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to maintain their present positions. Tobruk is still being held but enemy forces are reported to be operating between Tobruk and Sollum. Forces formerly engaged in East Africa have already begun to arrive and others are being sent from Palestine. The shortage of armored equipment is understood to be of great concern.

An encouraging feature of the situation is the heavy losses inflicted on German planes and particularly the effectiveness of fire by ground troops on dive bombers. Thus as a result of this toll on enemy planes and the alleged transfer of some German planes to the Balkans it is said that for the time being at least German aviation is not presenting as serious a problem as had been anticipated. On the other hand British air strength is still considered to be distinctly inadequate to meet existing requirements and the fact that many American planes shipped to this area have developed troubles rendering them unserviceable for immediate use has undoubtedly constituted a serious drawback in this respect.


740.0011 European War 1939/9980: Telegram

The Minister in Egypt (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

CAIRO, April 14, 1941–9 p. m.

[Received April 16–3: 10 a. m.] 265. The Legation's 264, April 14, 8 p. m.' The Legation has been informed by an [a British?] Embassy source that in the conference between General Wavell and the Prime Minister this morning the former outlined the situation in the western desert and stated that although the tactics being employed by the enemy were such that small forces might turn up at unexpected places the situation as a whole was well in hand. In reply to the Prime Minister's question regarding the possible necessity for the use of Egyptian troops General Wavell is said to have stated that Egyptian forces would not be required on the western desert but that their cooperation in maintaining internal security and guarding the Suez Canal would be helpful. This is presumably the agreement submitted in secret session to Parliament mentioned in the Legation's telegram under reference.

The leading editorial of the paper in question appeals for confidence in Wavell and stresses the points that the RAF 10 and the Fleet are the incontestable masters of the air and seas of Libya and that a battle in the real sense of the word has not yet taken place.


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740.0011 European War 1939/10020: Telegram

The Minister in Egypt (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

CAIRO, April 15, 1941–5 p. m.

[Received April 16–9:55 p. m.] 273. The Legation's 253, April 13, 11 a. m., and 258, April 14, 10 a. m.11 Informed circles here now appear to be more reassured regarding the situation in the western desert in view of the decisive repulse of attacks on Tobruk, continued successes of the RAF and evidence that the German Italian drive shows signs of having spent its force. Latest reports indicate sharp fighting in the Sollum area but thus far no advance beyond that point has been reported. While admitting that further surprises may still be anticipated, responsible sources apparently feel that the immediate situation has improved in the past 48 hours and that the probability of the present operation developing into a serious attack on Egypt is for the moment less likely.


740.0011 European War 1939/100384: Telegram
The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary

of State

LONDON, April 16, 1941–11 p. m.

[Received April 16—10:16 p. m.] 1515. Personal for the President from the Former Naval Person.12

3. I am personally not unduly anxious about the Libyan-Egyptian position. We estimate Germans have one colonial armoured division and perhaps the whole of one ordinary armoured division comprising say 600 to 650 tanks of which a good many have already been destroyed or have broken down. There are no German infantry in Cyrenaica except the few battalions comprised in the German armoured divisions. Difficulties of supply of petrol, food, water, and ammunition must be severe and we know from prisoners of the strain under which these audacious formations are working. We are naturally trying to bring our own armoured forces which were largely refitting at the time of the attack into action and are reinforcing Egypt from all parts of the Middle East where we have nearly half a million men. Tobruk I regard as an invaluable bridgehead or sally port. We do not feel at all outmatched at present in the air and are growing stronger constantly. The whole power of the Mediterranean Fleet which is being strongly reinforced will be used to cut the sea and coastal communications. There are of course Italian forces besides the Germans and we believe the Germans are now sending or trying to send a third armoured division from Sicily.

11 Latter not printed. 1 Code name for Winston S. Churchill, British Prime Minister.

4. The repulse of the German attacks on Tobruk on the 14th and 15th seems to me important as this small fierce fight in which the enemy lost prisoners, killed, and tanks, together with aircraft, out of all proportion to our losses, is the first time they have tasted defeat and they are working on very small margins.

Meanwhile our efforts to turn off the tap have met with a noteworthy success in the Mediterranean. Our destroyers from Malta in the early hours of this morning, 16th, caught a German Italian convoy of 5 large ships loaded with ammunition and mechanical transport and escorted by 3 Italian destroyers. The whole convoy and all its escort were sunk. We lost one destroyer in the fight. We are keeping the strength of our forces secret for the present. [Churchill.]


740.0011 European War 1939/10288: Telegram
The Minister in Egypt (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

CAIRO, April 23, 1941—11 a. m.

