711.00111 Armament Control/Military Secrets/1116

Memorandum by the Secretary of State

The Soviet Ambassador called upon his own request.

I first inquired about the general world situation. He had nothing of interest to offer in reply. I inquired about the Chinese Far Eastern situation, to which he replied that he thought the Chinese were doing better than had been expected and in fact doing very well. He feels that the only question is the securing of sufficient military supplies. He indicated that his country is cooperating in this respect.

It developed that the Ambassador’s real business was to inquire about the proposed battleship purchase from this country by his Government. I stated I had nothing particularly new in mind in regard to the situation; that Mr. Scott Ferris, representing his country’s agents, had recently called on me and I had stated to him that Mr. Gibbs, who was understood to have prepared the plans for the battleship in question, had conferred with the Navy fully and finally and that he alone was the proper person to convey to Mr. Ferris and his associates what the actual up-to-date facts and conditions were with respect to the matter. The Ambassador said it was true, from his understanding, that Mr. Gibbs had conferred with the Navy Department; that Navy had indicated there were no technical or other departmental objections, but added that there were probably certain political objections at the State Department. I replied that no one, apart from the Navy and Mr. Gibbs and the Soviet officials, seemed to know just what size ship was in contemplation; that, while there has been no decision on the question of limitation of the size of the vessel so far as the State Department is concerned, we have had the matter brought into our mind in a collateral way in connection with the conversations and discussions between this Government, Great Britain, and other governments which have been signatories of the naval treaties, with which the Soviet Ambassador, I was sure, was familiar; that the Ambassador would recall, for example, that apart from the limitations of [Page 687] size contained in these treaties, when Japan was reported to be contemplating a vessel of 45,000 tons, the other governments, parties to the Naval Treaty, made inquiry of her as to the truth of this report in order that they would not themselves feel called upon to construct ships of like size; that, since Japan had refused to divulge any information, preparations were now under way to meet the reported Japanese construction of battleships of 45,000 tons. The Ambassador said, “We have in mind to construct a very big ship.” I still did not inquire as to the proposed tonnage, but I again indicated to the Ambassador that we had made no definite decisions with respect to the size of the proposed Soviet ship to be purchased in this country, and then added that the Ambassador might see some relevancy between developments among the naval powers, including Japan, to which I had already referred. I then said that if he desired to ask any technical questions as to the Naval Treaty requirements, he might confer with Mr. Moffat.

C[ordell] H[ull]