Irish Neutrality 1939-45: How Much of It was a Sham?


Nebuchadnezzar

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@ Redfellow.....
[*]I'm not convinced Fw200 Condors passed over Berehaven on a regular daily bus-run.
[/LIST]
......

Why not? General Mulcahy highlighting the fact that German aircraft were flying up along our west coast to Dev in early 1941 supports Robert Fisk’s interview with a local at Berehaven and his claim of daily overflights.

It would be interesting to look directly at the records of the Marine and Coast Watching Service but failing that here is some further evidence(based on those records).....

Posts further down the coast as far as Achill observed and heard both German and British reconnaissance aircraft passing overhead. The aircraft were also observed by the LOPs in the Southern Command area, Colonel M.J. Costello reporting to Liam Archer that during September 1940 ‘much of the activity … reported indicates the passage of aircraft apparently going to and from definite objectives to the North East and North West of the command area.’(32) The sighting of ‘a four engined German bomber’ on 4 September and regular reports of ‘large and heavy’ types or ‘bomber or bomber type’(33) of aircraft passing over Ireland at night proved that Condors were taking short cuts over Ireland on their way to the North Atlantic convoy routes. At first these aircraft operated almost to timetable on routine reconnaissance patrols and on hunts for shipping, but later they appeared ‘to be losing the semblance of timetable regularity … this may indicate that German aircraft activity is now being operated at least to some extent, on information concerning traffic on the North Atlantic shipping routes.’(34)
The Condors, in addition to the ambling reconnaissance fights of RAF Coastal Command which made regular tours of the southern Irish coast, were a sign that from September 1940 ‘the infringement of our neutrality … has become much more prevalent, and appears to be deliberate rather than accidental.’(35) There was now, Costello wrote, ‘a progressively increasing disregard for our neutrality by both belligerents.’(36)
https://www.mariner.ie/g2-coastwatching/
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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August 1943 an American B24 Liberator versus 2 Condors.....

The battle was spectacular. He had never flown fighters—his experience had been in B-18 and B-25 bombers—and he had never been in a dogfight, so the combat that day was the ultimate on-the-job training. He initiated the fight by diving his 28-ton bomber out of the clouds at 1,000 feet on the tail of the lead Condor. He told his gunners to hold fire until they got within range. But the Condor “fired a sighting burst and started hitting me,” he says. “I shoved the throttles and prop pitch forward and closed as fast as I could, and I opened fire. They never came out of their diving turn, and went in on fire. But boy, they had done us damage.”

The second Condor, meanwhile, was firing at Maxwell from behind, and Maxwell’s gunners were returning fire. But the Liberator had lost its number-three and -four engines, and the right wing was full of holes and in flames. The bomber was especially vulnerable to attack because modifications for anti-submarine work (enabling the aircraft to carry more fuel and a maximum load of depth charges) had required removing all the armor plating that protected the crew. So when the Condor’s bullets struck, “all of us got hit by shrapnel and our hydraulic system was knocked out, our intercom radio system was knocked out, the whole instrument panel was knocked out,” Maxwell recalls. Fortunately, one of the crewmen was able to jettison the depth charges.

“As I realized that our right wing would no longer fly and I couldn’t raise it, and was trying to hold left rudder and aileron, my left foot kept slipping off the rudder pedal,” says Maxwell. “I looked down and said, ‘Oh my God.’ My whole left leg and foot were covered with blood, and there was a pool of blood and it was all over that rudder pedal. And I knew I’d been hit in the left side with shrapnel. But then I realized: It ain’t blood, it’s hydraulic fluid.

“At no time did I feel heroic or any of that kind of stuff,” he says. “Hell, I was scared. I didn’t want to die, but I had to do whatever I needed to do. The thing that sticks out in my mind the most was when I realized we were going to be crashing into the Atlantic Ocean, and I thought we were goners. But in a last-minute desperate effort to avoid catastrophe, I kicked in full right rudder and threw the plane into a skid, and sure enough, instead of our cartwheeling and breaking up and exploding, the water put the fire out, and the airplane broke in three pieces, but it didn’t explode or burn.” Seven of the 10 crew members survived.

