File No. 855.48/467

The Ambassador in Great Britain ( Page) to the Secretary of State


5748. The Commission for Relief in Belgium ask me to send the following to the Department with the request that it also be conveyed to Hoover: [Page 644]

There are now in United Kingdom ports 14 commission vessels, containing 58,000 tons foodstuffs, which are detained here by German threats. That statement by the Germans that commission had opportunity to change their destination and that vessels had ample time to proceed Rotterdam via northern route is untrue. An informal suggestion has been made by the German Legation, The Hague, to commission that it may be possible to arrange to dispatch vessels now held in United Kingdom direct to Rotterdam. Some cargoes are already deteriorating. British Foreign Office, commission, and Poland believe that if no positive assurance of safe-conduct is obtained from Germans by March 3 further delay will be useless and all vessels should be sent to Rotterdam direct across channel, protected with full markings but without safe-conduct pass. Would the Department inform German Government that if any of these ships are torpedoed by German submarines the United States Government will hold German Government responsible for interfering with food supplies to Belgium and northern France, which were imported under their safe-conduct?