Winston Churchill and Oliveira Salazar

In 1974, a British Colonel, named Frederick W. Winterbotham, was authorized to reveal the existence of a system of classified information designed Top Secret Ultra (1). Its proper base, located in Bletchley Park, was indeed a formidable concentration of British scientists, professors and students that worked on codified messages changed by the enemy during the Second World War. Besides, when Winston Churchill arrived at Downing Street, the Ultra service, based on the computer Colossus, was able to decipher the principal code of the Luftwaffe (2).

On the other hand, two old institutions, dating from 1909 and especially related with the War Office – the MI5 and MI6 (3) – were operating with three new services created in 1940: the MI9, also known as the Escape Service (4); the SOE (Special Operations Executive) (5), whose purpose was to debilitate, through small teams specialized in sabotage, the enemy war production regarding Europe and even Asia; finally, the PWE (Political Warfare Executive), charged with propaganda and, at the same time, dependent on the Foreign and Intelligence Offices.

When Churchill became Prime-Minister, in 1940, he ordered his Chiefs of Staff to conduct a full revision of the British Secret Service in order to divide the functions and assure the circuit distribution of the classified information collected and deciphered. So, the main exigency concerning the Ultra service was the ability to keep a secret, or, in other words, to hold a secret circle focused on:

a) decoding, in Bletchley Park, the enemy messages transmitted after that to Colonel Stewart Menzies, the chief of SIS;

b) transmitting of those messages to Downing Street, to which Churchill, judging by default of the majority of ministers, secretaries and military chiefs, gave obviously a crucial importance that, in many ways, was even more necessary to win the war than the ingots accumulated in the vaults of the Bank of England.

In fact, Churchill always liked the underground action worked out by secret agents and sabotage operations in the enemy territory. An identical tendency could be found in Colonel Lawrence, who, by himself, defended a war strategy based on an invisible and invulnerable force that, without any front or rear-guard, would be, like a gas – metaphorically speaking -, capable of penetrating anywhere. Thus, to fight the political and military power of Nazism, it was necessary to implement a “Shadow War” or, more precisely, a parallel one using a subversive strategy by using the new technical possibilities offered by radio and plane incursions within the enemy space.

Too many secret services were active in Portugal during the Second World War. Besides the British one, there was also the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), superintended by Edgar Hoover, and specially, dating from 1942, the Office of Strategic Service (OSS), whose structure would become, after the war, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The Soviet Secret Service was also in Portuguese territory, namely the Rote Kapelle, as well as the German one through several agencies, among which was the Abwehr, headed in Portugal by Major Albrecht von Auenrode, also known as «Ludovico von Karshtor».

According to the North American historiographer, Douglas Wheeler, Portugal was, between 1939 and 1945, something like a «spyland» (6). Generally speaking, it can be acceptable, if we consider that too many secret agents were lodged in hotels such as the following ones:

a) Hotel Tivoli, in Lisbon, where German spies abounded as well as in hotels like Vitória, Suíço-Atlântico, Duas Nações, Avenida Palace;

b) Hotel Avis, also in Lisbon and, above all, a very luxurious one in which the Duke of Windsor rejected the Nazi plan already mentioned, not to say in which lived Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, a magnate of the Armenian petroleum whose son, Nubar Gulbenkian, worked for the MI6 through his union with Donald Darling;

c) Hotel Atlântico, located in the villa of Estoril, as well as Grande Hotel do Monte Estoril, Hotel do Parque e Hotel Palácio (7).

Far beyond the international espionage in Portugal, hundreds of thousands of refugees came to Lisbon to escape from the Nazi persecution as also from the horrors and destruction of war itself. Once there, many of them – Polish aristocrats, Czechs without nation, persecuted Germans, French runaways from Nazi occupation, expelled Scandinavian and Austrians, Belgians and Dutch, Jews of Central Europe and so on – waited in order to embark to the New World. Thus, Portugal, owing to the fact of being a neutral country, received and sheltered (8) people of all kinds of countries during the time that Europe was, unfortunately, under darkness by means of goods rationing, air raids and war operations.

In 1942, Oliveira Salazar’s international policy had effectively cause serious perturbation in some British diplomats and politicians, like Sir Donald Campbell, Ambassador in Lisbon, as well as Anthony Eden, Secretary of State for War appointed by Churchill. In fact, both really thought that Salazar’s Portuguese policy, despite strictly stemming from a neutral status, had not contributed unequivocally to the war effort made by both UK and US governments (9). And, besides that, Salazar had also anticipated the most woeful consequences for a British victory based on an Anglo-Russian alliance, given the fact that reality itself could not admit ideological contradictions, especially when Communism expansion through erroneous Western strategy was at stake.

