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two vessels chartered by Pan American Airways, at present unloading gasoline and other necessary materials, have been afforded temporary protection by a British naval vessel stationed at Freetown, Sierra Leone. The British Chargé d'Affaires at Monrovia, as well as members of the Liberian Cabinet, has expressed serious concern over the possibility of a surprise attack by the Germans in the near future against the Pan American development and the rubber plantations, and the problem of protecting ships engaged in delivering supplies will require serious attention in the immediate future.

It is understood that the United States War Department does not consider itself in a position to take military action in the matter of protecting American interests in Liberia, and has suggested to the Senior Member of the British military mission in Washington, that the matter should be handled by the British Government. While it is true that the British in July 1939 gave an oral commitment to the Liberian Minister in London 22 that Great Britain could not remain indifferent if Liberia were the victim of unwarranted aggression, the terms of that agreement are not believed adequate to cover the situation today. Moreover, any action by the British to take over or even to participate in the land defenses of Liberia would be certain to arouse the deepest resentment on the part of Liberians. Owing to the past British record in Liberia, no confidence is placed in Great Britain by Liberia, and it is even believed that many Liberians might prefer German protection if there were no other alternative.

The Navy Department has not yet been consulted in this matter, but for obvious reasons it is considered that the naval protection of Liberia is fully as important as that which could be offered by the War Department.

In view of the fact that the stake in Liberia is predominantly American, and since the airport and its attendant operations are wholly an American enterprise, it would seem highly desirable that the protection of Liberia, or at least the land protection, should be undertaken wholly by American forces. It may be recalled in this connection that when the idea first arose of using Liberia as a landing point in the ferrying of bombers across Africa, President Roosevelt had in mind the sending of a force of approximately 500 Marines to prepare the way for the construction of an American air base in Liberia. It has recently been suggested that suitable protection might be afforded by stationing a number of American Navy bombing planes at Fisherman Lake for the purpose of patrolling the Liberian Coast. In addition, it would seem desirable to supply anti-aircraft guns, machine guns, reconnaissance planes and fighting aircraft for the

22 See telegram No. 956, July 8, 1939, 6 p. m., from the Ambassador in the United Kingdom, Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. IV, p. 601.

defense of the airport at Harbel. The question of recruiting and arming a Liberian defense force might also have to be taken into consideration.

These questions are given urgent importance by the reply delivered by President Barclay (paraphrase of which is attached) under date of December 22, 1941 23 to a proposal made by the War Department to assist Liberia in the construction of an arterial road system in return for the land lease of the airport. President Barclay has stressed the view of the Liberian Government that should the air bases be put to military or belligerent uses by the Government of the United States, the Liberian Government should be entitled to substantial assistance to protect its territory and its inhabitants against retaliatory action by the enemies of the United States. It is pointed out by President Barclay that while the United States might naturally defend its own bases in Liberia, it would rest under no obligation to protect the whole of Liberian territory unless a formal undertaking had been made to do so. Related questions such as the increase of communication facilities and the laying out of strategic roads, are also emphasized in this connection, and an answer on this subject is obviously due to President Barclay before he can be expected to cooperate in the plans of the Government.

In view of its vital importance to the defense of the United States, it is believed that the entire question of protecting Liberia from possible enemy attack calls for the fullest and most careful consideration at the earliest possible moment.

23 See telegram No. 131, December 22, 2 p. m., from the Minister in Liberia, p. 544.



740.0011 European War 1939/6623: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Spain (Weddell)

WASHINGTON, January 8, 1941-6 p. m.

16. Your 635, November 12, 1 p. m.2 Please seek an early occasion to discuss with the Foreign Minister 2a the situation at Tangier and recall to him the contents of your note of November 11, 1940.3 Point out that although this Government is not a party to the Tangier Statute * it not only has extensive rights in Morocco, based upon treaties, custom and usage, but also, as an important naval power, it has an inescapable interest in any developments taking place in Tangier which would be likely to alter the neutral character of that port and district. Add that in view of recent developments at Tangier, which your Government has observed with some misgivings, the attention of the Spanish Government is again invited to the above-mentioned American rights and interests in Tangier, in order that there may be avoided any future misunderstanding which might hinder the progress of those friendly relations which we are anxious to develop with Spain.

Please leave with the Foreign Minister an aide-mémoire in the sense of the foregoing and report the results of your conversation by telegraph.

