711.00111 Armament Control/Military Secrets/1154a
The Secretary of State to the Vice President of Gibbs and Cox, Inc. (William Francis Gibbs)
My Dear Mr. Gibbs: I refer to my letter of April 27, 1938,16 and previous correspondence, in regard to the plans from which it is proposed to construct a battleship in this country for exportation to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and have to inform you that these plans have been examined by the Navy Department and that the questions raised in your letter of April 22 have received the careful consideration of the appropriate authorities of the Government.
In reply to the eight specific questions asked in your letter of April 22, I may state:
- The Navy Department does not desire to obtain the plans which you have submitted nor does it authorize you to make the designs for the United States.
- 2, 3, and 4.
- The plans in question have not been found to reveal any military secrets of interest to the national defense. Although this Government cannot, for reasons stated below, authorize the construction in this country of a battleship in accordance with those plans, there is no objection to your selling the plans to the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics if you wish to do so.
- 5, 6, 7, and 8.
- The treaty obligations of the United States prohibit the construction in this country of vessels of war exceeding 45,000 tons standard displacement or armed with guns exceeding 16 inches in [Page 700] caliber.17 This Government would, however, have no objection to, and the Department knows of no law prohibiting, the construction in this country by American shipbuilders of a battleship for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics provided that it does not exceed the treaty limitations on tonnage and caliber of guns, and provided that it does not embody any military secrets of interest to the national defense. On the contrary, this Government would be favorably disposed to the construction in this country of such a battleship for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the Navy Department would be prepared, in case the construction of such a battleship were undertaken by American shipbuilders, to examine such plans as may be submitted with a view to ascertaining whether they involve military secrets, and without undertaking to furnish any matériel or armament, or to permit the use of any secret or confidential items or of any secret or confidential plans or specifications now in use by the United States Navy, to cooperate with naval architects and shipbuilders, by making available non-confidential information and otherwise, to such a degree as it may consider consistent with the interests of the national defense. In view of these statements, it should be clear that designers and shipbuilders participating in the construction of such a battleship for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics would not be adversely affected in any way in respect to present or possible future construction work for the United States. I am prepared to explain the position of this Government in respect to the proposed transaction, as outlined above, to any American shipbuilders or manufacturers of armament and matériel who may be considering the possibility of participating in the construction of the battleship in question.
I suggest that, if you decide to prepare plans for a battleship within the treaty limitations, you may wish to submit them to me in order that I may transmit them to the Navy Department so that it may have an opportunity to decide whether or not they involve military secrets of interest to the national defense. I suggest further that, should you desire to proceed with this transaction, you discuss with the Assistant Secretary of the Navy any questions which may arise in connection with it.
The plans which you submitted with your letter of April 22 are being held in the Office of Arms and Munitions Control of the Department. I should appreciate it if you would inform me whether you wish them sent to you or whether you would prefer to send a messenger for them.