711.00111 Armament Control/Military Secrets/1067
Memoranda by the Chief of the Office of Arms and Munitions Control (Green)
Mr. William Francis Gibbs, of Gibbs and Cox, Incorporated, naval architects of New York City, called at my office this afternoon. He spoke at some length of his negotiations with the Carp Export and Import Corporation, which has been attempting to purchase from him plans for a battleship to be constructed in this country for the U.S.S.R., and he described briefly the plans which he has prepared and which he showed some time ago to the President and to Mr. Edison, Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He explained that his reluctance to enter into a contract with Carp was due (1) to the fact that he did not feel that he had as yet been officially informed in sufficiently definite language that the proposed transaction was not contrary to the policy of the Government; (2) to the fact that some subordinate officers [Page 681] in the Navy Department had expressed themselves as opposed to the proposal of the transaction so that he feared that they might make difficulties for him and for the shipbuilders if an attempt were made to carry it out and (3) to the fact that he interpreted a remark made to him by the President to imply that this Government might wish to use the plans, which he had prepared, to construct a battleship for the United States Navy, in which case it would be obviously improper for him to consider selling them to agents of the U.S.S.R. He said that the plans, which he had prepared, were revolutionary—that they would revolutionize the construction of battleships and, consequently, of naval tactics. He explained that the battleship, which he had designed, would exceed by 15,000 tons or so any battleship now in existence.
Mr. Gibbs said that he had just come from Admiral Leahy’s office where he had discussed the proposed construction of a battleship for the U.S.S.R. at length with the Admiral. He did not inform me in any detail of his conversation with the Admiral but he did say that, although the Admiral had expressed no objection to the proposed transaction, he had not been able to elicit from him any positive statement that this Government considered that it would be of definite advantage to the United States to have such a battleship as was contemplated constructed in this country for the U.S.S.R. He, apparently, hoped to elicit such a statement from me, perhaps accompanied by a definite request that he proceed with the proposed contract with Carp.
I explained to Mr. Gibbs that I did not feel that any officer of the Government could properly urge any American citizen to enter into any particular commercial transaction. In order to clarify the attitude of the Government toward the proposed transaction, I read him paragraphs from several letters addressed within the last year to him and to shipbuilding companies in which that attitude was set forth. I suggested that, if he desired to proceed with the business, he follow the established procedure for dealing with such matters and that he send me his plans with an accompanying letter requesting me to ascertain whether or not they involved any military secrets of interest to the National Defense. I explained that the plans would then be transmitted to the Navy Department in order that experts of that Department might examine them and that the reply which he would eventually receive from this Department would be based upon the findings of the Navy Department. I added that, in order to clear up any possible misunderstandings, he might wish to ask in his covering letter (1) whether this Government had any objection whatever to the proposed transaction and (2) whether this Government desired to acquire the plans for its own use.[Page 682]
Mr. Gibbs did not state definitely that he would follow my suggestion but he left me with the impression that he would do so.