The second Condor was seen mushing over the waves at low altitude with its number-three engine out. The pilot was able to stay in the air; he made it back to Bordeaux, but his airplane crashed and burned on landing, according to one source. All crew members reportedly survived.

Maxwell’s crew was quickly picked up by one of the convoy’s escorts, the British destroyer Highlander. It also picked up “four survivors from that lead Focke-Wulf 200, two of whom died that night because they were so badly burned,” Maxwell says. The events of the day amounted to “probably my worst experience.”

After being shotdown the enemies seem to have resumed hostilities onboard the rescuing British destroyer.......

In a 1989 interview with the Imperial War Museum in London, the Highlander’s captain, Colin William McMullen, described the dogfight as “really like a sort of Jules Verne scene, with these two enormous aircraft weaving about, shooting at one another.” After rescuing the Liberator crew, “who were extremely angry at being shot down,” McMullen said the ship “dashed off and found where the Focke-Wulf had gone into the sea. And there were three Germans swimming for Portugal, which was rather a long way away, and we picked up the Focke-Wulf crew. And as they came on the upper deck up the ladder, [they] came face to face with the American crew. And it was only by great tact that we managed to prevent them continuing the engagement on our upper deck.”

But, Maxwell says in an email, “There was no confrontation, other than what was done by tail gunner Milton Brown. I would never have condoned it, but Brownie snatched the epaulet off the shoulder of the [German] pilot’s uniform and later gave it to me.”
https://www.airspacemag.com/military-aviation/wars-oddest-dogfight-180954663/
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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Some further points about the partial nature of our neutrality....

The fact that Axis servicemen were interned for the duration whereas Allied servicemen were returned via Northern Ireland is well known. Related, is the treatment of the few Germans who escaped south from prisoner of war camps in Northern Ireland. They were rapidly returned to their captors which was an even more blatant breech of neutrality than the internment of their comrades within the state.

One particularly remarkable example of this happened after the war in early 1946 when 14 Kriegsmarine sailors in uniform appeared in Kinsale. These were prisoners of war who had escaped from French detention. The French had put them to work clearing mines from their coast. They had set sail for Ireland in a former German minesweeper( in reality a converted 60ton fishing vessel). After a 3 week sojourn a French corvette arrived to take custody of the men and their vessel and they returned to France.

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/an-irishman-s-diary-1.1008536
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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Escaped POWs and The Hague Convention 1907

It seems that the way we handled German escapees may have been in breech on the Convention’s articles setting out the rights and duties of neutrals. POWs who escaped from enemy territory to a neutral were immune from arrest and internment. This issue came to the fore in 1944 when the number of Germans held by the allies increased dramatically and 10,000 were sent to Northern Ireland in early 1945 to help deal with the problems of accommodating them.

Our solution for dealing with any possible awkward visitors was to establish a Zone of Control approx 35 wide on our side of the border. Any German escapees found within that zone were deemed to be still in the act of escaping and thus could be turned back. Obviously a very dubious policy from a legal pov. Gardaí were instructed not to hand over the Germans to the RUC but to be brought to the border and released there and their return to be physically blocked. 20 German escaped from northern camps and only a small handful of them ever managed to get across the border.

Refs...History Ireland, Sept/Oct 2017.
 

Trainwreck

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Yes, our "neutrality" was a sham. But not in the way you, and other revisionists desire to portray.


Our government and politicians of the day did just enough for each side to position for either potential outcome.

The Irish government's work to lobby the US government to withhold military aid to the UK prior to 1941, the overt refusals of cooperation you mention.

While, they gave immaterial crumbs to Britain. "Letting British internees escape". Well, the couple of hundred Germans had the same opportunities, but by simple virtue of geography, it wasn't very practical for them to attempt to return to Germany, whereas for British personnel it was merely a dash of perhaps 100km.

Plus a few other bits and bobs that we couldn't refuse Britain had we wanted to. Using lough foyle - it would be interesting trying to see our government at the time stop them.



No, de Valera was playing both sides. This recent revisionism attempting to place us at the heart of Allied resistance to the Nazis is laughable. It just happened that one was over the border, while the other was the other side of Europe.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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Yes, our "neutrality" was a sham. But not in the way you, and other revisionists desire to portray.


