From February 10 to March 10
UNITED STATES AND THE WAR
Assurances from Vichy.—The American State Department announced at the close of February that it had received formal assurances from the Vichy French Government that the latter would “abstain from any action, under reservation of the obligations resulting to it from the armistice agreements, which would not be in conformity with the position of neutrality in which it had been placed since June, 1940, and which it intended to maintain.” Vichy promised not to lend “any military aid to one of the two belligerents in any place . . . particularly the use of French vessels for purposes of war . . . and not to adopt a policy of assistance to the Axis beyond the terms of the armistice agreements.” This sounded well enough, but there might still be some doubt as to what the armistice terms really called for, especially in view of Vichy’s policy in Indo-China and extension of air fields for the use of Germans in Syria.
The reassurance was the delayed outcome of a note from the President to Marshal Petain on February 10 informing him that reports had been made of French aid for Axis forces in Africa, and that such acts would not only place France in the role of aiding the enemy but would be contrary to the wishes and future hopes of the French people. When the first responses to this note proved to be unsatisfactory, Admiral Leahy as Ambassador at Vichy was requested to seek definite information and to call for definite pledges regarding the French Navy and French supplies. Subsequently Mr. Welles stated in Washington that he had been given assurances that France had made no bargain with Japan about Madagascar, and that there had been no information regarding German use of French islands in the West Indies as submarine bases. On the pledge of February 24 rested continued recognition by the United States of the somewhat thread-bare Vichy neutrality. Evidence that the recognition was also wearing thin appeared in the American acceptance of Free French de facto control in the Pacific islands, and the destructive British R.A.F. raid on Paris munitions factories in March.
Free French Control Recognized.— In a State Department announcement of March 2, it was made clear that while the United States sympathized with “the desire of the French people to maintain their territories intact,” it also sympathized with the efforts of the French people to resist the forces of aggression, and hence it would treat with the French forces in effective control of French territories in the Pacific on the basis of their actual administration of the territories involved. In particular this government recognized “that French island possessions in that area were under the effective control of the French National Committee established in London,” and it would co-operate with this committee, and with no other authority, in the defense of the islands. The State Department declined to specify the islands, other than New Caledonia, included in this pledge, but it was presumed to include all near-by island groups and in fact Tahiti, the Marquesas, and all French islands in the South Seas. Admiral Argenlieu, in control at New Caledonia, is an adherent of the Free French.
At the close of February General de Gaulle summoned to London for a conference his representative in Washington, Adrien P. Tixler, and also Admiral Muselier, who has remained at St. Pierre- Miquelon since he occupied these islands. It was understood that the Admiral would resume his command of French naval forces in London, but that St. Pierre would continue under Free French occupation.
Admiral Standley to Russia.—As a second instance of an American naval officer now in prominent diplomatic service, Admiral William H. Standley was nominated in February to succeed Laurence A. Steinhart as Ambassador to Russia. Admiral Standley was in Moscow last year as a member of the supply commission sent to that country, and he was expected to rest again for his new post after a short leave following his service on the Pearl Harbor investigation committee. Mr. Steinhart was made our Ambassador to Turkey.
Economic Pact with Britain.—On February 24 the United States and Britain signed a declaration embodying certain broad principles which would be regarded as controlling British post-war payment of obligations under the Lease-Loan Act and which would tend to promote better postwar economic relations. The pact was an 8-point “Joint Declaration of Intentions” and since it called for no ratification could hardly be regarded as more binding on future governments of either country than its title indicated. By the terms of the declaration it was made clear that it would be the policy of this government to reduce compensation on the basis of Britain’s service in bearing the brunt of the war prior to American entry and her continuing to throw her full effort into the war. Furthermore, terms of payment would be so adjusted “as not to burden commerce between the two countries but to promote mutually advantageous economic relations between them, and the betterment of world-wide economic relations. It suggested that expansion of world trade should be promoted by elimination of all forms of discriminatory treatment, reduction of tariff barriers, and in general attainment of the economic objections set forth in the Atlantic charter. It will be recalled that the two economic clauses of the latter document are (1) equal access of all nations to trade and raw materials, and (2) world-wide co-operation to secure “improved living standards, economic adjustments, and social security.” Thus the two English-speaking nations, in the midst of war, set about laying the groundwork for a viable post-war settlement.
