File No. 763.72/13764

The British Ambassador on Special Mission ( Reading), temporarily at London, to the Secretary of State 1


The request of the United States Administration for cargo tonnage in connection with the proposed programme of transport of 80 divisions of American troops to France has been before the Allied Maritime Transport Council which has been sitting this week in London to consider the demands upon the world tonnage made by the various programme committees which include not only the food committees dealing with requirements for munitions and those raw materials which go into munitions. The American representatives did not take part as they had no instructions from their Government.

It is plain that the furnishing of further cargo tonnage can only be effected if the three European Allies agree to sacrifice the importation of part of these commodities which had hitherto been considered essential both for military purposes and for the maintenance of the morale of the civilian population. This raises a very serious question. The Governments of the three Allied nations are prepared to ask their people to make every possible sacrifice but it must be remembered that these cannot go beyond a certain point. Reductions have already been made in order to ensure the uninterrupted shipment and maintenance of the American troops. For instance, the use of British transports now promised until the end of this year means an additional loss of 250,000 tons of cargo space per month, that is, of 1,500,000 tons in six months. The further grave reductions required in order to comply with the request in the telegram to General Bliss must be examined with the greatest care. There is not sufficient information before us with regard to the basis of calculation of the War Department to enable the necessary consideration to be given to the possibility of France and England furnishing part of the supplies now proposed to be transported. This information will doubtless be supplied within a short period by the War Department. Something further is, however, required. [Page 521] In order that the three European Governments may impose upon themselves any further sacrifice that this supreme effort for a victory in 1919 may entail a sacrifice which we know full well that America will be ready now as in the past to share, it is vital that the Governments with whom the responsibility will rest for imposing these restrictions upon imports be able to assure that the sacrifices are imperative and are made in pursuance of a common policy followed by the four Governments. This involves joint consideration of the resources in relation to needs.

The representatives of the British, French and Italian Governments fully realise how vital and urgent it is that the question of cargo tonnage of the army supply programme should be settled at the earliest possible moment. Therefore the British and Allied Governments would earnestly request that those responsible for the allocation of American tonnage and limitation of American imports should come to London as soon as possible. We will arrange for the Ministers of Great Britain, France and Italy to meet them in London and determine the final action. It is in proof the promptest and most effective way of arriving at a decision.

The representatives of France and Italy have joined in preparing this cable and are instructing their Ambassadors at Washington to support the request contained therein in such a manner as may be deemed most suitable.

[No signature indicated]
  1. Communicated via the British Embassy at Washington.