Repeat to Tangier.


1 For previous correspondence regarding the Spanish occupation of the Tangier Zone and reservation of American treaty rights, see Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. III, pp. 783 ff.


2 Ibid., p. 792.

2a Ramón Serrano Suñer.

For text, see Department's telegraphic instruction No. 297, November 9, 1940, 6 p. m., to the Ambassador in Spain, Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. III, p. 789. Convention regarding the organization of the statute of the Tangier Zone, signed at Paris, December 18, 1923, League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. XXVIII, p. 541; agreement of July 25, 1928, revising this Convention, ibid., vol. LXXXVII, p. 211.


740.0011 European War 1939/7731: Telegram

The Ambassador in Spain (Weddell) to the Secretary of State

MADRID, January 19, 1941-2 p. m. [Received January 20-1: 05 a. m.]

50. Department's No. 16, January 8, 6 p. m. The absence from Madrid of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and his subsequent illness have as yet prevented me from bringing to his attention the contents of the telegram referred to, but I am hopeful of seeing him in the next few days.

However, this morning the British Ambassador 4a asked me if I would not postpone for a few days speaking to the Foreign Minister on the subject of Tangier.

In explanation of this request the Ambassador said that he had received written guarantees "better than he expected" concerning the fortification of the port named but that due, as he believes, to poor administrative practice he still awaits formal assurances covering capitulations and fears that action on my part at this time might be construed and resented as "pressure" which might delay formal fulfillment by the Spanish Government of its verbal promises. The Ambassador said he would at once communicate with Washington through London with a view to fully informing the Department on this point.

In a personal message just received the Ambassador asks me to make clear to the Department that his suggestion is not due to any weakening on their side but rather to his conviction that there is a good chance of securing a reasonable modus vivendi that will assure a due respect for international interests and non-fortification of the zone. He adds that any agreement made will be provisional and all juridical rights will be safeguarded.

In all the circumstances I perceive no objection to the course suggested and shall accordingly defer action.


740.0011 European War 1939/7731: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Spain (Weddell)

WASHINGTON, January 25, 1941–5 p. m.

38. Your 50, January 19, 2 p. m. In view of the changed situation which you report, and particularly since the Foreign Minister has now given apparently satisfactory guarantees regarding the non-fortification of Tangier, the Department considers that it might be preferable to present to the Spanish Government in another form the considerations outlined in its 16, January 8, 6 p. m.

4a Sir Samuel Hoare.


In order to afford an opportunity for the presentation of our views it would appear desirable for you to endeavor to have the Spanish Government communicate to you a copy of the written guarantees which have been furnished to the British Ambassador. Such an arrangement would be similar to that followed in June 1940 when Beigbeder transmitted to you a copy of the note which had been sent to the British Ambassador concerning the occupation of Tangier (your 192, June 14, 1 p. m.). The receipt of a copy of the guarantees regarding the non-fortification of Tangier would afford this Government an opportunity in reply to draw attention for the record to certain of the points outlined in its 16, January 8, 6 p. m. Please comment on this method of procedure.


740.0011 European War 1939/8003: Telegram

The Ambassador in Spain (Weddell) to the Secretary of State

MADRID, January 29, 1941-6 p. m. [Received January 30-6: 40 a. m.]

78. Department's No. 38, January 25, 5 p. m. The British Ambassador today informed me that he had had a long but unsatisfactory conversation with the Foreign Minister yesterday in the course of which he endeavored to obtain from him in writing "the verbal assurances already given concerning the capitulations at Tangier.” He said that this request was resisted by the Foreign Minister who declared that Britain's attitude affected "the independence" of Spain and that he should be satisfied with what he had already obtained.

The Ambassador feels that this intransigent attitude of the Foreign Minister is due to pressure from Germany whose representative he believes has been informed of commitments already made. The Ambassador reiterated to me that he had obtained formal written assurances concerning the non-fortification of the area. He also said that he did not regard the situation "as by any means hopeless", that the whole matter was now before London for its action and earnestly implored me to delay presenting my note concerning Tangier or discussing the subject for a few days longer when he would have London's reaction to the matter.

In the circumstances I think that no harm would be done in deferring approaching the Foreign Office for a copy of written guarantees which have been furnished the British Ambassador.

Juan Beigbeder, then Spanish Foreign Minister. "Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. III, p. 783.


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