740.00111A Armed Merchantmen/39

Memorandum of Telephone Conversations, by the Assistant Chief of the Division of European Affairs (Hickcerson)

Mr. Hoyer Millar2 telephoned me yesterday afternoon and stated that the British Embassy had just received a telephone call from Sir Ashley Sparks, the New York representative of the British Ministry of Shipping, who stated that he had learned that there might be difficulty in connection with clearing British merchant vessels which entered American ports with defensive guns installed and, while in American ports, had degaussing equipment (to neutralize magnetic mines) installed. Mr. Hoyer Millar inquired whether there was any information which I could give him on this subject. I replied that I understood that the question was under consideration, and that I would be glad to let him know when a decision on the point had been reached.

This morning Mr. Hoyer Millar telephoned again, and said that he had had another telephone call from Sir Ashley Sparks, with particular reference to the British merchant vessel Brittanic, which is now in New York, which entered the port as an armed merchant vessel and on which the British Government desires to have degaussing equipment installed in New York. He said that Sir Ashley Sparks had gathered from inquiries in New York that there would be no difficulty about clearance for an unarmed merchant vessel which had degaussing equipment installed in an American port, but that they [Page 3] were particularly anxious to have such protective equipment placed on the Britannic and other British merchant vessels. He added that he would be appreciative if I would call him just as soon as possible when there was information available.

Immediately after the Secretary signed a letter of today’s date on this subject to the Secretary of the Treasury,2a Mr. Carlton Savage3 was good enough to bring it to me on his way to the Treasury Department to deliver the letter. I told Mr. Savage that I would wait until mid-afternoon before telephoning Mr. Hoyer Millar in order that the Treasury and Commerce Departments might have time to issue their instructions on the subject. At 3:30 this afternoon I called Mr. Hoyer Millar and told him that it had been decided that degaussing equipment could be installed on merchant vessels, armed or unarmed, in American ports. He expressed his appreciation.

J[ohn] D. H[ickerson]
  1. First Secretary of the British Embassy.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Assistant to the Counselor of the Department of State.