File No. 656.119/784b

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in the Netherlands ( Bliss)


2154. You are instructed at any time after 48 hours from the receipt of this cable to communicate to the Foreign Office and to make public the following offer of the Government of the United States:

The Government of the United States is reliably informed that the Dutch people are able to secure German coal only in uncertain amounts and upon harsh terms which include the export from the Netherlands to Germany of large amounts of foodstuffs which the Dutch people themselves require. In view of this situation and the approach of winter, with consequent increased needs for coal, the Government of the United States has carefully investigated its own fuel situation for the purpose of determining whether coal might not be spared for the use of the Dutch people. There is a very distinct shortage of coal in the United States and severe measures are being adopted to reduce domestic consumption. The Government of the [Page 1545]United States is, however, confident that the American people are ready to make increased sacrifices for the sake of a friendly people whose need is perhaps greater than their own. Accordingly, the Government of the United States offers to place at the disposal of the Netherlands Government, beginning forthwith, at least 100,000 tons of coal per month for the next twelve months or the earlier termination of the war. This coal will be delivered at an Atlantic port to vessels sent from the Netherlands to lift the same.

The Government of the United States exacts for itself no compensation from the Netherlands for the coal which is thus supplied. The only condition attached to the proposal is that the Netherlands Government avail of the opportunity which is offered to cease the export of foodstuffs to Germany.

The Government of the United States recognizes that acceptance of this offer will require the service of a substantial part of the Dutch ships now idle in Netherlands European ports. In order, therefore, to permit of the lifting of other commodities with the least possible consumption of tonnage, the Government of the United States is prepared to discuss with the Netherlands Government the supplying of a substantial part of Dutch cereal requirements from the United States itself. It will be apparent that this will involve a great saving of tonnage over lifting grain from more distant points. It will also be understood that with the stoppage of food exports to Germany the American people will more readily save foodstuffs to make them available for the Dutch people.

The Department is contemporaneously communicating the terms of the foregoing offer to the British Foreign Office and the delay which you are to observe, which was placed at 48 hours at the suggestion of the British Embassy, is to permit of comment thereon by the British Foreign Office.1 In choosing the time and manner of making this offer, you will, subject to the instructions above contained, exercise your discretion, having in mind the Dutch-German coal negotiations which we understand are proceeding at the present time and which negotiations it is trusted will be embarrassed, if not blocked, by this proposal.

You are authorized in your discretion, at the time of presenting this proposal or subsequently, to point out to the Foreign Office that it is estimated that imports of 100,000 tons of coal per month added to local production will make Holland entirely independent of coal from Germany, but that if this is not the case the Government of the United States will consider increasing slightly the amounts of coal which will be put at the disposal of the Netherlands Government in the United States. You will, however, have in mind the scarcity of coal in the United States.

  1. On Oct. 1 the British Embassy transmitted to the War Trade Board a paraphrase of a telegram from the British Minister at The Hague, forwarded with approving comment by the Foreign Office, stating that in his opinion “the offer of coal by the United States would be useless in effect.” (War Trade Board files: Holland Negotiations, vol. VI.)