It is well documented by Franco Nogueira, Salazar´s minister of the Foreign Office (1961-1969), as also his best biographer (10), how some lower officials of British diplomacy considered, along their correspondence with Campbell, the possibility of removing Portugal’s leader to set a more propitious government of their own. Therefore, it seems conceivable that, in critical moments where Portugal’s political independence could be in jeopardy, Salazar decided to engage firmly any pressure or imposition coming from the British Empire, or even confronted every range of interests of His Majesty’s Government which would be, notwithstanding the historical Anglo-Portuguese Alliance (11), in opposition with the Lusitanian ones. Rather, it is also true that, regarding the cooperation between the British Embassy and the Portuguese Government, the agents of the Intelligence Service were working behind Portugal’s back with some bad elements of the internal opposition, many of them mistakably taken by anglophiles (12).

Salazar 2-002In spite of such incidents, Churchill, while lunching at Portugal’s Embassy, on 7 January of 1943, said to Armindo Monteiro that Salazar was a man whose intelligence and wisdom were really crucial to preserve Spanish neutrality. But, by the time, Churchill and Roosevelt, thinking about the idea of installing an aerial base in the Portuguese Archipelago of the Azores, didn’t exclude the possibility of using force (13). Meantime, the opposition came from Anthony Eden, to whom the violation of the Portuguese neutrality could destroy, despite the theatre of war, the moral foundation of a true community of sovereign nations.

So, the dilemma of Roosevelt and Churchill consisted of, regarding Salazar´s Atlantic policy, using force or of setting up a diplomatic approach to obtain military facilities in the Archipelago of Azores, especially in the islands of S. Miguel, Terceira and Faial. It seems that Salazar disowned the Anglo-American conspiracy to undertake a strategic incursion into such an Archipelago, but he really had, nevertheless, a deep intuition of the possibility of it (14). That is why, considering what, finally, would be the British appeal to the Azores issue, Salazar agreed in discussing the conditions of such a delicate case, which could certainly bring to Portugal some political advantages, like the most vital one: the preservation of the Portuguese sovereignty in the Oversea Territories (15).

Sustained the Anglo-American impetus upon the Azores, Campbell reopened the wolfram issue, supplied by Portugal to Germany as well as to England. Regarding this issue, we must remember that, since 1942, Portugal was being extremely affected by the British blockade in what respects the provision of some goods and raw materials, in order to stop the wolfram supply to Germany. Salazar immediately understood the British attempt to protect proper interests while disregarding Portugal’s neutral ones, purposely expressed, by the way, in a war commercial agreement between Lisbon and London (1941).

For a more fundamental explanation, here are some arguments of Salazar to defend Portugal’s attitude toward the wolfram problem:

1. Portuguese interests are in first place. From this point, the Portuguese Government must do what it can to defend the war commercial agreement far beyond the wolfram question. The priority goes to commercial and financial relations with England in order to safeguard the Portuguese interests without admitting any arbitrary activity upon them.

2. The wolfram transaction to England and the United States was much larger than it was to Germany (16). Besides, the last one had already protested against the imposing restrictions, almost seen as a down of neutrality.

3. Portugal was not disposed to be drawn to war, directly or indirectly, for the sake of the wolfram problem.

4. Many of Portugal’s mines were German property. Such mines were equipped and invested by German capital, susceptible of limiting, consequently, the legitimate action of the Portuguese Government. Moreover, Portugal could trade wolfram for German raw materials considered essential and, as we know, fully denied by the United Kingdom and even by the United States.

5. Despite the last item, Portugal, willing to satisfy the British demands, reduced the wolfram exportations to Germany. Salazar was, inclusively, too technical and factual about it: in 1942-43, 37% of wolfram was supplied from Portugal’s mines, while, in 1943-44, just 25% was extracted. From this 25%, only a quarter could represent what the British experts considered to be the wolfram necessities of the German military industry.

Finally, Churchill wrote a letter to Salazar saying, subtly, that the Iberian Peninsula was alone in providing wolfram to Germany and that British soldiers were being killed by a German war industry based on the Portuguese wolfram, etc. Obviously, these allegations were tactically endorsed to intimidate Salazar, but, beyond that, without any legitimacy respecting Portugal’s neutral position at the time. Salazar, instead, remained in his attitude reconcilable and yet refutable.

After that, several incidents took place, like for instance:

a) the American, Brazilian and South Africa diligences to contain the wolfram Portuguese production;

b) Campbell’s idea to throw out Salazar, promptly excluded by the Foreign Office;

c) Salazar’s conditional proposals to cut the wolfram supply to Germany even more;

d) the variance between the Foreign Office and the Department of State to what should have been the respective sphere of influence upon Portugal’s affairs;

e) finally, Salazar’s assent in the presence of the British appeal to stop the wolfram production to Germany in the name of the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance (17).

