File No. 800.88/177
The Ambassador in Great Britain ( Page) to the Secretary of State
[Received September 2, 2.21 a.m.]
1525. For Hurley [from Stevens and Rublee]:
No. 489. A meeting of Allied Transport Council has just ended. Lord Reading presented to the Council General Bliss’ telegram requesting use of British tonnage as one condition of adoption of 80-division programme. We at once declined to take part in consideration of this matter on the ground that we had no instructions from our Government, and also that the time had not come for action by the Council. Our view was agreed to and it was decided that the Allied Governments should communicate directly with the United States through the regular diplomatic channels.
We have seen a copy of Lord Reading’s cable to the British Embassy in Washington, for communication to the State Department. While we are aware that the 80-division plan has never been before us officially and we therefore have been careful not to discuss [Page 522] it officially, still we have been in a position to know what is thought here of the possibility of carrying out the plan. For your information we will give you our personal impressions in regard to the situation.
It seems to us of the utmost importance that the 80-division plan should be carried out. If this is done there is real hope of ending the war with victory next year, and so stopping the waste of life and resources.
We believe the necessary shipping can be found if every one of the Allies is willing to make additional sacrifices. It will, however, be a most difficult thing to do, and the additional privations which must be imposed on France, Great Britain and Italy will be very hard on the peoples of these nations. The French, British and the Italian Governments are nevertheless disposed to call upon their peoples to accept these privations in order to bring the war to a speedy close. They feel, however, that before demanding these further great sacrifices they should have the fullest information in regard to the American Army supply programme so as to be sure that no tonnage is to be [misused], and also the fullest information in regard to American imports and the employment of American tonnage in order to furnish the tonnage required for the 80-division plan. It will be necessary to take every boat of each of the four countries that is not required for other absolutely indispensable war needs. The other Governments feel that they cannot successfully call upon their peoples to undergo great additional hardships unless their people know that the United States is cooperating with them on the basis of equality of sacrifice, with a disloyally [an equally] strict limitation of imports.
It is not possible to clear all these matters up quickly by cable. We believe the only way to reach a prompt agreement to adopt the 80-division plan is for our highest officials having the responsibility for dealing with tonnage and imports to come here at once as Lord Reading proposes, and meet the British, French and Italian Ministers. We think the men to come should be yourself, Franklin, McCormick and Gay. In no other way, in our judgment, can a satisfactory settlement be promptly reached. The 80-division plan with its demand for so large an amount of tonnage which must come from other service introduces an entirely new element into the situation. Until a decision with regard to it is reached it is impossible for the programme committees to know how to make up their programmes. If it is adopted the programmes of imports must be cut down to a point not hitherto contemplated.
As requested by the State Department, the Shipping Board and the War Trade Board, we proposed to the Council that it should [Page 523] invite Japan to send delegates to the Council. The Council agreed to this and it was decided that a full explanation should be made to Japan of the constitution of the Council and its purposes, and that Japan should be invited to send delegates.
The Council considered question of tonnage for Swiss needs. It decided that the supply of minimum import requirements to Switzerland should be an Allied obligation and be met by the use of Allied tonnage. They further decided that Swiss minimum requirements should be determined in conjunction with a settlement in regard to the supplies to be furnished by Switzerland to the Allies and other pending negotiations with Switzerland, contrary to the view expressed by us. The Council resolved that it was inexpedient, in view principally of the existing political situation in Spain, to approve the proposed purchase by Switzerland for the duration of the war of German vessels interned in Spain.
The Council adopted a general statement of import and tonnage position for 1918 which is much more definite and informing than a similar statement adopted at the last meeting of their Council in April. We shall forward this to you at once by mail.
The Council considered the use of double bottoms for carriage of fuel oil and recommended that every effort be made to place additional tanker tonnage in service so as to eliminate the use of double bottoms for oil, and so increase the cargo carrying capacity of the ships.
The Council considered the food programme presented to it by the Food Council and decided to begin provisionally to lift that part of it which was recognized as absolutely indispensable, leaving the remainder of the programme to be considered after the other programmes have come in and more reliable information in regard to the harvests is available.
The Council also dealt with several other matters which are not of sufficient American concern to require specific mention in this cable. As soon as the minutes of the proceedings of the Council are printed we shall send you copies thereof. Stevens. Rublee.