[Received April 24–12:44 p. m.] 319. For the Secretary and Under Secretary. From tentative information available to me the following is a brief estimate of the material immediately essential for the defense of Egypt and the Canal Zone.

(1) In addition to the 170 Tomahawks now in Takoradi but at present grounded owing to mechanical defects, 100 fighter planes and 100 checker bombers;

(2) 350 cruiser 12-ton tanks.

An amplification of this estimate may be obtained from the reports to the War Department of the Military Attaché to this Legation.

It is impossible to determine whether Hitler's next move will be against Egypt and the Canal or whether he will first intensify his attacks against Britain. Furthermore, conjectures are profitless as to whether this move will develop as a direct attack from Tripoli or whether it will be preceded or attended by attacks on Turkey or even against Gibraltar. The fact remains that, whatever other action Hitler or the Governments aligned with him may take in other parts, it is only logical to consider that this area is positively threatened and the threat must be regarded as immediate. Although since my arrival here I have endeavored in every possible way to satisfy myself that measures are under way to meet the essential requirements in material for the defense of Egypt and the Canal I must reiuctantly admit that I have been unsuccessful. It is on that account that I am now submitting the foregoing brief and incomplete estimate of requirements and urge with all vigor that if everything possible is not already being done the Government of the United States take the initiative in determining what material should and can be sent here immediately and see to it that deliveries are made without delay either by air or by sea.


740.0011 European War 1939/10358 : Telegram

The Minister in Egypt (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

CAIRO, April 25, 1941—2 p. m.

[Received April 27—7:45 a. m.] 330. The Legation's telegram No. 101, June 12, 5 p. m. 1940, and its despatch No. 2257, November 23, 1940.13 Since the beginning of April when the advance of the Italo-German force toward Egypt began, a wave of rumors and false information of a subversive nature has swept over Cairo and consequently the Egyptian authorities have been obliged to issue two warnings to the public against the spreading of false rumors and divulging military information. In this connection, the Legation has received a note from the Foreign Office transmitting a copy of a decision reached by the Council of Ministers on April 7 defining “territorial defense secrets” of which the substance has been published in the press and attached to the note was a copy of the penal laws upon which the decision was based.

The Legation has received a confidential report to the effect that the Egyptian authorities intend to follow up the warnings to the public by active measures and are preparing lists of aliens and Egyptians who are to be arrested. These lists include a small number of Hungarians, Bulgarians and Rumanians who are to be arrested within a few days, as well as a fairly large number of German and Italian women. Personnel and facilities for interning women are now lacking but should be ready within a short time. The arrest of Egyptians presents a more knotty problem than in the case of most aliens and apparently there exists considerable difference of opinion as to the advisability of arresting certain Egyptians whose names have been placed at least tentatively on the list of dangerous persons. According to the report no serious cases of sabotage have been committed thus far in Egypt and apparently the Italian and German fifth columns in this country are believed to be organized primarily for propaganda purposes.


1 Neither printed.

740.0011 European War 1939/10388: Telegram

The Minister in Egypt (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

CAIRO, April 27, 1941–11 a. m.

[Received April 28–6:30 a. m.] 349. My 319.14 It is impossible to exclude the possibility that developments may at any time produce conditions endangering civilians in this area. On May 19, 1940, a circular warning was sent to Americans in Egypt urging them to leave the country but a certain number including women and children have remained consisting almost exclusively of persons or families who decided that they could not or should not leave their occupations here. As the Department has been informed both the Egyptian and British authorities have adopted every possible measure, in view of the recent aggravation of the threat to Egyptian territory, to allay any panic among the native population and accordingly I have not considered it advisable to reissue written warnings to Americans here which could not escape broad publicity. As a compromise measure, however, I have informed orally the leaders of the American colony and all others who have approached me that all Americans who are not prepared to meet any eventuality at any moment should avail themselves immediately of the meager transportation facilities still available to leave the country and I have instructed all officers in Egypt to make the same statement to all inquiries.



740.0011 European War 1939/10483: Telegram

The Minister in Egypt (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

CAIRO, April 29, 1941–1 p. m.

[Received April 30–9:07 a. m.] 364. My 363, April 29, noon.15 Although the advance into Egypt is reported to have halted a short distance over the frontier I understand that it has already served to give the German and Italian forces control of two important advance airfields and the passes down the escarpment at Halfaya and Sollum.

In the course of my latest conversations with the highest military authorities here the comment has been only general and to the effect that critical times are ahead.


14 Dated April 23, 11 a. m., p. 270. 16 Not printed.

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