Our government and politicians of the day did just enough for each side to position for either potential outcome.

The Irish government's work to lobby the US government to withhold military aid to the UK prior to 1941, the overt refusals of cooperation you mention.

While, they gave immaterial crumbs to Britain. "Letting British internees escape". Well, the couple of hundred Germans had the same opportunities, but by simple virtue of geography, it wasn't very practical for them to attempt to return to Germany, whereas for British personnel it was merely a dash of perhaps 100km.

Plus a few other bits and bobs that we couldn't refuse Britain had we wanted to. Using lough foyle - it would be interesting trying to see our government at the time stop them.



No, de Valera was playing both sides. This recent revisionism attempting to place us at the heart of Allied resistance to the Nazis is laughable. It just happened that one was over the border, while the other was the other side of Europe.
The Irish government's work to lobby the US government to withhold military aid to the UK prior to 1941,
.....I never heard of such a claim before. We tried to prevent American military support for Britain? What’s that claim based on?
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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@ Trainwreck I agree with you somewhat. The common notion that we helped the fight against the Nazis by not fighting against the Nazis is laughable.
 

owedtojoy

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.....I never heard of such a claim before. We tried to prevent American military support for Britain? What’s that claim based on?
De Valera's Government was very upset by having American forces stationed in Northern Ireland. They saw a strong American presence there as bolstering Partition, the great bete noir of Dev. I think there were diplomatic exchanges in both Dublin and Washington.

In fact, Dev's Government was more upset (apparently) by US troops across the border (keeping us safe) than it was by German bombing of Irish towns and cities, like Belfast. But perhaps there was a measure of going through the motions for the public in it.

Eire/ Ireland pretty much spent the war in a bubble of fantasy, with reams of information hidden from the Irish people by very rigid censorship.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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De Valera's Government was very upset by having American forces stationed in Northern Ireland. They saw a strong American presence there as bolstering Partition, the great bete noir of Dev. I think there were diplomatic exchanges in both Dublin and Washington.

In fact, Dev's Government was more upset (apparently) by US troops across the border (keeping us safe) than it was by German bombing of Irish towns and cities, like Belfast. But perhaps there was a measure of going through the motions for the public in it.

Eire/ Ireland pretty much spent the war in a bubble of fantasy, with reams of information hidden from the Irish people by very rigid censorship.
Sure but Trainwrecks claim that we tried to persuade the USA not to supply weapons to the British in the early war years....? Sounds like complete tosh to me.
 

Trainwreck

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.....I never heard of such a claim before. We tried to prevent American military support for Britain? What’s that claim based on?

Have a good read about Frank Aiken's antics in America, prior to the US entering the war.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/30008772?newaccount=true&read-now=1&seq=8#metadata_info_tab_contents


Aiken's apparently outward hostility towards Britain and apparent dim-wittedness, led him to get involved with Irish-American politics on his visit. The crux of the issue being that Roosevelt was struggling to get the mandate to provide substantial economic and military aid to Britain that was on the verge of defeat to Hitler in early 1941.

Aiken was travelling America, fomenting anti-British feeling in American politics; ostensibly and niaively in his attempts to try and force Roosevelt to give military aid to Ireland, but a the same time making Roosevelt's problem of getting Congressional support for aid to Britain (who Aiken was accusing of blockading Ireland) more difficult.


In the end, Japan solved the problem for Roosevelt by late April. The US could open the gates on military aid to Britain.


But nevertheless, Aiken, sent to the US by de Valera in his capacity as Minister for the Coordination of Defensive Measures, was stirring it up. And there is multiple documented testimony of Aiken's desire for a British defeat in the war and his general hatred of Britain.


I believe Aiken thought he was doing the right thing for Ireland. But in his personal and official capacity as an Irish Minster, he was actively stirring anti British feeling American domestic politics at the exact time Roosevelt himself was struggling top get aid to Britain that was being starved out by Germany.


But like most of Irish history, the less favourable part get rarely mentioned. I have no doubt had Hitler won the war, we would probably be discussing prominent "Historians' opinions" about how Aiken was sent to the US by de Valera, in part, to help stall American aid to Britain by whipping up support from the Irish political lobby. You could easily paint Aiken's trip in that light if you wished (but I don't).


