Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Hamilton)

There are only a few American passenger ships now operating to and from Far Eastern ports. One result is that passenger accommodations are extremely limited. At the present time, due to the political situation in China and in Japan and in the Far East in general, a certain number of Americans (from fifty to one hundred) are returning from Far Eastern ports to the United States for more or less permanent residence. It is highly desirable that these American citizens who wish to return to this country by normal means have normal facilities available for their return as long as feasible. The alternative would be that the Government would have to send a special evacuation ship to the Far East. The longer that can be deferred and American citizens be permitted to return in the normal way the better it is from the general viewpoint of our relations with Far Eastern countries.

Moreover, as long as American passenger vessels are engaged in a regular service from the United States to Far Eastern ports, the Government is in position, should a special emergency arise at any particular point in the Far East, to proceed with comparative rapidity toward making any special arrangement for diversion of a ship to a particular port to meet a particular emergency. Should the largest American vessel in the Far Eastern service be taken over by the War Department, the War Department might have to use the vessel to proceed to some point where it could not be made readily available for emergency Far Eastern purposes (evacuation of American nationals).

From a general political point of view it is important that passenger and shipping facilities between the United States and points in the Far East such as Manila and points from which travelers can proceed to free China and Malaya be maintained. There are only a few ships in such service now. The number of American ships in such service is very small. The American clipper service has but limited passenger accommodations. As indicated, there is definite need to maintain means of maintaining our contacts. Disruption or lessening of those means would be bound to have an adverse practical as well as psychological effect.

In view of the foregoing it seems highly desirable that, unless the War Department has urgent and compelling reasons to take over the Coolidge at this time, the Coolidge be permitted to remain under private operation and on its regular Far Eastern schedule.

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On September 23 the Secretary of State addressed a letter to the Chairman of the Maritime Commission42 pointing out the desirability of American ships with passenger accommodations continuing their service in the Far East and in such a way as to continue to take care of the needs of American citizens who might desire to return to the United States.

M[axwell] M. H[amilton]
  1. Rear Adm. Emory S. Land.