Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Julian B. Foster of the Division of International Communications

Participants: Mr. Lewis Douglas, Deputy War Shipping Administrator,
Mr. Saugstad,10
Mr. Foster.

As per Mr. Long’s request, Mr. Saugstad and Mr. Foster this morning called on Mr. Lewis Douglas to discuss the Norwegian request to lease ten new vessels from the United States. Full details regarding the Norwegian interest in securing these vessels as well as the clause mentioned in the exchange of notes between the Norwegian Embassy and the Secretary of State confirming the Lend-Lease arrangement between the United States and Norway on July 11, 1942 were emphasized.

The particular clause in question reads as follows:

[Here follows clause quoted in the Norwegian Embassy’s memorandum of September 22, printed on page 80.]

Mr. Douglas was emphatic in expressing his point of view that he did not feel inclined to grant the Norwegian request for new vessels at this time until a definite decision has been made on the question of whether or not all of the Norwegian ships now trading out of the Western Hemisphere shall be placed under British control. He [Page 85] pointed out that he is not unsympathetic relative to the Norwegian request for new ships as soon as the other question has been decided. He said that he had turned such evidence as he has received from the Norwegians stating their side of the case over to Mr. Franz Schneider, Deputy War Shipping Administrator, for consideration. Further, he stated that he has, within the last day or so, made known personally to the President his views on these two matters. He asked that we discuss the Norwegian request immediately with Mr. Schneider. We did so and were informed that the technical group in the War Shipping Administration was going to take up the whole case with the British shipping authorities within the next day or so, and that they would then ask the Norwegian Shipping Mission in New York to send representatives to Washington to give evidence as to why the ships, in the best interest of the United Nations, should not be transferred to British control.

He also informed us that a few days ago the War Shipping Administration had ten or eleven small ships which they had been prepared to offer the Norwegians for use in the bauxite trade in the Caribbean so as to assist them in bolstering Norwegian seamen’s morale by a token gesture. Before making this offer, they had consulted the British Shipping Mission to the United States. The British objected and Asked that British crews be put on these ships, and this has been done.

In our discussions with Mr. Douglas, there appeared to be complete confusion in his mind as to the issues involved. We were careful to explain:

That it is not competent for the Department to take any position regarding the Norwegian request to the War Shipping Administration that they sit as a member on the War Shipping Allotment Board’s regular meetings.
That the Department has taken no position on the question of the proposed transfer of the Norwegian ships operating in the Western Hemisphere to British control, in as much as no official representations have been received from the Norwegian Government.
That the Department desires to limit for the time being its discussions solely to the obligations assumed under the Lend-Lease Agreement and exchange of notes thereto of July 11, 1942, in which it was stated that “the Government of the United States of America will continue to review the situation with the Royal Norwegian Government with a view to assisting that Government in a program of ship replacement as soon as conditions permit. The two Governments agree that negotiations to this end should be commenced without delay and should be pressed to a conclusion as promptly as possible.”

It was pointed out to Mr. Douglas that it is felt that the replacement problem is an obligation which must be discharged as soon as possible without regard to points brought up in statements 1 and 2. Mr. Douglas’ reply was that the negotiations are now taking place and [Page 86] that he would bring them to a conclusion as promptly as possible, but that he did not feel that he could separate at this time the question of new ships for the Norwegians from the question of the transfer of the Norwegian Fleet operating in the Western Hemisphere to British control. It was also brought to Mr. Douglas’ attention that the question as to how the transfer of control to the British might affect our trade relations with South America would undoubtedly be a question of great interest to the Department. Mr. Douglas said that all angles which would arise, should the transfer of control take place, would be carefully considered before any definite decision is made.

It was made known to Douglas that the Norwegian Ambassador was planning to leave for London next week and would appreciate an answer on his request before his departure. Douglas said that he could not give an answer at such an early date but that he hoped the matter would be finalized in the immediate future.

  1. Jesse E. Saugstad, Assistant Chief of the Division of International Communications.