All in all, it was the Irish government acting distinctly against the interest of Britain, at a crucial time in a crucial way. Far more important than a couple of hundred German sailors holidaying in the Curragh.
 

Trainwreck

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Sure but Trainwrecks claim that we tried to persuade the USA not to supply weapons to the British in the early war years....? Sounds like complete tosh to me.
Read my post and read about Aiken.


Oh, and in case you thin Aiken was just acting rogue (despite being a Minister on official government business), don't forget this was de Valera's classic play. He did the same with Collins. de Valera could always place himself sufficiently removed from the politicking in order to plead his ignorance and lay blame on a patsy.
 

Catalpast

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Britain that was on the verge of defeat to Hitler in early 1941.

No she wasn't - Britain was holding her own

By Spring thanks to the breaking of German Codes the British knew that Hitler was going to turn East and not West

I am not saying the situation was rosy - but Defeat was not on the cards....
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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Read my post and read about Aiken.


Oh, and in case you thin Aiken was just acting rogue (despite being a Minister on official government business), don't forget this was de Valera's classic play. He did the same with Collins. de Valera could always place himself sufficiently removed from the politicking in order to plead his ignorance and lay blame on a patsy.
Aiken believed Britain would be defeated but where is the evidence that he lobbied....
the US government to withhold military aid to the UK prior to 1941
.....I see nothing that backs that up.
 

Trainwreck

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Britain that was on the verge of defeat to Hitler in early 1941.

No she wasn't - Britain was holding her own

By Spring thanks to the breaking of German Codes the British knew that Hitler was going to turn East and not West

I am not saying the situation was rosy - but Defeat was not on the cards....
Here I was thinking you were a serious participant in this discussion.

The period we are taking about was the first few months of 1941.

Britain was literally alone at that point. The US was neutral, the USSR was neutral. Britain was ringed by uboats and losing the war in the Atlantic (hence tge strategic importance of Irish ports denied to Britain).

North Africa was in the balance,

No, in early 1941 it looked like there was no way Britain could endure.

Your stupid and ignorant post just means you aren’t serious
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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Here I was thinking you were a serious participant in this discussion.

The period we are taking about was the first few months of 1941.

Britain was literally alone at that point. The US was neutral, the USSR was neutral. Britain was ringed by uboats and losing the war in the Atlantic (hence tge strategic importance of Irish ports denied to Britain).

North Africa was in the balance,

No, in early 1941 it looked like there was no way Britain could endure.

Your stupid and ignorant post just means you aren’t serious

....a bit rich from you given that you haven’t backed up your claim about Ireland trying to dissuade USA from supplying weapons to GB.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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Well, let's all try to be 'serious'.

Umm ... just 1941, huh?

[1]. literally alone: apart, that is, from the Dominions. There was still a lot of pink on the maps.

[2]. The US was neutral.Really?
  • January-March 1941: US and UK military began talks in Washington, and agreed that Germany would be first conquest, should US be involved in war with Japan.
  • 11 March 1941: Lend-Lease Act authorised FDR to advance an initial $7 billion.
  • 9 April 1941: Cordell Hull signed agreement with Danish Minister-in-exile to occupy Greenland.
  • 11 April 1941: FDR accepted that US Navy would patrol to 26 degree longitude — a severe restriction on U-boats.
  • 27 May FDR declared unlimited state of emergency, suspended diplomatic relations with Nazi Germany and Italy, froze all German and Italian assets in US.
Some neutralities are less neutral than others, I feel.

[3]. Britain was ringed by uboats and losing the war in the Atlantic
Except that, in the first half of 1941, Admiral Percy Noble, operating out of Derby House in Liverpool, had his direction-finding (D/F) system based in Newfoundland, Greenland (see above) and Iceland, to cover the entire North Atlantic. The WRNS at the plotting boards could place any radio message from a U-boat to within 40-50 miles. Soon Dönitz recognised what was happening, and ordered total radio silence — which did nothing for 'command-and-control' from Lorient.

