No. 69 NAI DFA 227/100

Letter from Robert Brennan to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Washington, 14 November 1939

In accordance with your instructions contained in cables Nos. 235, 236 and 2381, I called to the State Department on Monday, the 13th of November, and interviewed Mr. Berle,2 the Assistant Secretary of State, on the matter of shipping and air services to Ireland. The result I have reported in my cable No. 201 of the 13th of November.3

Mr. Berle told me, as I had been previously informed, that the zones were fixed because of the charts showing points where ships had been attacked. He added, however, that if Irish ports had been kept open the suspicion that American ships were carrying goods which might be transhipped to England would invite attack by German submarines. I asked him if an undertaking were given by the Irish Government that such transhipment would not take place would it have any effect. I explained that I had no instructions to ask a question of the kind. He replied that he would not say it would not have any effect, but that America was very chary about entering into any arrangements of the kind in Europe. Later, Mr. Stewart of the European Division, said that in that case it might be necessary to get the German Government to give an undertaking not to attack American ships travelling to Ireland which did not carry goods for transhipment.

On the question of the air service to Foynes,4 I pointed out that there was no case for restricting this service because flying boats were not subject to the same danger as surface craft which could be attacked by submarines. Mr. Berle said there was something to be said for that, but that in any case there would have been no service to Foynes for the winter. Later I saw Mr. Burke, Head of the Division of International Communications, on the same matter. He said there was a good case for opening Foynes and he would do his best in the matter.

I have not seen the charts showing points where ships were attacked. Would it be possible for you to prepare such charts? They might well show that routes from New York to Cobh and more likely Galway are safer than some areas outside the present combat zones.

I enclose a copy of the map prepared by the State Department showing the combat zones, also a copy of the Neutrality Act in which the combat zones are defined, and copy of a Proclamation by the President.

A couple of hours after I returned from the State Department, I had a ring from Mr. Fitzmaurice of the International News Service. He asked if I had seen Mr. Berle at the State Department, and if it was in connection with shipping to Ireland. I told him that I could not give out anything on the subject, and that such information should be obtained from the State Department. He than contacted Mr. McDermott, Chief of the Division of Current Information, and Mr. McDermott told him it was all right. I then told Mr. Fitzmaurice and later Mr. Birding of the Associated Press the object of my visit to the State Department as well as the arguments in favour of restoring the services to Ireland. Clippings enclosed.

[signed] Robt. Brennan

1 None of the above printed.

2 Adolf Augustus Berle Jr (1895-1971), Assistant Secretary of State (1938-44), later Ambassador to Brazil (1945-6).

3 Not printed.

4 From 1939 to 1945 Foynes, Co Limerick, was a base for transatlantic flying boat services.

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