890F.51/31

Memorandum by the Secretary of the Navy (Knox) for President Roosevelt

Recently you sent me a memorandum concerning the matter of giving some financial assistance to King Ibn Saud through the medium [Page 636]of purchasing $6,000,000 annually of petroleum products for the next five years.

I have had an investigation made of the oil produced in Saudi Arabia and find that its quality is not suitable for Navy use. The gasoline has a very low octane number, about 70, which corresponds to a second grade gasoline. It could not be used in airplanes and normally could not be used for ordinary purposes.

The Diesel fuel oil has an octane number of 55, but on account of its high sulphur content Navy men say it is inadvisable to use it and do not recommend it. The sulphur content runs between 1.5 and 1.9%. Navy specifications have a maximum limit of sulphur of 1%. I am told the sulphur would have a very deleterious corrosive effect on the exhaust system.

This high sulphur content also operates against the use of the fuel oil for Navy purposes. In the case of fuel oil, the sulphur content is 3.9% and the Navy specifications have a limit of 1%.

I appreciate the gravity of the situation in the Middle East and if needful, would be glad to see the small sum of money under question devoted to securing the military support of King Ibn Saud. I do not believe, however, there is any sound business reason for mixing that help up with the purchase of the type of oil produced in that field.

Frank Knox