The Belgian Ambassador (Van der Straten-Ponthoz) to the Secretary of State
Sir: Under date of January 25th 1941 and with reference to my note addressed to Your Excellency on January 11th 1941, the Embassy handed the Department of State a memorandum transmitting a copy of a letter dated January 21st. 19418 and addressed to Mr. B. P. Newton of Gulf Oil Corporation by Sir T. Ashley Sparks, Representative in the United States of the British Ministry of Shipping and Captain René Boël, Chief of the Belgian Economic Mission in London, at present in New York.
To my regret, the suggestions made in this letter have not contributed to an adjustment of the question of the Belgian tankers, as Your Excellency will see from the attached copy of a letter from Messrs. Newton and Proctor9 of Gulf Oil Corporation dated January 29, 1940 .8 Your Excellency will note that Messrs. Newton and Proctor state that the sale of these vessels to Gulf Oil Corporation and their transfer to Panamanian registry (which my Government considers null and void) was done “with the assent of the United States Government, that assent being predicated largely on the desires of the United States Navy”.
The Belgian Government, having requisitioned these vessels, stands ready to discuss with the United States Government at any time, any and all questions relating to the desires of the United States Navy with respect thereto. We do not consider that conversations on this subject can properly be carried on through Mr. Newton.
My Government further considers, and in this I am confident that our views are shared by the British Government, that the question [Page 9]of respect for the flag under which a vessel sails, is a matter of vital concern to all governments whose ships sail the seas. The position taken by Gulf Oil Corporation that the Belgian Government is making “an unreasonable demand” to which Gulf Oil Corporation “will not accede” in insisting that proper respect be paid to the flag, renders extremely difficult, as Your Excellency will undoubtedly appreciate, the continuance of direct negotiations with Gulf Oil Corporation. Our point of view in this regard is set forth in a letter which has just been sent to Messrs. Newton and Proctor by Sir T. Ashley Sparks and Mr. Boël, dated February 4th 194110 in replying to the letter of Gulf Oil Corporation of January 29 1941, of which copy is attached herewith.
I avail myself [etc.]