500.A15A4/1148: Telegram

The Acting Chairman of the American Delegation (Gibson) to the Secretary of State

268. Following is text of my remarks at the General Commission today:

I am desired by the President of the United States to communicate to the Conference the text of a statement which he is giving out at this moment. It is his hope that the public statement of such a program will fire the imagination of the world and lead all nations to consider deeply and state openly how much they can contribute to a great general program (here was inserted text of President’s statement).

The significance of the President’s statement will be apparent to all. It is clear, self-contained and comprehensive. I am well aware that every one here will wish to study it in detail. There are, however, certain clarifications and explanations which I can make at once in order to clear up one or two points.

With reference to cruiser strength it is proposed that the 25 percent reduction of the total tonnage of the United States and Great Britain should be calculated on the present total London Treaty tonnage of Great Britain, namely: 339,000 tons. Furthermore, the total tonnage allowed under that treaty for 8-inch gun cruisers shall be limited to 150,000 tons each for the United States and Great Britain and the proportionate 90,000 tonnage for Japan.

I also feel that there should be a clarification on the subject of submarines. In order to make the acceptance of such a sweeping reduction possible, the President’s communication must be examined on the basis that no nation whether or not a party to existing naval treaties shall retain a tonnage in submarines greater than 35,000 tons or more than 40 submarine units of which no single vessel shall exceed 1200 tons.

In view of the reductions suggested for the five leading naval powers under the President’s plans it seems evident that the other powers should here agree to corresponding sacrifices through the reduction or limitation of their naval armaments.

I have not labored here all these months with my colleagues present today without becoming convinced of their earnestness of purpose and their desire to see the greatest possible accomplishment in disarmament. Therefore, I am sure that the principle of maximum accomplishment to which each nation makes substantial contributions, as my country is doing by the provisions of the text which I have just read, will appeal to them.

In our most powerful arm, the Navy, we are prepared as a part of this program to scrap over 300,000 tons of existing ships and to forego the right to build over 50,000 tons. In land material our proposal would affect over a thousand heavy mobile guns and approximately 900 tanks, and in aviation about 300 bombardment airplanes.

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The American delegation is at your disposal for further explanations and clarification as they may become necessary, and these points will no doubt be forthcoming as the conversations in which we are now engaged progress. These very real sacrifices of strength which the United States is willing to make in a predominant arm as part of a world scheme cannot fail, I am convinced, to find equally generous response.