Moreover, on 1 March 1941, 'Operation Claymore' (little more than a nuisance raid on the Lofoten Islands) had an unexpected benefit. HMS Somali was acting as command post, and detected a trawler, the Krebs, making a suspicious runner from the scene. The Krebs made the mistake of firing on the Somali. The Somali made light work of the wheelhouse, engine room etc. of the Krebs. Lt Sir Marshall Warmington (obviously a hybrid of CS Forester's imagination and Dad's Army) took two trusty volunteers, and commandeered a fishing boat. The trio boarded the Krebs, and took the five remaining crew prisoner. Warmington shot the lock off a cabinet, and recovered wheels from an Enigma machine and various documentation. A fortnight later this all found its way back to Bletchley Park.

These documents led Harry Hinsley to deduce that the Kriegsmarine had a number of weather ships in the North Atlantic. On 5 May 1941 a Royal Navy force (including HMS Somali with Lt Warmington) closed on one of them, the München, and secured the code-books. Two days later U-110 (Kapitan Fritz-Juius Lemp) got caught short by the escorts of Convoy OY318: Lemp's codes were soon on the way to Bletchley Park.

At the end of June 1941 a further weather-ship, the Lauenberg, was ambushed and rummaged. Bletchley now had the data on which to crack the Kriegsmarine codes.

I'd suggest one should be careful in dating when the Atlantic War began to turn.
 
Last edited:

owedtojoy

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Well, let's all try to be 'serious'.

Umm ... just 1941, huh?

[1]. literally alone: apart, that is, from the Dominions. There was still a lot of pink on the maps.

[2]. The US was neutral.Really?
  • January-March 1941: US and UK military began talks in Washington, and agreed that Germany would be first conquest, should US be involved in war with Japan.
  • 11 March 1941: Lend-Lease Act authorised FDR to advance an initial $7 billion.
  • 9 April 1941: Cordell Hull signed agreement with Danish Minister-in-exile to occupy Greenland.
  • 11 April 1941: FDR accepted that US Navy would patrol to 26 degree longitude — a severe restriction on U-boats.
  • 27 May FDR declared unlimited state of emergency, suspended diplomatic relations with Nazi Germany and Italy, froze all German and Italian assets in US.
Some neutralities are less neutral than others, I feel.

[3]. Britain was ringed by uboats and losing the war in the Atlantic
Except that, in the first half of 1941, Admiral Percy Noble, operating out of Derby House in Liverpool, had his direction-finding (D/F) system based in Newfoundland, Greenland (see above) and Iceland, above to cover the entire North Atlantic. The WRNS at the plotting boards could place any radio message from a U-boat to within 40-50 miles. Soon Dönitz recognised what was happening, and ordered total radio silence — which did nothing for 'command-and-control' from Lorient.

Moreover, on 1 March 1941, 'Operation Claymore' (little more than a nuisance raid on the Lofoten Islands) had an unexpected benefit. HMS Somali was acting as command post, and detected a trawler, the Krebs making a suspicious runner from the scene. The Krebs made the mistake of firing on the Somali. The Somali made light work of the wheelhouse, engine room etc. of the Krebs. Lt Sir Marshall Warmington (obviously a hybrid of CS Forester's imagination and Dad's Army) took two trusty volunteers and commandeered a fishing boat. The trio boarded the Krebs, and took the five remaining crew prisoner. Warmington shot the lock off a cabinet, and recovered wheels from an Enigma machine and various documentation. A fortnight later this all found its way back to Bletchley Park.

These documents led Harry Hinsley at to deduce that the Kriegsmarine had a number of weather ships in the North Atlantic. On 5 May 1941a Royal Navy force (including HMS Somali with Lt Warmington) closed on one of them, the München, and secured the code-books. Two days later U-110 (Kapian Fritz-Juius Lemp) got caught short by the escorts of Convoy OY318: Lemp's codes were soon on the way to Bletchley Park.

At then of June 1941 a further weather-ship, the Lauenberg, was ambushed and rummaged. Bletchley now had the data on which to crack the Kriegsmarine codes.

I'd suggest one should be careful in dating when the Atlantic War began to turn.
The US was already escorting convoys to the vicinity of Iceland the summer before Pearl Harbour.

A U-boat sank the destroyer USS Rueben James on October 31st 1941, which almost led to war.

