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Memorandum for the Secretary of War
December 3, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]
Subject: Seizure of Brazilian vessel by British Navy.1
With reference to Colonel Regnier’s2 statement in his memorandum to you of November 29th, outlining the British position with relation to the seizure of the “Siqueira Campos”, I think that the following details of our point of view should be brought forcibly to their attention:
The Brazilian Government purchased the war materiel in question, from Germany, after seeking bids from England and the United States. England did not choose to sell the materiel, and we did not have it to sell. Therefore, the contract with Germany—the only available source.
We denied the Brazilian Government their urgent request for arms and equipment, which we then had surplus. This materiel was turned over to the British Government at the time of the Dunkirk disaster. The large quantities involved have made it impossible for us to meet the requests of most of the South American countries. We have been greatly embarrassed in this situation. We are doing all in our power to build up a unified spirit in the Americas to offset the Nazi and Italian efforts to bore from within. This is a matter of great importance to us, which would seem to outweigh very decidedly the arguments of the British Government in this particular case.
We are seriously embarrassed because of our efforts to help Great Britain. The “grave breach” in the British blockade I cannot believe to be comparable to the grave embarrassment in which this Government is placed because of its present and previous policy of assistance to Great Britain.3
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed memorandum.
1. Several shipments of German-made arms purchased by Brazil had already reached that nation, but the British government advised the Brazilian government that no further shipments would be permitted. When Foreign Minister Oswaldo Aranha’s request that the Siqueira Campos be permitted to sail was rejected, he told the United States State Department that the Brazilian Army was determined to get the shipment and that if Britain did not relent, he would resign and permit the appointment of a new foreign minister having antidemocratic views. On November 16 the Brazilian government ordered the vessel to leave Lisbon without British permission. On November 21 the British notified Brazil that the ship had been seized and interned at Gibraltar. Brazilian authorities protested angrily. The United States charg