Salazar considered the war through peace, or, more properly speaking, wished to know on what base of values and principles the peace process would be raised up. In this context, he didn’t approve of Churchill’s speech in which the British leader salutes the entry of Russia to fight Hitler’s Germany. So, if Salazar could see and recognize the British strategy in using Russian force, he couldn´t also forget that the Soviet Union, besides invading Finland, the Baltic States and Bessarabia, collaborated with Germany to share Polish territory.

In Churchill’s case, the main goal was strictly focused on the Nazi defeat. To him, it was an extermination war not braced by armies or governments, but by and among people. And the Allied Powers’ victory should be, above all, a History lesson to the Germans as well as to the future world.

After the most lethal conflict of the twentieth century, Churchill came up with a crucial warning about the possibility of a Third World War caused by the URSS military expansion. Inasmuch as Salazar had already anticipated it, the «wisest man of Westminster» could finally recognize, while pronouncing a speech in an American University, that Europe itself was day after day submitted to a totalitarian domination coming from international Communist organizations planned and disseminated by Moscow’s World Wide Revolution. Thence his reference to the eccentric “Iron Curtain” between Eastern Europe and everything eastward, like Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia.

Curiously, Joseph Goebbels, the well-known Minister of the Nazi Propaganda, had already used the term “Iron Curtain” to warn the Germans against an eventual advance of the Red Army in Europe. In such circumstances, Churchill once more subscribed, as in the past, the idea of the United States of Europe based on Christian values and cultural, scientific and philosophical ones. Therefore, Western Europe should be the centre of civilization, in which Great Britain, in spite of being an expression of such civilization, was not really part of it.

In fact, the ultimate vision of Churchill was really vital to England in order to protect its integrity and to make sure that it would not be absorbed in continental problems either, such as economical and political ones. In truth, Churchill worked for the Atlantic Europe and not for the Carolingian oneof the Shuman, Monnet and Adenauer. In short, he wanted the doctrine of the three circles, the first of which was the Commonwealth and the British Empire centrally considered, while the others were the Anglophone world and the united Europe stemming from French and German´s spiritual and material development.

mooreSalazar, on the other hand, worked to preserve Portugal’s historical mission in Europe and in all places of the planet signed by the Lusitanian spiritual culture. Thus, what made him special was, in fact, his own political intuition to defend Portugal’s sovereignty in front of other national interests and global organizations which were working, conscious or not, to the constitution of a New World Order. Until his final moment, the Portuguese statesman could also see that Portugal’s Oversea Territories were being under attack by terrorist forces prepared, directed and launched by foreign countries.

As we can see it, nothing of what has been told here corresponds to what is a complete process of subverted omission in Portugal’s university as well as in media ideological disinformation. Even numberless figures of the show business are somehow connected, in Portugal, with such ideological disinformation. An example, among others, can and should be made as regards an old James Bond actor, called Roger Moore.

So, about fifteen years ago, the illustrious actor came to Portugal and was interviewed on a television set by Herman José, a “German comic” as stupid as he can also be tremendously ignorant. While chatting, the name of Salazar came up and, informally, Roger Moore treated the Portuguese leader respectfully; the “German comic”, reacting like a little child, immediately said that his interlocutor was wrong about the man, adding that he was a terrible dictator, a fascist as no other. It was then interesting to see Roger Moore’s face with an astonished expression of disbelief.

And à propos the disbelief, George Ball, an important figure of the US Government, recognize, after a meeting session in 1963, that Salazar was a man with charm and grace. But became puzzled when found that, besides mentally sharp as well as extremely conservative, Salazar was – paraphrasing Ball’s impression -, living in another century as if Henry, The Navigator, Vasco da Gama and Magalhães still were conducting the Portuguese policy. And, in fact, he was really living in it, especially because past generations, based on a secular Portuguese secret, were being connected through time and space.



(1) Cf. Frederick W. Winterbotham, The Ultra Secret, London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1974. The results of the Ultra Secret service, during the Second World War, were really considerable, as, for instance, In the context of the Atlantic battle against the submarines (1942-43), or facing the Africakorps during the first battle of El-Alamein (1942), or, last but not least, in breaking the German counter-offensive of Mortain in Normandy (1944).

(2) In 1941, the decipherers of Bletchley Park dominated completely the Kriegsmarine code, while, in the Spring of 1942, they also decoded Wehrmacht’s one. Nevertheless, the Germans, by means of the Abwehr, deciphered, at the beginning of 1940, the Royal Navy code, as were also capable of reading, till 1943, the Merchant Navy one.

