711.00111 Lic. Martin Company, Glenn L./93/29

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

Mr. J. T. Hartson of the Glenn L. Martin Company called me by telephone from Baltimore this morning. He said that the three planes which were exported under License No. 2965 issued on July 30, 1937, and amended on August 19,36 had been put ashore in Manila. He referred to his statements in previous conversations that these planes were already the property of the Chinese Government, but that the Glenn L. Martin Company had agreed to assemble them before final delivery to the Chinese. It had been the intention of the Company [Page 544]to have them assembled by its mechanics who are now awaiting their arrival in Hong Kong. The captain of the steamship Tai Yin, exercising the authority vested in all masters of vessels to land cargo at some port other than the port of destination named in the shipping documents if such action appears necessary to safeguard the cargo, has, however, put the planes ashore at Manila. Mr. Hartson said that it was now proposed by the Chinese Government that his Company arrange to have the planes assembled in Manila, whence they would be flown by Chinese aviators to China. He asked whether the Department would have any objection to the proposed procedure.

I told Mr. Hartson that as China was named on the export license as the country of final destination, no question could arise as to the validity of the license merely because the planes left United States territory at Manila, or because the planes were not shipped via Hong Kong in accordance with the plans which the Company had in mind when the license was amended on August 19. I added that it was my offhand opinion that some objection to the proposed procedure might arise on the ground that it would constitute a violation of the law prohibiting the setting on foot in American territory of a military expedition against a state with which the United States is at peace. I emphasized that this was mere offhand opinion on a question to which I could not give him a definite answer until I had consulted other officers of the Department. I suggested that in order to avoid any question of law or policy, it would seem to be preferable for the Chinese Government to arrange to send the planes crated by sea from Manila to Hong Kong and to have them assembled by the Company’s mechanics there.

Mr. Hartson said that he agreed with me that it would be preferable to obviate any possible objection on the part of this Government by sending the planes to Hong Kong to be assembled. He added that if the planes were assembled in Manila, the Chinese would undoubtedly wish to have them armed before their departure for China, and that the flight might, therefore, be held to constitute an armed expedition.

The law to which I referred in my conversation with Mr. Hartson is U. S. C, title 18, section 25, which provides:

“Whoever, within the territory or jurisdiction of the United States or of any of its possessions, knowingly begins or sets on foot or provides or prepares a means for or furnishes the money for, or who takes part in, any military or naval expedition or enterprise to be carried on from thence against the territory or dominion of any foreign prince or state, or of any colony, district, or people with whom the United States is at peace, shall be fined not more than $3,000 or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

Mr. Tswen-ling Tsui, Second Secretary of the Chinese Embassy, called at my office this afternoon. He described the situation which [Page 545]Mr. Hartson had described to me in the morning, and he asked me whether this Government would have any objection to the Chinese Government’s flying the planes equipped with armament from Manila to China.

I told Mr. Tsui that I could not answer his question until I had consulted my superiors, but that it occurred to me that the Chinese Government might wish to avoid any possibility of objection by arranging to have the planes shipped to Hong Kong and assembled there.

Mr. Tsui said that he agreed with me and although I had made no reference to the law of which I had spoken to Mr. Hartson, Mr. Tsui volunteered the suggestion that the flying of armed planes from Manila to China might be considered as constituting the use of American soil as a base for an armed expedition, and that if it were so considered he foresaw the possibility of various complications.

I told Mr. Tsui that I hoped that his Government would attempt to carry out the alternative procedure and that I would communicate with him later if I had anything further to tell him in answer to the question which he had raised.

J[oseph] C. G[reen]
  1. See footnote 30, p. 538.