Pact with Brazil.—Early in March the State Department announced the signing of an economic agreement with Brazil, chiefly aimed at speeding up of Brazilian defense measures and production of strategic materials. The agreement was in four parts, providing: (1) extension of a credit of $100,000,000 through the Export-Import Bank; (2) development of the Itabara mining property and railway connections for procurement by Britain and the United States of high grade iron ores; (3) expanded assistance to Brazil under the Lease-Loan Act; and (4) establishment of a $5,000,000 fund to be used by the Rubber Research Co. in collaboration with the Brazilian Government in developing raw rubber production in the Amazon valley and adjacent regions. Brazil was to establish a new government organization devoted solely to the development of Brazilian natural resources and increased production, using the aid provided in the agreement.
Fernando de Noronha Base.—In February the Brazilian Government changed the political status of Fernando de Noronha, situated about 260 miles off the bulge of the South American east coast, from a division of the state of Pernambuco to a direct dependency of the Federal Government. Noronha island, consisting of about 12 square miles and largest of the group of 16 islands, has been taken over by the Army. Modern aircraft facilities have been constructed, and the base is to be developed as one of the key points in the defense of the South Atlantic, on the direct air route between Dakar, Africa, and points on the South American coast.
Upset in Uruguay.—On February 21 President Alfredo Baldomir of Uruguay dissolved Congress, postponed the elections set for March 29, and put troops in control of strategic points in the capital city of Montevideo. His cabinet resigned, and next day the President took over emergency powers and created a Council of State to assist him in administration and prepare constitutional reforms. President Baldomir’s troubles arose out of a peculiar provision of the present Uruguayan Constitution requiring that (when the winning party has not a clear majority of the total popular vote) the second-best party shall be given 3 out of 9 cabinet posts and half of the total seats in the Senate. The minority (Herrerista) members of Baldomir’s Cabinet were more or less opposed to his anti-Axis policy and succeeded in getting a resolution of condemnation passed by the Senate. The President promised a quick return to orderly processes of government after adoption of the constitutional changes evidently needed for effective administration.
Peru-Ecuador Accord.—At the close of February both Peru and Ecuador completed ratification of the border settlement protocol arranged at the Rio de Janeiro conference last January. Assistant Secretary of State Welles sent a message congratulating the two governments and citing their action as an example of the “ability and determination of the American republics to settle all disputes between them by peaceful methods.” The United States, Brazil, and Chile extended their good offices in bringing about the settlement.
Chile Defers Axis Break.—-It was announced in Chile in March that the Chilean Congress would not be called upon to ratify at once the accords reached at the Rio conference, and that a break with the Axis powers would be deferred until after the inauguration of President-elect Juan Antonio Rios on April 12. Chile registered a protest to Germany after the sinking of Brazilian and Venezuelan ships by submarines, but with the extension of Japanese naval activities in the Pacific she realizes the possibilities of naval operations on her far-extended coasts.
British Cabinet Reorganized.—Between February 19 and 22, in response to widespread criticism over the conduct of the war, Premier Churchill carried out an extensive cabinet reorganization. The most noteworthy change was the reduction of the inner “War Cabinet” from 9 to 7 members by the elimination of Arthur Greenwood and Sir Kingsley Wood. Its makeup was further changed by the substitution of Captain Oliver Lyttleton, minister with general supervision of production, in place of Lord Beaverbrook, and by the inclusion of Sir Stafford Cripps. The War Cabinet now consists of:
Prime Minister and Minister of Defense—Mr. Churchill
Dominions Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister —Clement R. Atlee
Lord Privy Seal and leader of the Commons— Sir Stafford Cripps
Lord President of the Council—Sir John Anderson
Foreign Secretary—Anthony Eden
Minister of State—Captain Oliver Lyttleton
Minister of Labor and National Service—Ernest Berin.
The War Cabinet was thus made more efficient by reduction in size and inclusion of three ministers free from departmental duties. It appears odd, however, that the War, Navy, and Air Ministries should not be represented in such a body. It was understood that Lord Beaverbrook was offered a place in the War Cabinet but declined on grounds of ill health. He was to go instead to the United States to have a hand in the pooling of resources of the United Nations.
