840.48/2585: Telegram

The Special Representative ( House ) to the Secretary of State

66. Secret, for the President. Probably the greatest problem which will be presented to us upon the cessation of hostilities is the furnishing of food and other essential supplies to the civilian populations of Servia, Austria, Bohemia, Germany, Belgium and Northern France. This relief work, together with the reconstruction of devastated regions, will have to be done almost entirely through American effort and with the use of American food, raw materials, and finished products. Difficult questions of priority and the allocation of tonnage will be presented. At one of the meetings of the Supreme War Council Mr. Balfour proposed that as a condition of the armistice to be offered Germany the large amount of German merchant tonnage now in German and neutral ports be handed over during the armistice for operation by the Allies and the United States under the general supervision and control of the Allied Maritime Transport Council now sitting in London. I advised that this be not made a condition of the armistice but be taken up as soon as the armistice was signed and Mr. Balfour acquiesced in this suggestion. I now advise that instead of adopting Mr. Balfour’s suggestion, which presents obvious objections, that you, as soon as the armistice with Germany is signed, propose to Allies and Germany the immediate formation of the “International Relief Organization.” I suggest that Hoover be placed at the head of this organization and that McCormick and Baruch be associated with him as American representatives and that two representatives each be named by England, France, Italy, and Germany. Germany should at once be asked to place at the disposal of this organization until the final peace treaty is signed the entire German merchant marine now in German or neutral ports. The organization should then be charged with securing food and other supplies immediately required for the civilian populations of the countries above set forth and in determining the priority of the needs presented. These supplies would necessarily have to be furnished by the United States and the Allies. It should be pointed out to Germany that only in this way will it be possible for her merchant marine to be placed in service from the inception of the armistice until the final peace treaty is signed and that her willingness to enter wholeheartedly into such a scheme of relief, which would include her own civilian population, would be the best possible evidence of her desire to alleviate the sufferings caused the [Page 629]civilian populations of all countries by the exigencies of the war. In this way also the whole question of relief pending the signing of the final treaty of peace can be kept separate from the very keen struggle which will arise immediately following the signing of the armistice between the various belligerent nations for selfish trade advantage. It is very clear that the terms of the armistice provide that the blockade shall be continued. The impracticability of this so far as food and other essential supplies are concerned, has already become apparent. Conditions in Austria and in Bohemia are of such a character as to make relief on a large scale imperative if serious disturbances are to be averted. I should appreciate very much an expression of your views on this most urgent matter.

Edward House