340.1115A/2138: Telegram

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

3394. Department’s 2788, July 25, 10 p.m. Practically none of the 1596 Americans who last fall expressed a desire for repatriation [Page 411] have been able to return to the United States and the situation therefore remains substantially unchanged from that described in the Embassy’s 1175, March 25. There are in addition the numerous nurses, doctors and others referred to by the Department.

1. The congestion on the London-Lisbon air route has in no way been relieved by the additional planes which the British have employed in the past 2 months nor by the direct air service to the United States because the increase in the number of official priorities has more than kept pace with the additional seatings. There is no hope for substantial relief by this route.

2. Neither is there any hope of relief by launching vessels direct to the United States or Canada. There are no large fast vessels proceeding to America and none available except military transports. At the moment there are only two small passenger vessels with a combined capacity of 430 persons. For these the British have a waiting list of several thousand official passengers including R. A. F. trainees, technical Government, military and naval personnel. The maximum we could get on British vessels would be about 50 a month and these would displace British official passengers.

3. American vessels might be sent again and if so it seems best to have them go again to Galway where, due to the experience of last year, they could be handled now with less confusion.

Harvey Klemmer of the United States Maritime Commission has discussed the question at length with British authorities and believes that the ideal solution would be evacuation by way of Iceland. The British are operating two Norwegian vessels to Iceland each with 75 berths on which we could ship at least 60 passengers every 10 days. The fare would be approximately $80 and the passage would take 4 to 5 days from an English port. There could also be used for this service whaling ships with good accommodations for up to 200 passengers each; these are vessels of some 20,000 tons which could carry passengers to Iceland and return with fuel oil being brought there from the United States. This plan would, of course, necessitate validated passports and War Department agreement to permit transit through Iceland and return from there on American transports. It would require transfer of passengers directly from one ship to another in Iceland because of lack of hotel accommodations there. Mr. Klemmer is informed that the Icelandic route is the safest way out of the United Kingdom and that no convoyed ships on this route have yet been sunk. He is proceeding to Iceland on August 4 and could explore the situation there.

4. The Iceland route would have the advantage of continuous service and it would not require additional American or British tonnage. The need of facilities for return to America remains acute and it is [Page 412] hoped the Department can find a solution by this or other means. The safety factor seems sufficiently high so that Americans desiring repatriation should be given the opportunity if they wish to take advantage of it.