The Prime Minister was relieved of some of his burdens by the appointment of Mr. Atlee as Deputy Premier with special supervision of domestic matters, and by the appointment of Sir Stafford Cripps as government spokesman in the House of Commons. As a strong left wing leader, Sir Stafford has been mentioned as a possible successor to the Prime Ministry. Among the numerous other cabinet changes the one of chief note was the appointment of Sir James Grigg, who has been permanent Under-Secretary of War since 1939, as Secretary of War, succeeding Captain David Margesson, who before he entered the Cabinet had long been Conservative Whip in the House of Commons. It remained to be seen whether this shifting of ministries, and especially the further reshuffling of production management, would achieve increased efficiency in war production or in the conduct of the war. The War Cabinet will hold regular meetings and also join periodically with representatives of the dominions to form an Imperial War Council.
Riom Trials.—The long-delayed Riom trials in France began on February 19, bringing to judgment General Gamelin, the two former premiers Blum and Daladier, two former air ministers La Chambre and Cot (now in this country), and former comptroller general of the Army Pierre Jacomet. Still awaiting trial were ex- Premier Paul Reynaud and ex-minister of the Interior Mandel. The accused were charged with betrayal of trust in the preparation for and conduct of the war. Despite some evidence of prejudice in the conduct of the trials, the former statesmen were given considerable freedom in their defense and used it to advantage. Blum declared truly enough that the pre-war Democracy of France was itself on trial. Daladier sought to throw the blame partly on governments preceding his own and partly on military leadership. He professed pride in having made De Gaulle a general, and declared that France had 3,600 tanks available against only 2,000 actually used by Germany. General Gamelin refused to testify, declaring he could not be a party to proceedings in which the French Army stood accused. Altogether the trials promised little save further exposure of a failure for which soldiers, politicians, and the whole nation must share responsibility.
Offers to India.—Coincident with the arrival in India of Marshal Chiang Kaishek for talks with British officials and Nationalist leaders, the British Government in early February extended to India representation in the Imperial War Cabinet and the newly created Pacific War Council. Much more than this, however, was expected by Pandit Nehru, successor to Gandhi as head of the India National Congress, and by other Nationalist leaders. At a conference on February 21 these leaders called for a position “identical with that of other self-governing dominions” and for an immediate conversion of the Viceroy’s Executive Council into a cabinet, with all 14 posts—not 9 as at present—held by natives. That all this should be granted at once was the view also of the Labor party in England. Yet it appeared likely the British Government would still incline to half measures. In Parliament it was announced that the question “would be debated shortly” and that Britain was “in favor of India’s political freedom.” Concessions were inevitable.
During his visit Marshal Chiang conferred with Pandit Nehru, talked with Mohandas Gandhi, and issued a double appeal—to India to put its “utmost exertion in defense against aggression,” and to England to grant the Indian people “real political power.” Despite Moslem- Hindu disunity, it would mean much if the popular support of 352,000,000 natives of India could be counted fully with the United Nations. An American mission of war production experts arrived in India early in March.
Japan and Russia.—In February the Soviet Ambassador to Tokyo, Constantin Smetanin, returned to Moscow, and shortly afterward it was announced that the Japanese Ambassador at Moscow, General Tatekawa, would be replaced by Naotaka Sato. Since Sato has been rated as a Liberal and not in full accord with the dominant military element in Japan, there was a suggestion that his role in Moscow might be like that of Kurusu in Washington, to serve as a cloak for a surprise attack. In announcing Sato’s appointment Premier Tojo declared that Japan’s defenses in the north were so strong as to provide “absolute security” against any threat from that direction.
Portuguese Protests.—Premier Salazar Oliveira of Portugal announced on February 21 that his government had made an “energetic protest” to Japan over the occupation of the island of Timor, west of Australia, which has been partly under Dutch and partly under Portuguese sovereignty. Portugal had earlier protested at British occupation of her territory on the island, but it appeared that at the time of the Japanese incursion Portugal and Britain had reached a settlement and Portuguese troops were on their way to replace Anglo-Dutch forces. Japan guaranteed the “territorial integrity” of Timor so long as Portugal remained neutral, and in the existing situation it seemed unlikely that Portuguese action would go beyond protests.
Australia and the War.—Early in February it was announced that a Pacific War Council had been set up in London on which the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand would be represented, and on which China also agreed later to place a representative. The council would co-operate with and advise the Anglo-American Chiefs of Staff organization and would have some power to take executive action. Australia accepted the arrangement, though Prime Minister John Curtin indicated that his government had recommended that the Council be established not in London but in Washington, where it would be in closer contact with the formation of military decisions. Australia has come to a realization that in the existing situation her support must come chiefly from United States.