The Secretary of State to the British Ambassador (Lindsay)

The Secretary of State presents his compliments to His Excellency the Ambassador of Great Britain and has the honor to refer to the Embassy’s aide-mémoire of October 19, 1933, in regard to the purchase of airplanes by Germany. In order to make clear the position of this Government in respect to such sales, the Secretary of State is pleased to furnish the Ambassador with the following information.

In all questions arising in regard to the export of airplanes from the United States, this Government makes a distinction between civil and military aircraft. The latter category is restricted to types of aircraft fitted with armor, guns, machine guns, gun mounts, bomb dropping or other military devices, and aircraft not so equipped when there is definite reason to believe that it is intended for military purposes.
This Government has never expressed disapproval of the export of civil airplanes to Germany nor would it be inclined to do so unless there were reason to believe that such airplanes were intended for use by the armed forces of Germany, including the police.
As the importation into Germany of war material of every kind is prohibited by Article 170 of the Treaty of Versailles,28 as the maintenance of airplanes by the armed forces of Germany is prohibited by Article 198 of the Treaty of Versailles, and as Article I of the Treaty between the United States and Germany Restoring Friendly Relations29 provides that the United States shall have and enjoy all rights and advantages stipulated for the benefit of the United States in the Treaty of Versailles, this Government would consider the importation of military airplanes into Germany or the possession of airplanes of any type by the armed forces of Germany as a violation of its treaty rights.
This Government is not aware that any airplanes have been exported recently from the United States to Germany. Thirty airplane engines have, however, been exported from the United States to Germany [Page 491] in the course of the present year. As these engines have no distinctly military characteristics, and as no evidence has been adduced that they are for the use of the armed forces of Germany, this Government has not expressed disapproval of their exportation to Germany.
On August 31, 1933, this Government was informed that the European representative of an American manufacturer of airplanes had received an inquiry from the German Government in regard to the possibility of purchasing in this country a fighting plane for police use. The Secretary of State thereupon informed the manufacturer in question that this Government would view the export of such an airplane from this country to Germany with grave disapproval. At the same time, discreet steps were taken with a view to a closer supervision of the exportation of airplanes from this country to Germany.

The Secretary of State regrets that this Government is not in a position to give favorable consideration to the proposal that the German Government be requested to furnish such written assurances of its fulfillment of its treaty obligations as are proposed by the British Government. He believes, however, that the procedure which has been followed and which is being followed by this Government in respect to the exportation of airplanes from this country to Germany conforms in all essentials to the procedure proposed by the British Government and described in Paragraph five of the aide-mémoire under acknowledgment, and that it will serve to accomplish the purpose which the British Government has in view.

  1. Treaties, Conventions, etc., Between the United States of America and Other Powers, 1910–1923 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1923), vol. iii, pp. 3329, 3402; also Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vol. xiii, p. 328.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1921, vol. ii, p. 29; also printed in Treaties, Conventions, etc., 1910–1923, vol. iii, p. 2596.