Personal Representative of the Secretary of the Navy on special mission in Europe.

10 March 8.

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