711.00111 Armament Control/Military Secrets/1016

Memorandum by the Chief of the Office of Arms and Munitions Control (Green)

Mr. Scott Ferris, representing the Carp Export & Import Corporation, called at my office this afternoon. He said that within the last few days he had attended a long conference in New York with Messrs. Carp and Wolf, of the Carp Export & Import Corporation, and Mr. Rosoff, Director of Amtorg, with a view to determining what could be done to persuade American companies to enter into contracts for the construction of a battleship for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

At the mention of Mr. Rosoff I interrupted to ask Mr. Ferris whether he knew that Mr. Rosoff had had a conversation with me yesterday in which he referred to the difficulties which have been encountered in negotiating the necessary contracts for this battleship.

Mr. Ferris replied in the negative. He added that the Soviet Government had recently subordinated Mr. Rosoff to Mr. Carp, and that although the former was still ostensibly Director of Amtorg, he was now completely under the orders of the latter. He said that Mr. Carp’s position was now so firmly established that he could and did summon the Soviet Ambassador88 to New York to confer with him whenever he wished to do so. He said that the other day when he was in Mr. Carp’s office in New York, Mr. Carp called Stalin by telephone, and that as a result of this conversation Mr. Carp had left New York yesterday on the Queen Mary to report in person in Moscow on the difficulties which he was encountering in his efforts to purchase a battleship in this country.

Mr. Ferris said that the purpose of his call was to ask me to ask the Secretary to ask Admiral Leahy to authorize Mr. Gibbs, the naval architect, to submit to the Navy Department, either directly or through [Page 674] the Department of State, the plans which he had prepared for the battleship in order that it might be determined whether or not these plans involved military secrets of interest to the national defense.

I expressed surprise at this round-about method of dealing with what appeared to be such a simple matter, ventured the opinion that the Secretary would not wish to make such a request of Admiral Leahy, stated that no authorization to submit the plans for inspection appeared to me to be necessary and added that if such an authorization were deemed necessary by Mr. Gibbs, I could not see why he did not come to me or go direct to Admiral Leahy and ask for it.

Mr. Ferris explained that he himself had not been permitted by Mr. Carp to deal with Mr. Gibbs, but that all negotiations between the Carp Export & Import Corporation and Mr. Gibbs were in the hands of Mr. Wolf. He said that Mr. Carp and Mr. Wolf had told him that Mr. Gibbs had stated that the plans were now fully prepared, but that he could not deliver them to Mr. Carp until it had been determined whether or not the Navy Department had any objection, on the grounds of military secrecy, to such transaction, and, furthermore, that he could not properly even ask that this determination be made until he had been authorized by the Navy Department to do so. Mr. Ferris said that it had been stated to him that Mr. Gibbs’ attitude in regard to this matter arose from a feeling that, as a member of the Advisory Board which was assisting in the preparation of plans for battleships for the United States Navy, he could not properly take any action whatever in connection with plans destined for use by a foreign government until the Navy Department had specifically authorized him to do so.

I told Mr. Ferris that the position of Mr. Gibbs as reported by him was entirely incomprehensible to me, and that it seemed to me that any American citizen might feel free to ask the Government whether it had any objection to a proposed transaction without being specially authorized in advance to ask such a question. I commented upon the fact that all through the negotiations relating to the construction of this battleship for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics the conversations had taken the form “A told me that B told him that C told him, et cetera, et cetera”, and I made the suggestion, which I made yesterday to Mr. Rosoff, that if progress were to be made in the construction of the battleship, it might be well to entrust some one man with all the negotiations with American companies and with all contacts with the Government. I asked whether it would not be possible for him to bring Mr. Gibbs to my office or to get him to call me by telephone. I said that if Mr. Gibbs himself were to ask me whether he might present the plans with a view to having it determined whether or not they involve any military secrets, it would not take me thirty seconds to tell him that he might do so.

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Mr. Ferris said that unfortunately he was not authorized by Mr. Carp to deal with Mr. Gibbs.

I told Mr. Ferris that although I was not willing to ask Admiral Leahy to communicate with Mr. Gibbs, I would have no objection to calling Admiral Leahy by telephone and repeating to him in Mr. Ferris’ presence the substance of our conversation.

Mr. Ferris said that he would be glad to have me do that and I called the Admiral. The Admiral said that what I had told Mr. Ferris is just what he would have told him and he expressed considerable annoyance at the roundabout way in which this whole matter was being handled. He said that if Mr. Gibbs wanted to present plans for inspection there was certainly no reason why he should not do so. He explained that Mr. Gibbs no longer had any official connection with the Navy Department because the board on which he served had handed in its report and had ceased to function.

After my conversation with Admiral Leahy, Mr. Ferris expatiated at length upon the difficulties which his clients were experiencing in negotiating contracts for the construction of the battleship and urged that the President or the Secretary call representatives of the Carp Export & Import Corporation and representatives of all the American companies concerned into conference and urge them to get together and sign the necessary contract.

I said emphatically that I did not believe that any officer of the Government could properly take such action as he suggested.

Mr. Ferris said that he would make an effort to have some representative of the Carp Export & Import Corporation attempt to persuade Mr. Gibbs to communicate with me or with Admiral Leahy and ask whether there would be any objection to his presenting the plans for inspection. He said that the attitude of Mr. Gibbs seemed to be the last difficulty to surmount, as he had been informed that the plans were all prepared, and that the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Ltd., was now disposed to sign the necessary contracts and to begin the construction of the battleship within two months after the plans were in its hands.

Joseph C. Green
  1. Alexander Antonovich Troyanovsky.