800.8836/1013: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Cuba (Braden)

1101. From the Under Secretary. Your 933, November 4, 8 p.m. I too appreciate the utility of the seatrain to Cuba. Nevertheless, the Army’s experience with the seatrains, particularly in the movement of tanks, has been very good. The War Shipping Administration confirms this. It is true that these good results have been obtained with the faster seatrains. However, the War Department believes that it will have relatively good success with the seatrain New Orleans and in this the War Shipping Administration concurs.

Consequently, the War Department has warned the War Shipping Administration that the withdrawal of the New Orleans is imminent and has advised that agency to utilize the remaining time of this vessel in returning American railroad cars presently in Cuba to the United States. Once the total of these cars in Cuba has been reduced to a workable minimum and as long as the seatrain is permitted [Page 359] to stay in the Port Everglades–Habana service, goods will be moved from the United States to Cuba by this vessel.49

The War Shipping Administration is fully prepared to move the minimum Cuban import requirements. Thus far, the movement to Cuba has not been affected to nearly the same extent as has the movement of United States products to other American republics, which have been affected by a reduction in the northbound movement as well as by their distance from the United States.

In general, this Government has taken the position that the only reason for maintaining shipping to another area is to move the minimum import requirements and the strategic materials of that area. Non-essential imports from all areas have been stopped or reduced to a point where they present no real shipping problem. Where absolutely necessary, steps not involving the use of shipping have been taken to alleviate conditions in the areas most severely affected, but the over-all position of the economy of the country involved is considered carefully.

At present the Department is making known its views, which are readily recognized, that the seatrain New Orleans is an extremely useful vessel from Cuba’s point of view, but I believe our guiding consideration in this case must be the opinion of the War Department as to the utility of this vessel from a military standpoint. [Welles.]

  1. The Seatrain New Orleans apparently continued to operate in the Cuban trade for some time.