811.20 Defense (M)/131: Telegram

The Chargé in France (Murphy) to the Secretary of State

136. Your duplicate 108, July 18, 6 p.m., received today. Foreign Office states that since our 18 of July 5 their investigation of the Selenga reveals that this vessel of Soviet registry sailed from China for Manila with cargo on consignment. The eventual destination apparently was the United States. A change in sailing directions, for reasons unknown, resulted in the vessel proceeding to Hanoi. En route, presumably at Hong Kong, it was detained by the British blockade because of suspicion that these ores in its cargo were intended for Germany but it was allowed to proceed. At Hanoi the French blockade detained ship for investigation. Soviet authorities protested and ship was allowed to depart but the cargo consisting of 1200 tons of wolfram, 400 tons antimony and an unknown quantity of tin was detained.

According to the Foreign Office in addition to the claim of our Government another government, whose identity the Foreign Office would not disclose, has also claimed the cargo.

Foreign Office said that they are not at all convinced that the wolfram and antimony in question were purchased by the United States [Page 655] Government and if there was such a transaction it would not be technically valid under French law because it occurred after sequestration and prior to the release of the merchandise by the French blockade authorities.

The Foreign Office said that the French Government has no interest in these ores but it is merely in the position of an arbitrator wishing to protect itself against claims on the part of other claimants. Also that as the ores were taken from a Soviet ship they should be returned to a vessel of Soviet registry.

I urged that the investigation be terminated at the earliest possible moment making reference to the sailing from Haiphong of the Birmingham City and that a decision be taken to release the ores in favor of the American claimant.

The Foreign Office said that it would expedite the investigation and inform us as soon as practicable of the decision taken.