867.113 Jones and Lamson Machine Co./14

The Ambassador in Turkey (Skinner) to the Secretary of State

No. 514

Sir: I have received and read with special interest the Department’s instruction No. 147, dated December 13, 1934, (867.602/167)27 in regard to the practical impossibility of giving precision “to the meaning of the phrase arms and munitions.” I appreciate the extreme difficulty of the Department in reaching a decision upon this point, and can only trust that by means of domestic legislation or treaty it may be possible eventually to determine what articles are to be considered as arms.

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In the meantime, unless otherwise instructed, I shall be guided in dealing with the interests of American manfacturers in contact with the Turkish Government by what I conceive to be proper in the circumstances. Thus, to take up the matter objectively, I now ascertain that the Export-Import Bank is preparing to give a five-year credit to the Caterpillar Tractor Company in order to enable that concern to sell a large number of tractors to the Turkish Government for army use. I assume that the Department is familiar with this matter and has reached the conclusion that as tractors are equally useful for peace purposes and war purposes, the sale may receive the financial support above mentioned. I should like to inquire whether the decision in the caterpillar tractor case has had any effect upon the attitude of the Department in regard to the proposed sale to the Turkish Government of machine tools by the Jones and Lamson Machine Company of Springfield, Vermont, respecting which a letter was addressed to Mr. George Peek on October 1, 1934 (867.602/161),28 In that letter it was suggested that it would be undesirable to finance the transaction inasmuch as the machines were to be used for the repair and maintenance of artillery and small arms. In this connection it may be remarked that the machine tools in question could be used for purely peace purposes, as well, and if acquired probably would be to some extent.

It is most difficult to draw a hard and fast line in these matters because just as the machine tools are useful for the purpose of peace and war, so are tractors, the sale of which is being supported and which are to be built to army specifications with capacity for carrying twelve men and certain definite supplies. There is also the case of certain motor-cycles for army use, but I fear it is now too late for any American firm to reopen this matter.

I am aware that the Department is desirous of furthering exports of American manufactured goods by every legitimate means, and I wish to give support, where support is required, in suitable cases. As a rough and ready definition of what I am inclined to look upon as a suitable case, I would instance any articles of manufacture not being arms and munitions which had been produced and perfected for normal peace time purposes, which are commonly offered for sale in the principal industrial countries of the world, even when such articles are being contracted for by the military branch of the Government of the importing country.

I trust that in formulating the view just expressed I have correctly understood the attitude of the Department at this time, when a complete [Page 1048] international agreement has not yet been obtained, and when a rigid attitude applicable to ourselves would merely result in the transfer of commercial orders to European countries who are not only willing but extremely desirous of selling everything and anything for which they can obtain reasonable assurance of payment.

Respectfully yours,

Robert P. Skinner
  1. Ibid., p. 970; now filed under 867.113 Jones & Lamson Machine Co./13.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1934, vol. ii, p. 967; now filed under 867.113 Jones & Lamson Machine Co./4.