Volume 7 1941~1945

Doc No.

No. 247  NAI DFA Secretary's Files P2

Memorandum by Robert Brennan

WASHINGTON, 25 November 1942

On November 5th, Mr. Hickerson telephoned to the Legation and stated that word had been passed to a Government Agency in the State Department that there had been a large increase in the number of Japanese in Ireland since the war started in 1939, and that hundreds of Japanese had entered Ireland as tourists, and were still there, also that the staff of the Japanese Consulate had been largely increased. Mr. Hickerson stated that he did not believe the story, but that he would like a statement from us on the matter. We cabled the Department of External Affairs, and the reply was that outside the Japanese Consulate, where there is a Consul, a Vice-Consul and the wife of the former, the only Japanese in Ireland is an impoverished sailor, that is a total of four Japanese in the entire country.

The Irish Government take this query as a further indication of the extent to which America is misinformed about Ireland, especially in the matter of alleged Axis agents, alleged Axis espionage, alleged pro-Germanism, and imagined attacks on American troops. It is difficult to believe that this is not the result of a deliberate campaign to put Ireland in the wrong in the eyes of the people of America.

During the past couple of months we have had instances of grossly misleading information in such widely separated places as San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Boston, published by press and radio, on the matter of alleged activity of Nazi spies in Ireland. Mr. Upton Close1 amongst others, in a nationwide radio statement, said that it was nothing short of a miracle that the American expedition to North Africa had been a success, in view of the espionage in Ireland, which was a hotbed of Nazi spies. When I asked Mr. Close for his authority for this statement, he said quite frankly that he had none, and that he was going by what seemed to be a generally accepted belief. Miss Helen Kirkpatrick is at present on a lecture tour through the United States, her subject being Ireland and the War. We obtained a copy of her talk before the Chicago Council On Foreign Relations. She gives experiences of her own, purporting to prove the success of the Nazi espionage in Ireland. When her statements are examined, it is found that there is no real evidence, and that her case is based entirely on conjecture and suspicion. The whole case made by Miss Kirkpatrick and others engaged in this propaganda is that because of this espionage Ireland's neutrality is a real danger to the Allies, and that that danger must be removed.

It is obvious that if Miss Kirkpatrick, Mr. Close and the others engaged in this campaign were right, many would think it the duty of America to take steps to end this menace to her security. If, on the other hand, they are wrong, the campaign should be stopped for the sake of truth and in the interests of both countries.

In its policy of neutrality the Irish Government is supported by 99% of the people. The Government is taking every precaution to see that no one can take such advantage of this neutral position as would destroy our neutrality and jeopardize the safety of the nation. We have given the most solemn assurances that there is no effective Axis espionage working in Ireland. No responsible Irish person, whatever his sympathies, believes these malicious reports.

The constant reiteration of these false charges by American writers and publicists is producing a feeling of irritation in Ireland. Hitherto there has been in Ireland a warm feeling of more than friendship for America. It dates from before 1776, when the Continental Congress, differentiating between Ireland and England, placed on record its appreciation of the attitude of the people of Ireland. They said: 'Your country has done us no wrong.' Any time during the more than a century and a half that has intervened, any American Government could have re-echoed the words: 'Your country has done us no wrong.' To-day that feeling of friendliness for America is still strong in the Irish people, if for no other reason than that every family in Ireland has near relatives here, all of them good and loyal citizens, finding a livelihood and security in this great land.

It is nothing short of disastrous that this great fount of goodwill and friendliness between our peoples is now jeopardized by a malign campaign of misrepresentation. The Irish are bewildered to think that from these unfounded charges there seems to be no court of appeal. Across from them they see the people of England who were hitherto their hereditary enemies, but who now seem much more just in their judgments than are their friends in America. The British have been in the war for three years, and if it is true that the enemies of the Allied cause have been using neutral Ireland to injure that cause, surely the British should have known of it. What is the case? Many of the slanders against Ireland's good name have been refuted in the British Parliament. They have been independently refuted in the British press. When the enemies of Ireland first put forth the lie that Ireland was a menace because of this supposed espionage, the London Times sent a special correspondent to Ireland. His report was printed in the London Times of July 17th, 1940. He said:

'Many wild statements have been made in Great Britain about the size and influence of the German Legation in Dublin. Actually it has not more than half a dozen men, with two or three women typists. Its behaviour has been uniformly correct, and the stories of its activities as a vast centre of espionage are without foundation.'

The Irish people naturally expect to receive a fairer hearing at the bar of public opinion in America than at that of England, but this is not the case. If they find to-day that their old enemy England is more fair and just than is their traditional friend, America, what are they to think?

I do not want to say that these reports are of American origin, but it is true that the American Legation in Dublin ever since the war started in 1939 has done nothing to allay the fears based on these reports. On the contrary, it has done much to foster amongst friends of the Allied cause, doubt and suspicion of the Irish people.

The time has now arrived when we have to consider whether the whole set-up of America's relations with Ireland and the Irish people generally, should not undergo a complete overhaul regarding the machinery of America's information about Ireland. You can help us in this. If the sources of information continue to be poisoned and there is a continuation of the present policy, the strain may be too great for even our strong friendship.

Surely it would be worth while in a world devastated as it is now that the United States, the greatest power on earth, should have in Ireland an independent and unprejudiced witness to seek and make known the truth, and to study ways and means of strengthening the ties between peoples whose ideals are the same. Through more than a thousand years we have given testimony of our faith in these ideals. No country on earth has made greater sacrifices for the cause of freedom and democracy. We do not change. If there were no military considerations whatsoever, if our very existence as a nation were not at stake, our national honour which stands high would compel us to see that no one should be allowed to abuse our neutral position – a privileged position if you like. In these matters I complain of, our national honour is impugned and naturally this is resented.

1 Upton Close (a.k.a. Josef Washington Hall) (1894-1960), American author, explorer and lecturer, known for his works on the Far East; Close broadcast on NBC during the Second World War.