Winston Churchill resorted to bribery to keep Spain out of World War II, a British historian said Wednesday.
David Stafford, a professor at Edinburgh University, said documents show Churchill authorized payments totaling about $10 million in 1940 and 1941 to military commanders in Francisco Franco’s government.
“It’s important because it indicates how desperate Churchill was to keep Spain out of the war,” Stafford said Wednesday. “If he hadn’t spent the money, would Spain have stayed out of the war? It’s difficult to judge.”
The entry of Spain, a neutral country in World War II, “would have been disastrous. It would have blocked access to the Mediterranean, it would have changed the course of the war,” he said.
The bribery scheme is detailed in Stafford’s new book, “Churchill and Secret Service,” to be published in October.
The bribes were paid through an account in New York to various Spanish officials, including Gen. Antonio Aranda Mata, a commander of the Spanish War College, Stafford said.
In August 1940, Churchill found the payments had stopped because U.S. authorities had frozen the account, so Churchill intervened with President Franklin Roosevelt to get the funds freed.