File No. 652.119/207

The Ambassador in France ( Sharp ) to the Secretary of State


2722. My No. 2607, October 16.1 Further referring to the subject matter of my telegram: Lieut. Col. Charles G. Dawes, purchasing agent for the American Army in France, has handed me copy of a letter from Mr. John R. Christie from which I quote in part as follows:

As a result of my two weeks’ investigation into conditions in Spain, political and commercial, and conference had with officials our Government and of the British and French Governments, I have to report that no purchases of importance to the American Expeditionary Forces in France may be effected unless the Government at Washington agrees with the Spanish Government for the release by America of materials urgently needed by Spain and its special export taxes [exportation?]. I therefore urge as I did in my memorandum dated September 211 that pressure be immediately brought to bear on Washington for action in the above sense. Without such quid pro quo the supplies we can draw will be of little assistance to the Army. The key to whole situation is held at Washington.

Materials urgently required: Of these are cotton, lubricating oil, petroleum, fats, coal, phosphates, jute, machinery, and in particular, parts for repairing railway engines; boiler tubes are so badly wanted that unless some are had within six weeks, two of the great railway systems carrying traffic of vital necessity to the Allies will come to a standstill.
Supplies obtainable in Spain: Grain, vegetables, fruit, wine, ores, metals, pyrites, charcoal, railroad ties, lumber construction materials, etc., but with one or two exceptions no goods can be exported owing to the embargo mentioned in paragraph No. 1.

Colonel Dawes is very strongly of the opinion that not only are certain products—particularly bulky stuff like lumber, general construction material and cross ties—greatly needed from Spain but that the situation there is such that this want can only be supplied with some sort of reciprocal arrangement by our Government as recommended by Mr. Christie in his letter. Colonel Dawes himself has just informed me that in a telephone conversation last [Page 1213] night General Pershing had authorized him to make a statement to me showing the great importance of securing the supplies from Spain and Switzerland. As to the quantity of lumber required, Colonel Dawes left me a memorandum from which I quote as follows.

As indicating the importance of the lifting of the embargo upon cotton to Spain where the same can be used in exchange for concessions as to lumber importations to France for the American Expeditionary Force, I will state that the needs of the Army in lumber have been estimated for six months as 165,000,000 feet. As against this it is estimated that we can secure in Europe, unless we have concessions from Spain and Switzerland, only about 35,000,000 feet. It is evident, therefore, that to supply the needs of the Army the different branches of the service will have to requisition the United States for 130,000,000 feet of lumber which, at the rate of 2,500,000 feet for a 5,000–ton ship, will require 54 ships at a ship transportation cost of between fifty and one hundred dollars per 1,000 feet which we believe will cover the cost of any Spanish or Swiss lumber delivered in France. We can not estimate as yet how much lumber we can secure in Spain and Switzerland but should have the lever of embargo concessions to secure all possible lumber. [Lumber] is selected only as an example to indicate the importance of the results which can be obtained under the reciprocity arrangement which the State Department is endeavoring to consummate.

The ability to obtain this very necessary material from Spain would obviously greatly relieve the [demands] upon the tonnage coming from America, and also very much expedite its delivery. From my talks with those having to deal with the problem of construction work for the American Army, I learn that the greatest kind of difficulty is being encountered in getting needed [lumber] already. An undertaking has been brought about between Colonel Dawes’ purchasing board and the French Government by which a free hand, under certain stated limitations, may be used by him in the purchase of certain necessary materials from Spain.

In connection with the question of the exportation of cotton from the United States Ambassador Willard who is now stopping in Paris very strongly [urges] that whatever action is taken in reference thereto by our Government he should have authority to control the negotiations in bringing about the object to be attained in securing in exchange the best concessions possible in the shipment of materials from Spain. Being on the ground and thoroughly familiar with conditions at Madrid, it would seem to me that such authority would not only be desirable but necessary under the circumstances.

In adding my own emphatic recommendation for some kind of favorable action being taken, whereby war material may be secured [Page 1214] from Spain, I do so with the conviction, from my talks with those in a position to know these needs, that the matter is of extreme importance.

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