File No. 800.88/210

The Chargé in Great Britain ( Laughlin ) to the Secretary of State


3256. War Trade Board for McCormick [from Sheldon]:

No. 1775. Following is text of a telegram which is being sent to Secretary Baker and which I am forwarding to you for your information.

For Baker from Stevens and Rublee, Allied Maritime Transport Council; L. L. Summers, War Industries Board; L. P. Sheldon, War Trade Board; J. P. Cotton, Food Administration:

Gay’s report of the shipping situation in America shows that there are now employed in American commercial trades 780,000 dead weight tons of American-controlled ships and 1,500,000 dead weight tons of foreign shipping in excess of an amount of shipping required to carry out the essential import program of the United States. This report, if correct, presents a serious responsibility to the American representatives on the Allied organizations dealing not only with ships but with food, munitions, and raw materials. The food programs of the European Allies have been cut in essentials to a dangerous minimum, the carrying out of even this minimum program has been postponed in order to furnish ships for the American Army supplies, the shipping available for munitions is not sufficient to carry out the reduced program of the Munitions Council, French shipments are now about 100,000 tons below the reduced programs.

While the programs of the various raw materials committees are not yet complete, enough work has been done to make it evident the [Page 533] tonnage available after food and munitions are taken care of will not be sufficient to carry out the programs.

With these conditions existing among the European Allies, it is essential that we on our part should out off the import of nonessentials and limit the import of essentials to the programs agreed upon or to be agreed upon. In fact, it was entirely upon your commitment in this sense to the Allied Maritime Transport Council that the 500,000 tons of shipping already collected from European sources was secured.

We have hitherto assumed that this was in fact being done and that American shipping was being used solely for essential imports. Gay’s report, if correct, clearly shows that this is not the case. Unless it can be clearly demonstrated that Gay’s report is incorrect, or if correct, unless the situation is remedied by withdrawing ships not needed for the essential import programs, we all concur that the European nations can not be asked to further cut their essential programs.

In explanation of the sending of this telegram, I would remind you that for some months past the question as to whether the war was to be won rapidly or allowed to drift into a long struggle, has rested largely on the number of troops that America can put into the field in the near future and fully maintain. The so-called 80-division programme which was to produce the desired results could only be accomplished from a shipping point of view by encroaching on the tonnage which was calculated as necessary to lift the regular programs of essential commodities such as food, munitions, and some of the other vital raw materials.

When Secretary Baker was present at the Allied Maritime Transport Council on October 1, he made a statement containing among other things the following, as reported in the minutes of the meeting which so far as my recollection serves me seems accurately to convey what he said:

I am entirely in accord with the views [ … ] that we ought to exhibit our import programmes in the programme committees, that we ought to be advised and informed by any counsel of those associated in the examination of those programmes, and in the disposition of any shipping which the United States has under its control it ought to be fully informed as to the needs of the Allies surveyed and examined as they would be in a body of this sort where the one moving view of everybody is the best interest of the common cause at the moment. I think there will be no difficulty whatever in committing the American Government, and indeed I do commit the American Government to that view, that the United States will inform itself by participation in the programme committees and in [Page 534] the deliberations of this body as to what the needs are, and will, except in the exceptional cases which are enumerated in the resolution itself, be guided by the deliberations of this body in determining the disposition of its own shipping.

Although this general discussion was largely one of shipping, it naturally does vitally affect the functions of the War Trade Board as being the administrative agency controlling both imports and exports of the United States and I therefore feel it my duty to report to you fully on the subject as being one of the agencies most closely concerned to supply the corrective measures if Gay’s statements are substantiated.