340.1115/493: Telegram

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

1392. For the President, the Secretary, and the Maritime Commission. In radio bulletin No. 20414 I note the paragraph allegedly based on a report from the Embassy at London stating that passenger accommodations available from Great Britain to the United States exceed the demand. Please refer me to the cable or letter that contained this information. This bulletin also states that between September 1st and October 4th scheduled westbound sailings of American vessels have a capacity of about 9,000 passengers. I presume that these sailings are from all ports. We of this Embassy are vitally concerned about the number available for the United Kingdom, as we feel that we can use a substantial portion of these accommodations ourselves. In addition to that, as Ambassador, I refuse to accept the responsibility of waiting for sailings as late as October 4th to get people out of England. After all there is a war on, and it is quite conceivable that England will be bombed. If so, it is probable that Americans will be killed, because there is no place in England where we can store these people and promise them immunity. Therefore, [Page 596] regardless of the nominal expense to the Government, I consider it my obligation and duty to urge strongly that ships be dispatched at once to England regardless of the inconvenience that may be caused to the steamship lines in America, because, after all, there is a great possibility that the lives of Americans are at stake.

I understand one other argument has been raised to indicate that there are more accommodations available than there are passengers to take them and in support of this claim it is said that the Manhattan went out carrying 148 fewer passengers than she could have taken. May I point out that the London office of the United States Lines informed me that the Manhattan carried 450 more people than she ever carried before in spite of the fact that when she sailed there still remained a glimmer of peace in the air. The only way they could have put these 148 people on the ship was to put them in rooms with married couples, and the married couples refused to agree to this procedure. I don’t want American shipping upset and I feel very badly for all those people who are going to wait on the docks for ships to take them on trips to the West Indies and Mexico, but I am thoroughly convinced that it is much more important for the American Government to get ships here as soon as possible and get these people home.

Kennedy
  1. Department of State Radio Bulletin No. 204, dated September 1, 1939, p. 5.