Wikileaks, avant la Wiki: FDR on Franco in 1945

February 8, 2011
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Eisenhower helped end Spain's post-war ostracism. Pictured here with the Generalissimo during his 1959 trip to Spain.

The wikileaks affaire has given us a glimpse  into the private language of diplomacy, into the kinds of things that diplomats say to each other and to their bosses when they think their remarks are off the record.

Historians have always placed great value on diplomatic communiqués for precisely this reason, though they usually do not gain access to those “off-the-record” dispatches until decades after the fact.  The main novelty of wikileaks is not so much the Machiavellian candor, but rather the Zuckerbergian timing, the facebook freshness of the leaks.  In some case, the leaked documents were but weeks old.

Here’s a 65 year-old “leaked” document.  It strikes me as fresh, but in a different way.  Between 1945 and 1953, the US and Spain pretty much completely overhauled their relations, as General Franco retooled himself and his regime as a stalwart ally in the Cold War.  I think that this post-war redefinition colors a great deal of our thinking about Spain and the US, and many tend to project back, retrospectively, that redefined “detente” between the two countries on to the war years (1936 – 1945).

But what did FDR really think and say about Spain before the rapprochement as Cold War allies?

My Dear Mr. Armour:  In connection with your new assignment as ambassador to Madrid I want you to have a frank statement of my views with regard to our relations with Spain.

Having been helped to power by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, and having patterned itself along totalitarian lines, the present regime in Spain is naturally the subject of distrust by a great many American citizens who find it difficult to see the justification for this country to continue to maintain relations with such a regime.  Most certainly we do not forget Spain’s official position with and assistance to our Axis enemies at a time when the fortunes of war were less favorable to us, nor can we disregard the activities, aims, organizations, and public utterances of the Falange, both past and present.  These memories cannot be wiped out by actions more favorable to us now that we are about to achieve our goal of complete victory over those enemies of ours with whom the present Spanish regime identified itself in the past spiritually and by its public expressions and acts.

The fact that our government maintains formal diplomatic relations with the present Spanish regime should not be interpreted by anyone to imply approval of that regime and its sole party, the Falange, which has been openly hostile to the United States and which has tried to spread its facsict party ideas in the Western Hemisphere.  Our victory over Germany will carry with it the extermination of Nazi and similar ideologies.

(FDR to Ambassador Armour in Spain, March 10, 1945; p. 223 in Modern Spain:  A Documentary History, ed. Jon Cowans, Philadelphia: University of PA Press, 2003.) Buy the book at Powell’s and support ALBA.

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2 Responses to “ Wikileaks, avant la Wiki: FDR on Franco in 1945 ”

  1. […] March of 1945, President Roosevelt himself, in a missive to a diplomat, would characterize the continuity he perceived between the Spanish war and WWII, […]

  2. […] March of 1945, President Roosevelt himself, in a missive to a diplomat, would characterize the continuity he perceived between the Spanish war and WWII, […]

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