711.00111 Lic. Wah Chang Trading Corp./93/89

Memorandum of Conversations, by the Chief of the Office of Arms and Munitions Control (Green)

In compliance with instructions, I called Mr. Kermit Roosevelt, President of the International Mercantile Marine Company—operators of the American Pioneer Lines—by telephone Saturday15 morning, and told him that a question had arisen of interest both to the Department and to his company which I would like to discuss in confidence as soon as possible either with him or with someone representing him. He replied that he would either come to see me today in person or would send someone to represent him.

Mr. J. J. Nolan, Washington representative of the International Mercantile Marine Company, called at my office this morning. I told him that the information in the possession of the Department led me to believe that it was extremely unlikely that the Japanese would permit the S. S. Wichita to carry its cargo of 19 planes to a Chinese port; that the Government was not prepared to provide naval escorts for American vessels attempting to transport arms to China; and that if the S. S. Wichita attempted to proceed to carry the planes to China, it might encounter grave difficulties and this Government might be faced with an embarrassing situation. I said further that I believed it probable that within the next few days some definite policy would be adopted by this Government which would make the voyage of the ship across the Pacific impossible. I suggested that, in view of the situation which I had outlined, the owners of the ship might wish to remove the airplanes in San Pedro before proceeding with the voyage across the Pacific.

Mr. Nolan said that he would transmit my message to Mr. Roosevelt and that he would communicate with me later in the day.

This afternoon Mr. Nolan called me by telephone and said that Mr. Roosevelt had decided that all that part of the cargo of the S. S. Wichita which was consigned to China would be unloaded at Manila, and that the ship would proceed from Manila to Hong Kong carrying nothing but the cargo consigned to that port.

[Page 528]

In view of the understandings reached in the course of several telephone conversations during the day with officers of the U. S. Maritime Commission, I made no comment on Mr. Nolan’s statement.

The conversations to which I refer in the preceding paragraph are two conversations between the Secretary and Mr. Kennedy, Chairman of the Commission, and six or eight conversations which I had in the course of the day with Mr. Kennedy and with Mr. Lutz of the staff of the Commission. As a result of these conversations, Mr. Kennedy agreed to inform the owners of the S. S. Wichita that the ship was not to leave the harbor of San Pedro until further notice. He said that he would tell the owners to make any excuse they wished for the delay, and suggested that the excuse would probably be unforeseen engine trouble necessitating repairs which would require several days. Mr. Kennedy said that in the meantime he hoped to confer with the President and with the Secretary and that he would be informed definitely of the policy of this Government in respect to voyages by American vessels to Chinese waters. He said that as soon as that policy had been decided upon and communicated to him, he would take steps necessary to see that it was carried out.

J[oseph] C. G[reen]
  1. September 11.