Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of Controls (Green)

Mr. V. A. L. Mallet, Counselor of the British Embassy, called at my office this morning by appointment. He said that he had been instructed to call in order to discuss a proposal which his Government had under consideration for the establishment of a centralized British purchasing agency in this country. He explained that his Government was, at the present time, engaged in purchasing not only arms, ammunition and implements of war but also other manufactured goods and a variety of raw materials in preparation for a possible war; that, in making these purchases, his Government was, at present, acting through a number of Government Departments and a number of agents in this country who acted more or less independently; and that his Government was of the opinion that a centralized purchasing agency would be more efficient from the British point of view and more convenient to this Government than the present unorganized system of purchases but that his Government did not wish to proceed with the carrying out of this project until it had been ascertained that this Government would have no objection to such action.

I told Mr. Mallet that there was certainly no legal objection to the setting up of a purchasing agency in this country by his Government; that I could not perceive any objection on the grounds of policy but that before giving him a definite answer I would wish to consult my colleagues and superiors. I mentioned incidentally that other foreign governments were already making purchases in this country through purchasing agencies in New York. I added that his Government might wish to bear in mind, in connection with this project, the possibility that if there were any publicity concerning it while neutrality legislation was under consideration in Congress the project might well be subjected to misrepresentation and thus cause the Administration difficulty in its endeavor to have the Neutrality Act31 amended.

Mr. Mallet said that he realized the force of what I had said concerning the inadvisability of publicity in regard to this matter at this time and that care would be taken to prevent such publicity. He said that the first step which his Government proposed to take was to send someone to this country to look into the situation and to report upon [Page 563] the type of organization which should be set up. Whoever was sent over to make this preliminary investigation would probably wish to confer with the Assistant Secretary of War32 in order to ascertain what munitions could probably be purchased by the British Government without dislocating in any way the procurement program of this Government. He asked me to ascertain whether Colonel Johnson would be willing to confer with whomever the British Government might send to make this preliminary investigation.

After consulting Mr. Hickerson33 of EU, who, in turn, consulted Mr. Dunn,34 and after calling upon the Assistant Secretary of War and reporting what Mr. Mallet had said to me, I called Mr. Mallet by telephone this afternoon; told him that we could perceive no objection to the proposal which he had outlined, provided that there were no publicity which might cause embarrassment during the discussion of the neutrality legislation, and told him that Colonel Johnson would be glad to discuss the matter with whomever the British Government might send to this country. I added that Colonel Johnson expected to be out of town during the last two weeks of July.

Joseph C. Green
  1. Neutrality Act of 1935 as amended May 1, 1937; 50 Stat. 121.
  2. Col. Louis Johnson.
  3. John D. Hickerson, Assistant Chief of the Division of European Affairs.
  4. James C. Dunn, Adviser on Political Relations.