(3) The Military Intelligence 5, charged with counterespionage, operated in British territory, while the Military Intelligence 6, generally known as the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), operated in foreign lands. Moreover, the MI6 created a «double cross system» to reinforce the proper detection of German secret agents. The Yugoslavian Dusko Popov is one of the most famous double agent at the time, especially for transmitting secret information to the Bristish about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (1941) and for also projecting, through the Gestapo, the kidnapping of the Duke of Windsor in Portugal. “Operation Willi” was the German code name for such an unsuccessful attempt, because Edward rejected the Nazi plan bent on the peace settlement with Britain and on the restoration to the throne after the German conquest of Great Britain. So, before his departure to the Bahamas as Governor, Edward stayed a month in the villa of Estoril, to be more exact in the house of Ricardo Espírito Santo, a Portuguese banker.

(4) The Military Intelligence 9, while operating in Portugal with the help of the Consulate of Great-Britain, organized the flight of allied and military prisoners in occupied countries. The objective was to maintain entry and escape lines through Gibraltar and Lisbon to London.

(5) The name of this organization was created by Neville Chamberlain and connected, by the hand of W. Churchill, with the War Office. Jack Grosvenor Beevor, military adjoined attaché of the British Embassy in Lisbon, was the local director of the SOE propaganda action and sabotage. In 1941, the SOE organized a movement of resistance against an eventual German invasion of Portugal, supported by Portuguese elements and based on a network known as «Shell», meanwhile dismantled by the PVDE (“State Defence and Surveillance Police”).

(6) Due to the fact that, in Portugal, several networks of espionage were being detected and dismantled, the result would be the criminalization of such phenomenon occurred in 7 June of 1943.

ianfleming(7) The German spies seemed to prefer the two first mentioned ones, while the others were chosen by the Allied spies. Furthermore, there were also many diplomatic attachés and rich refugees who spent their fortunes in the Estoril Casino. At this point, we shall not forget the inspiration that such a Casino had on the imagination of Ian Lancaster Fleming to write his James Bond novel: Casino Royale (1953). And the reason for that is very simple: Ian Fleming, during his career at the Naval Intelligence Division of the Admiralty, went to the Estoril Casino, habitually full of a great number of spies of warring regimes.   (8) For that specified purpose, the police had to organize residential centres in Lisbon suburbs.

(9) It is crucial to note how Armindo Monteiro, while Portuguese Ambassador in London, conceived the war problem according to the British point of view, and specially how he was not capable of getting a deeper understanding of Salazar´s delicate position in the presence of the most dangerous conflict that ever existed on earth.

(10) Cf. Franco Nogueira, Salazar, Livraria Civilização Editora, Vol. III, pp. 398-400.

(11) Salazar was indeed very suspicious concerning the richer, more powerful and greater nations. In other words, he knew that the Portuguese were educated to believe in the thesis that Portugal’s independence and integrity depended on Great Britain’s generosity. With this in the background, he argued that, even if it would be true, every Portuguese should have the moral and the political duty of renouncing to such an alleged thesis, just because the Lusitanian people must have, above all, the strength sufficient to be themselves.

(12) In this particular sense, Salazar, which economical liberalism was an undoubted fact, repudiated the political one, especially when it was responsible for immoral and not an upright action.

(13) After their meeting in Casablanca, where Churchill and Roosevelt discussed again the Azores case, the second one proposed to Getúlio Vargas the occupation of the Portuguese Archipelago by Brazilian forces.

(14) On Portugal’s neutrality, Salazar, relating one of his own conversations with Ronald Campbell, said to Armindo Monteiro: «The Secretary of State [Anthony Eden] can be sure that Portugal, as a neutral country, will retaliate, up to the limit of its forces, against an attack coming from the British fleet in the Azores and Cape Verde. I can´t imagine what else can be done with dignity». Before this statement, Armindo Monteiro, inspired by panic, couldn’t believe in such audacity. However, this episode can give to the world an idea about the greatest statesman of the twentieth century.

(15) From this vital advantage, Salazar would get: 1. The Exclusive use of the Archipelago of Azores by the British forces; 2. The safeguard of the Archipelago of Cape Verde, due to the fact of being a key strategic position in the Southeast Atlantic Ocean, in which Brazil and the United States were well interested; 3. The guarantees of Australia and South African Union related to the non-violation of the Portuguese territories, the first one related with Timor, invaded by Japanese forces at the time, while the second one with ambitious incursion of Southeast Mozambique.

(16)  In 1942-43, the Allied forces received 3 184 tons of wolfram while Germany got 1 900; in 1943-44, the former received 4 660 against 1 555 to Germany.

(17) Salazar, however, formulated to Campbell his own reserves concerning the invocation of such Alliance in so particular circumstances. And, of course, he also applied the embargo to any other belligerent country in order to guarantee Portugal´s neutrality.

19Miguel Bruno Duarte is a Fellow in Philosophy and Political Science at the Inter-American Institute for Philosophy, Government, and Social Thought.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute. Translated from the Portuguese by Alessandro Cota.

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