Roosevelt had already said the US would be the "arsenal of democracy" & issued an Atlantic Charter with Churchill, forerunner of the UN Charter. He had also promised American mothers "Your boys will not be going into any foreign wars".

The US was hardly neutral, "non-belligerent" would be more accurate - it was making war, while not waging war.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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owedtojoy (post #278) pushes the date for US 'complicity' in the War back to late 1940. He is being fair, but could look further.

I'd be looking to August 1940, when the deal over the the fifty (old, obsolete, but available) US destroyers was concluded. FDR had been reluctant, but had his arm shoved up his back by the Century Group (a nebulous Anglophile set of opinion-leaders).

Of course, FDR set the price high: those naval bases from Newfoundland to Guiana — yet, subtly (and history seems to ignore this) in itself that inveigled the US Navy into involvement. I'm no fan of WSC, there's an alternative reading of this extension of the Monroe Doctrine. It worked. It out-flanked the Senate Naval Affairs Committee. Both sides 'span' different interpretations.

There's even a subtext in FDR's 'this particular deal will not get us into war anyway unless Germany wishes to attack us'. Would the sinking of a recent unit of the US fleet (even now flying a white ensign) be a hostile act? Was that statement an invitation: 'Come and get us!' In my thinking — you bet'cha.

And then, 17 Sep 1940, coincidentally the same day Unternehmen Seelöwe was abandoned, the City of Benares had its encounter with U-48 (Kapitan Heinrich Bleichrodt). A human disaster, but a powerful P.R. driver for changing US opinion.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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owedtojoy (post #278) pushes the date for US 'complicity' in the War back to late 1940. He is being fair, but could look further.

I'd be looking to August 1940, when the deal over the the fifty (old, obsolete, but available) US destroyers was concluded. FDR had been reluctant, but had his arm shoved up his back by the Century Group (a nebulous Anglophile set of opinion-leaders).

Of course, FDR set the price high: those naval bases from Newfoundland to Guiana — yet, subtly (and history seems to ignore this) in itself that inveigled the US Navy into involvement. I'm no fan of WSC, there's an alternative reading of this extension of the Monroe Doctrine. It worked. It out-flanked the Senate Naval Affairs Committee. Both sides 'span' different interpretations.

There's even a subtext in FDR's 'this particular deal will not get us into war anyway unless Germany wishes to attack us'. Would the sinking of a recent unit of the US fleet (even now flying a white ensign) be a hostile act? Was that statement an invitation: 'Come and get us!' In my thinking — you bet'cha.

And then, 17 Sep 1940, coincidentally the same day Unternehmen Seelöwe was abandoned, the City of Benares had its encounter with U-48 (Kapitan Heinrich Bleichrodt). A human disaster, but a powerful P.R. driver for changing US opinion.
I think one could look further still. 1938 perhaps and the aircraft orders placed by both France and Britain in that year?

Following the Munich Crisis both France and the UK placed significant orders for American aircraft....approx 500 each. The British sent a mission(Group Capt Arthur Harris amongst others) to USA in that year to evaluate American types. They were not particularly impressed with what they saw, judging that the B17(“Flying Fortress”) and the PBY4 Catalina to be unsuitable but did recommend that orders should be placed for training and patrol aircraft. Orders were subsequently placed for 200 Lockheed Electras high speed passenger aircraft(to be converted into Hudson martime patrol aircraft) and several hundred Texan trainers. Far larger orders followed on in 1939, 1940 etc....

The French were far less fussy/far more desperate and they placed orders for Douglas DB7 Havocs, Martin 167 Marylands bombers and Curtis P36 Bell P39 and later Cutiss P40 fighters. The French instigated the establishment of the Allied Purchasing Commission in 1939 based in New York to coordinate Anglo French orders for American aircraft. One of the leading advocates of post war European unity, Jean Monet, was central in the establishment of this office. It’s interesting to note that these French aircraft were for the very latest American types and Roosevelt approved these orders inspite of serious objections by the American army.

Prefiguring his public Arsenal of Democracy statement Roosevelt privately assured Chamberlain in December 1938 that he would “have the industrial rescources of the American nation behind him in the event of war with the dictatorships”.
 
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