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

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Page 20
U.S. Stays Out of War; Winter War; Vatican; Japan Isolated

On September 3, 1939, Ambassador Joseph Kennedy informed Secretary of State Cordell Hull that the British and French empires had decided to declare war on Germany, turning a local European war into a a global war that would come to be known at World War II. Hull and his crew immediately started taking steps to line up with the empires. In applying the Neutrality Act they "discussed ways to avoid difficulties with the British." [675-676]

Hull also worked on President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's radio speech given the evening of September 3rd. Despite Hull's advice to officially appear to be strictly neutral, Roosevelt included the sentence: "Even a neutral cannot be asked to close his mind or his conscience." [676]

The German Navy captured an American freighter, City of Flint, carrying armaments to Britain on October 9. After a protracted diplomatic effort the ship was released with an American crew in Norway on December 3, 1939. [704-705]

The Russians and Finns were in a heated argument over ancient territorial grudges. On November 28, 1939 Russia (the U.S.S.R.) denounced its peace treaty with Finland. Hull and Roosevelt offered to mediate the dispute, but Stalin refused. Russia attacked Finland on November 30 [See Winter War]. The United States imposed a "moral" embargo on Russia immediately, in particular withdrawing U.S. airplane engineers. "This moral embargo went beyond the one in effect against Japan as it applied also to materials essential to airplane manufacture." "He [Roosevelt] also addressed appeals to Finland and Russia to refrain from bombing civilian populations." [706-707]

[WPM: Cordell Hull lacuna. Strangely, despite Hull's usually going into tedious detail well beyond the needs of his narrative, he completely failed to mention the lengthy 1936 visit by Eugenio Pacelli, Papal Secretary of State and later Pope Pius XII, to the U.S. or the deal FDR made re Father Charles Coughlin]

On December 14 Ambassador Bullit informed Hull that Benito Mussolini wanted to negotiate a peace in Europe. [712-713]

As early as July 1939 Roosevelt had been pushing for establishing some sort of diplomatic relations with the Vatican city-state. By then Pius XII [WPM: who had been deeply involved in the negotiations that brought Hitler to power] was Pope. They decided that any representative should be a Protestant Christian. Roosevelt wrote Hull on October 2 that he expected there would be a large number of refugees in Europe at the end of the war and that the Vatican might help to deal with them. That Christmas, in a letter to the Pope, President Roosevelt appointed Myron C. Taylor as his representative to the Vatican. [713-715]

Hull convinced Roosevelt not to send similar representatives to the Eastern Orthodox Church or to "the Mohammedans." [715-716]

The outbreak of war in Europe corresponded with internal political turmoil in Japan, resulting from the Russian-German non-aggression pact. Now Russia could be free to attack Japan, possibly along with China (or at least the warlords that sided with Chiang), Great Britain and the United States. On August 20, 1939 a new cabinet headed by General Nobuyuki Abe was formed. Hull saw Japanese anger with Hitler as a potential opening for U.S. diplomacy. Britain consulted with the U.S. about the Japanese situation. On September 5 Japan asked the British and French to withdraw their troops and warships from China, on the grounds that they were beligerants with Germany. On September 6, 1939 Hull wrote to Tokyo that "any action on the part of the Government of Japan to force the withdrawal of armed forces of France and Great Britain in China from that country would be interpreted in the United States as a direct step toward the elimination of Western influence from China; and that in the United States the consequent reaction as regards Japanese-American relations would be seriously prejudicial." He gave essentially the same speach to the Japanese Ambassador to the U.S., Horinouchi, on the 7th. [718-719]

Further, said Hull, "Shanghai is international ... The American Government cannot and does not admit any right of any power to force it out." [719]

The British and French were inclined to withdraw from China rather than risk a war with Japan while fighting a war with Germany. Hull notes that the Japanese and Russians had been fighting in Mongolia since the spring of 1939, but on September 16 signed an armistice. Hull wanted the British and French to stay in China with America. [720]

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