Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Hamilton)
Mr. Hayter6 of the British Embassy called at his request. He said that he wished to communicate information in regard to a situation [Page 574]which had been unpleasant but which had ended satisfactorily. He then proceeded to say that, some time ago when the S. S. Tulsa was at Rangoon, the Governor of Burma had information indicating the likelihood of an imminent Japanese air attack; that consequently the Governor of Burma felt it important that the Tulsa, which carried American Lend-Lease goods consigned to China, be unloaded as rapidly as feasible and that the goods be not left on the wharves but be transported promptly to some inland place where they would be less exposed to Japanese air attack; that Colonel Twitty, American Army officer at Rangoon, had been consulted by the Governor and had expressed agreement; that it was very difficult to get in touch with representatives of the Chinese Government; that the only Chinese official with authority and a willingness to make decisions was ill; and that the Lend-Lease goods of the Tulsa were by order of the Governor unloaded from the Tulsa and removed inland. Mr. Hayter continued that the Chinese Government and Chiang Kai-shek, when they heard of this, had been quite upset; that T. V. Soong7 here had seen Prime Minister Churchill; and that Prime Minister Churchill had sent out telegrams in regard to the matter.
I commented that from the reports which I had seen of the case it was my recollection that there had been involved Lend-Lease materials in addition to those on the S. S. Tulsa and that these Lend-Lease materials had been taken over by the British. Mr. Hayter was rather vague on this point. He mentioned that General Brett8 and General Wavell9 had been passing through Rangoon about this time and that they had indicated concurrence in the procedure adopted by the Governor of Burma. Mr. Hayter said that the American Army officers in Burma had indicated a willingness to go farther in the matter of taking action with reference to China Lend-Lease supplies than the Governor of Burma.
I told Mr. Hayter that this Government’s attitude was that Lend-Lease supplies consigned to China should go forward to China and that no interference or diversion of such supplies should be made except after and on the basis of full consultation with the Chinese Government. Mr. Hayter said that that also represented the attitude and policy of the British Government. He said that the British Government had sent instructions to the British Ambassador at Chungking to inform Chiang Kai-shek that the British Government would of course not interfere with Lend-Lease supplies consigned to China, except in a case of great emergency where the safety of the supplies or the safety of a situation of vital interest to all was urgently involved. [Page 575]I commented that we thought it very important that the Chinese Government be treated in every way possible as a full equal and that it seemed preferable to me, rather than to state an exception in the way which Mr. Hayter had outlined, to suggest some affirmative measure which would take care of a vital emergency situation. I said that I understood that our Army authorities had suggested to Chiang Kai-shek that he arrange to have some representative in Burma who could, in the event of there developing an acute emergency situation, confer on behalf of Chiang Kai-shek with appropriate British and American officers there and make decisions. Mr. Hayter said that that was also their idea.
Mr. Hayter concluded by saying that yesterday afternoon T. V. Soong had told him that he now considered the matter closed.