500.A15A4 General Committee (Arms)/318: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Bingham)

101. Your letter, April 5, to the Under Secretary. This Government’s willingness to consider reduction of gun calibers on battleships to 14 inches is—and in conversations with the British always has been understood as—conditional not only upon agreement of all naval powers but also upon the negotiation of a general naval settlement acceptable to the United States. The 16 inch gun is better suited to our needs and a limitation to 14 inches would represent a substantial sacrifice on our part which we would not feel justified in making without corresponding concessions on the part of others in the interests of a general understanding. We are, therefore, unable to treat the question of gun caliber on battleships as an isolated issue.

While we cannot at this time commit ourselves in favor of a reduction of gun calibers on battleships, we are prepared to state, and you may so inform the Foreign Office, that we hope, on the basis of a general settlement satisfactory to all parties, to be able ultimately [Page 54] to agree to such reduction and that, with this in mind, we view with sympathy the British Government’s efforts to induce the French and Italian Governments to abandon or suspend the construction of guns exceeding 14 inches in caliber. You should add that what you have said is without prejudice to the American position regarding a reduction of the size of capital ships, to which the United States must continue its opposition.