Memorandum by the Secretary of State Regarding a Conversation With the British Ambassador (Lothian), 30 September 1940


[WASHINGTON,] September 30, 1940.

The British Ambassador called at his request. He invited my comment regarding the significance and probable effect of the recently announced German-Italian-Japanese alliance. I replied that I could better deal with the matter by referring to the views of capable analysts than by expressing an individual opinion. I went on to say that it came about primarily due to Hitler's effort to divert attention from his failure to invade Great Britain and to preserve his prestige by a sensational announcement of something that already existed. Then I merely recited the facts as to the true situation since 1937, up to and including my public statement following the announcement of the German-Japanese-Italian alliance last week. I could best illustrate this analysis of the matter by referring to what we have often said about the certainty that Japan would, as a most ordinary precaution, find it necessary to assume that whether or not the United States and Great Britain have express or, definite agreements in regard to naval and air bases across the Pacific to and including Singapore, the special relations between these two countries are such that they could overnight easily establish cooperative relations for the mutual use of all of these bases; that, therefore, the relations between Germany, Italy and Japan, each having a common objective of conquering certain areas of the world and each pursuing identical policies of force, devastation and seizure, have been during recent years on a basis of complete understanding and of mutual cooperation for all purposes mutually desirable and reasonably practicable, with the result that the recent announcement was part and parcel of the chain of related events. The Ambassador said that this was the view of himself and his Government.

I then added that I would be interested to make another inquiry, and that is whether and to what extent the British and Dutch Governments and peoples, especially in the South Pacific area, have conferred relative to pooling their defense forces in ease of threatened danger from elsewhere, and if so, what are the facts as to the size of such pooled forces, and what size fleet would be necessary to overcome and capture them and the countries they represent.

I then proceeded to say that this Government has pursued a definite and somewhat progressive line of acts and utterances in resisting Japanese aggression and treaty violations during recent years; that these acts and utterances have comprised repeated aid to China, successive moral embargoes, abandonment of the commercial treaty, actual embargoes under law, the sending of our Navy to Hawaii, together with appropriate statements. and notes of strong remonstrance against Japanese steps of aggression and constant repetition of the basic principles of world order under law. I added that I did not undertake to predict, much less to make commitments, as to how fast and how far this Government may go in following up the various acts and utterances in which it has been indulging; that, of course, the special desire of this Government is to see Great Britain succeed in the war and that its acts and utterances with respect to the Pacific area would be more or less affected as to time and extent by the question of what course would, on the part of this Government, most effectively and legitimately aid Great Britain in winning the war.


Source: U.S., Department of State, Publication 1983, Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941 (Washington, D.C.: U.S., Government Printing Office, 1943), pp. 574-76

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