500.A15/687: Telegram

The Chief of the American Representation on the Preparatory Commission (Gibson) to the Secretary of State

20. Following letter just handed me by Cushendun24 who is communicating its substance to the press:

“You may remember that in a speech which I made last Tuesday in the Preparatory Committee on the scheme of the Soviet Government for immediate and complete disarmament I was impelled to refer to the great progress in disarmament which had been achieved since the war, notably by the Washington convention. I referred to a statement which had already been made by the British delegation at the Naval Conference in Geneva last year showing that my Government were prepared, if the other signatories would agree, to carry even further certain of the principles of that convention by reducing the maximum displacement of capital ships and the caliber of their heaviest gun and by extending the accepted life of vessels of that class.

Having referred in a somewhat incidental way, which the character of my speech made unavoidable, and in indefinite terms to these proposals, I should like to take this opportunity of reminding you and my other colleagues representing powers signatories to the Washington convention of their exact purport.

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The proposals of my Government are:

  • First. To reduce the size of any battleship to be built in the future from the present limit of 35,000 tons displacement to something under 30,000 tons;
  • Secondly. To reduce the size of guns in battleships from the present limit of 16 inches [to] 13.5 inches; and,
  • Thirdly. To extend the accepted life of the existing capital ships from 20 to 26 years, this involving a waiver by the powers of their full rights under the replacement tables agreed upon at Washington. Such an arrangement would naturally have to provide for some little elasticity on each side of that figure.

It would obviously be of advantage if such a step were agreed upon that should be taken in time to enable it to become effective before the commencement of the capital ship replacement program which is provided for by the Washington convention.”

  1. Lord Cushendun, British representative on the Preparatory Commission.