740.00112 European War 1939/6072

Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Alling)88

Conversations have taken place this afternoon with French officials concerning the North African Accord, as a result of which the following points have been brought out regarding the steel drums for kerosene and the shipment of cotton textiles objected to, respectively, by Mr. Canfield89 of the Board of Economic Warfare, and Mr. Wyndham White of the British Embassy.

8,000 steel drums have been loaded on the S.S. Ile d’Ouessant at New York on the authority of Mr. Duane Wilson of the Board of Economic Warfare. Mr. Wilson, who was appointed by the Board of Economic Warfare to handle matters connected with the North African supply program, arranged for the delivery of the drums and their passage through the New York customs to be loaded on the steamer.
The French Commercial Attaché in New York has made an exhaustive search for containers other than steel drums which could be used to transport the 1,500 tons of kerosene authorized, with negative results. It has been shown that wooden containers are both unsuitable and unavailable for the kerosene shipment.
The S.S. Ile d’Ouessant has just received permission from the German Armistice Commission to sail for Norfolk on July 15 in order to load coal for Casablanca. It is obviously necessary that the vessel should comply with this authorization if the whole North African program is not to be prejudiced, since the Germans are not likely to issue instructions to their submarines a second time to permit free passage of the vessel.
Mr. Guérin, the French official in charge of the negotiations, stated that he would not answer for the consequences if the 1,500 tons of kerosene did not go forward as agreed. He said that he would be extremely reluctant to transmit word to the effect that the kerosene could not leave in accordance with the authorization received from the Board of Economic Warfare; and would only do so on receipt of a written communication from the Department of State retracting the permission granted through Mr. Duane Wilson of the Board of Economic Warfare. Mr. Guérin felt that the [Page 336] slightest deviation in the makeup of the cargo previously agreed upon and transmitted to the German Armistice Commission would inevitably result in delays of so serious a nature as to threaten the entire future of the North African Program.
With respect to the 1,240 tons of cotton textiles already loaded on the S.S. Ile de Noirmoutier, the French representatives stated emphatically that these goods were identical in type to those which had previously gone to North Africa under our supply program. Mr. Guérin stated that he was at a complete loss to understand the objections which had been raised to this shipment, as it included no woolen goods of any character and was limited strictly to material used by the native population. He said that he could not run the risk of unloading these goods without giving the Germans an opportunity to retaliate by withholding permission for the vessels now at Casablanca to leave for the United States or otherwise to threaten the continuance of the economic accord.

In view of the above circumstances, it is recommended that permission be granted immediately for the shipment of both the steel drums and the cotton textiles. Full assurances have been received from the French authorities that the drums will be returned to the United States and Mr. Murphy, in a telegram received today from Algiers, states that the Department’s instructions on this subject will be carefully followed.

Paul H. Alling
  1. Addressed to Assistant Secretaries of State Berle and Acheson.
  2. Cass Canfield, European-African Division, Board of Economic Warfare.