Salazar, a former Professor of economics, was Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Fascist Portuguese State from 1932 to 1972. Portugal had been allied with Britain continuously since 1373, and at the outbreak of war Portuguese public opinion was extremely pro-British. Nonetheless Salazar began the war with a policy of strict neutrality which he adopted with British agreement as the closure of Portuguese ports to all combatants hurt Germany far more than the Allies. In August 1941 Salazar approached the American government for military aid in case of German invasion, but would only allow foreign troops on Portuguese soil after the initiation of a German attack. The Allies suggested that in the event he should withdraw his government to the Azores. Salazar held to the same policy with regard to Timor, but when it was invaded by the Japanese in February 1942 there were Dutch and Australian troops present.
The Portuguese islands off the Azores were strategically vital to the Allies particularly for the war in the Atlantic. Salazar refused to allow them to be used by either side until an agreement of 8 October 1943. CHURCHILL was strongly in favor of invading the Azores if or even before Salazar refused but was restrained by his Cabinet. The Allies used the Azores for air bases but Salazar remained officially neutral.