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Notes on The Memoirs of Cordell Hull
by William P. Meyers

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Page 23
Negotiating with Spain's Francisco Franco During World War II

Although Spain's Roman Catholic fascists, led by General Francisco Franco, and been brought to power by help from Pope Pius XI, Adolf Hitler, and Benito Mussolini, during World War II Spain remained unaligned. Portugal, also ruled by fascists, also remained neutral. Cordell Hull recounts his efforts, along with Great Britain, to keep Spain and Portugal neutral and to maximize the military advantages of the Allies given that neutrality. Until Pearl Harbor the U.S. was also a neutral, but coordinated policy with the British Empire.

"British policy was to keep Spain and Portugal out of the conflict ... General Franco was under constant pressure ... to join openly with Berlin and Rome. [p. 874]

At Britain's request the U.S. limited "the number of neutral tankers available for Spanish charter, and in restricting the export of lubricating oil and aviation gasoline to Spain." [874]

As early as September 7, 1940, U.S. ambassador to Spain Alexander W. Weddell conveyed a Franco request for $100 million in credits for supplies from America. After negotiations the Spanish Foreign Minister Juan Beigbeder y Atienza pledged, in return for economic aid Spain would stay out of the war unless attacked. In October Franco and Roosevelt agreed the Red Cross would distribute American wheat in Spain. [875-876]

At that point, however, Beigbeder was replaced by Franco's brother-in-law Serrano Suner, who was more friendly to Hitler and arranged for the two dictators to meet. Hull then caused the wheat shipment to be delayed pending developments. [876-877]

Weddell was told to inform Franco that U.S. policy "was to provide all possible assistance to the British in their fight against aggression." [877] Hull also told Weddell to tell Franco to show mercy to political prisoners and refugees. Hull knew "the Spanish Government was carrying out political executions that deeply shocked public opinion here." [878]

The British pressed for immediate U.S. aid to Spain "in view of the imminence of famine there." Hull parried that the Spanish press [controlled by Franco] had attacked the U.S. for negotiating for military bases in Latin America. [878] Hull also complained that Britain was preventing the U.S. from sending milk and vitamins to children in unoccupied (Vichy) France. [879]

On November 29, 1940, Weddell had an interview with General Franco, who said that Spain did not intend to enter the war, "could not help the Axis powers even if she wished," but that "no one could foresee what the future might bring forth." [879] Spain's taking over of the administration of Tangier caused further delays. [880]

After more negotiations with the British over relief for the French, on January 7, 1941 Hull informed Weddell that wheat would be shipped to Spain and milk and vitamins to France. [882]

Hull and the U.S. diplomatic corps also maintained relations with Vichy France and other nations during this period, with similar angling against the new German Empire in favor of the old British Empire. [882-887]

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