711.00111 Armament Control/Military Secrets/1058

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

Lieutenant Freseman 90a telephoned me this morning, in compliance with Mr. Green’s request, and said that he was sending over Mr. Gibbs, who was at that moment conferring with the Assistant Secretary,91 and who would be able to give a full account of the entire matter in which the Soviet Ambassador was interested. A little later Mr. Gibbs called and gave a very enlightening account of his connection with the Russian battleship question.

Mr. Gibbs said that when he was first approached by the Russians last August he informed them that he would not draw plans for a battleship for a foreign government unless the United States Government informed him that it desired him to do so. Shortly after, however, he received an intimation from this Government that it would look with favor upon his preparing plans for a Russian battleship and he therefore proceeded to do so. Having completed his plan he submitted it to Mr. Edison, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and, at the latter’s request, conferred with the President in regard to it. In view of certain novel features incorporated in the plan, Mr. Edison felt that his Department might wish itself to acquire the plan, but that no decision in regard to this question could be taken until Congress had acted upon the naval bill which it is now considering. The plan has, therefore, been returned to Mr. Gibbs and he is holding it awaiting further word from Mr. Edison as to the disposition which should be made of it. In the meantime, Mr. Gibbs said that he is being pressed by Mr. Carp, the Russian purchasing agent, who has just returned [Page 680] from Moscow where he conferred with Stalin, Voroshiloff and Molotoff, and where his authority to act as purchasing agent in this matter was confirmed.

After this conversation, I called Admiral Leahy’s office to determine what reply the Admiral wished to have made to the inquiry of the Soviet Ambassador as to the date on which Mr. Gibbs’ plan might be released. A few minutes later Admiral Leahy called back and said that he had just conferred with Mr. Edison, from whom he had learned for the first time that Mr. Gibbs had actually submitted a plan to the Navy Department. Admiral Leahy added, however, that the plan had not been examined by any officers of the Department competent to judge its value or to determine whether or not any military secrets were involved in it. He requested, therefore, that the Soviet Ambassador be informed that the Navy Department had no objection in principle to the preparation by Mr. Gibbs of a plan for a battleship to be sold to his Government, but that the Navy Department had not as yet been given an opportunity to examine such a plan.

While there appears to be considerable crossing of wires in the Navy Department in regard to this matter, I gathered the impression that that Department has no objection to the building in this country of a battleship for sale to the Soviet Union, but that it does not wish to commit itself to approving specific details of the proposed transaction until the new naval program has been approved by Congress. If Mr. Gibbs’ report is correct, this is also the view of the President.

Charles W. Yost
  1. Aide to Admiral Leahy.
  2. Charles Edison.