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

No. 1223

Sir: As you are aware, Article 16 of the London Naval Treaty of 19301 provides that vessels which cause the total tonnage in any category to exceed the figures shown in the table forming part of the said Article shall be disposed of prior to December 31, 1936.

The United States, the British Commonwealth of Nations and Japan now have completed tonnage in certain categories which will be required to be scrapped in accordance with this obligation unless the so-called “escalator clause”, Article 21 of the Treaty, is invoked. Should any of the three powers signatory to this part of the Treaty invoke this clause in respect to any category, the other parties shall be entitled to make proportionate increases in the same category and shall consult together as to the situation thus presented.

All three countries have an excess in the destroyer category. The United States and Japan have an excess in submarines. The British Commonwealth of Nations and Japan have an excess in one or the other of the cruiser sub-categories.

The Navy Department now points out that the date on which this excess tonnage must be disposed of is drawing near and that plans and arrangements for scrapping must soon be completed. In order to determine, however, the amount of tonnage in the submarine and destroyer categories that the United States must scrap, it is necessary to know the intentions of Great Britain and Japan in respect to possible invocation of Article 21.

During the course of the recent Naval Conference,2 Captain Danckwerts of the British Delegation handed Captain Ingersoll, Technical Adviser to the American Delegation, a memorandum dated February 14, 1936,3 which made clear the manner in which the British Government [Page 133] intends to adhere to the cruiser tonnage figures laid down in the London Naval Treaty of 1930. A copy of this memorandum was given to the Naval Attaché for the files of the Embassy. Captain Danckwerts stated that this memorandum did not constitute official notification but that the information contained therein had been embodied in a note to the Japanese Government and that similar information would later be formally transmitted to the United States. The American Delegation was also unofficially informed by the British Delegation that the latter’s Government intended to invoke the “escalator clause” in order to retain 40,000 tons of overage destroyers. No information either official or unofficial appears to have been received regarding the Japanese attitude toward invocation of this clause in respect to any category.

The Secretary of the Navy has requested that notes be sent to the British and Japanese Governments to inquire whether they intend to invoke the provisions of Article 21 of the London Naval Treaty of 1930 in regard to any category and in the event that they propose to do so how much excess tonnage they contemplate retaining in any category or categories. Prior to sending such communications, the Department would prefer that you endeavor to ascertain informally through the Foreign Office if and when the British Government will make the formal notification forecast in the Danckwerts memorandum and in respect of the 40,000 tons of overage destroyers. You should also ask if any indication has been received from the Japanese Government in reply to the note said to have been sent to it on this subject.

You are requested to obtain this information as soon as possible as the Navy Department is desirous of proceeding with its plans for scrapping without delay.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
William Phillips
  1. Signed April 22, 1930, Foreign Relations, 1930, vol. i, p. 107.
  2. For correspondence concerning the London Naval Conference, see pp. 22 ff.
  3. Not found in Department files.