Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

The British Ambassador called at his request and said that he had received from Mr. Churchill, the Prime Minister, a suggestion that there might be staff conferences between the naval people of our two Governments in regard to fleet movements both in the Atlantic and the Pacific. I made clear to him my views about all the public talk in regard to the disposition of the British fleet in the event of the defeat of Great Britain. I said, in brief, that any friend of Great Britain like myself would expect her to fight to the last dollar, to the last man and to the last ship, if necessary; that the people primarily interested in the Navy were the members of the British Empire; that, of course, Great Britain would not think of turning the fleet over to Germany if she expected to recover from a wholly unexpected temporary defeat due to sudden attack with new devices or weapons. The Ambassador said Churchill’s position did not remotely contemplate Germany’s getting the British fleet so far as his Government was concerned; that the only contingency in this respect would arise in connection with some successor government of the Mosley or Communist type. I then remarked that in the World War a new peace government took charge in Germany to negotiate peace, but that that peace government sank the German fleet46 before peace terms were formulated. I then added that I doubted whether there would be any occasion for staff conferences, but that I would be glad to pass the suggestion on to the President.

The Ambassador stated that Argentina was slow to ban submarines from her ports and that the British were afraid that the Italians might send submarines to Argentine ports. I replied that we would give attention to this matter and that Argentina would probably come around to our position before long.

The Ambassador then inquired whether the British Military Attaché here might confer with the appropriate officials in the War [Page 37]Department in regard to the effect of British and French bombings inside Germany. I replied that I was sure our military people would be glad to give his Attaché any information at all feasible; that, of course, we could not be connected with any exchange of information of that nature.

  1. On June 21, 1919, the German fleet interned in Scapa Flow, in the Orkney Islands, was scuttled by the German crews under orders of the German admiral in command. See Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vol. vi, references listed in index, p. 1007.