The Assistant Secretary of State (Long) to the Counselor of the British Embassy (Butler)
My Dear Mr. Butler: I am responding, and I am afraid somewhat tardily, to your kind letter under date of January 31, 1941, on the subject of the Gulf Oil Company tankers. You will remember that these are wholly-owned American tankers and are now under libel in United States courts at the instance of the Belgian Government.
Concurrently, the Belgian Ambassador has presented the matter to the Secretary of State, as a consequence of which all of the different phases of the problem have been very carefully considered.
The attitude of the Department of State in this is very definitely sympathetic to the needs of Great Britain in the present emergency and, as you know, a great many efforts are being made to give tangible evidence to that sentiment which is being implemented by many acts of the American Government.
In the present instance there have been communications and conferences between the representatives of the Gulf Oil Company and the representatives of the Belgian Economic Mission and of the British Ministry of Shipping in the United States, in the course of which it developed that the proposals were not acceptable to the American corporation, the latter being unwilling to have the vessels re-transferred to Belgian registry. The Department of State is not in a position to require the American company to agree to any particular kind of settlement though it would be very glad to see a satisfactory adjustment of the controversy.
Consequently, we are suggesting to the Belgian Ambassador to bring about a termination of the libel proceedings under circumstances which would permit the vessels to remain under the control of the American company. It would seem that the interests and contentions of both parties might be adequately safeguarded by a stipulation to be filed with the court stating in effect that the proceedings were to be terminated without prejudice to their respective rights and contentions and with the purpose of making the ships available for use at a time when a shortage of desirable tonnage is becoming acute.
I am [etc.]