Memorandum by the Adviser on Political Relations (Hornbeck) to the Secretary of State

Mr. Secretary: With regard to the matter of the 800 trucks:

It is our understanding that this Government’s interest in the matter began with an expression of interest on the part of the President in the [Page 598] Possibility of establishing a new route to China through Iran and the Soviet Union; that Dr. Alfred Sze15 on instructions from Dr. Soong made several calls upon Mr. Hopkins in support of the Chinese request that trucks be allocated to the proposed new route; that next there came approaches to this Government from a British official source, with a representation that the British Government was interested because of an expressed Russian and Chinese interest, that the British Government had successfully concluded negotiations with the Soviet Government for the latter’s participation in the operation of the route, and that in British official circles it was felt desirable that the trucks be supplied both for material reasons and for political reasons; that in Lend-Lease circles supplying of the trucks has been favored by Mr. Hopkins, by General Burns and by the Lend-Lease Administration; and that in the course of recent conferences General Burns and representatives of the War Department had indicated that 800 trucks could be spared for the route without adverse effect upon the military efforts of the United Nations.

Officers of this Department most concerned with the matter have taken the view that the value of the highway over which these trucks would be intended to operate into China is doubtful, but that allocation and expedition of these trucks for this purpose, and delivery of them at the western terminus of this highway would serve some material purposes useful to the United Nations war effort in some connection; that this investment of transportation would be experimental and, the number of trucks involved being relatively small, would not be expensive; that if we supply these trucks neither the British nor the Russians nor the Chinese would be able to contend that a potentially useful project had been wrecked because of U.S. failure to cooperate; whereas if we refuse to supply the trucks, some one or more of those Governments is almost sure to make that charge; and that, therefore, allocation of these trucks to this project would be politically advantageous and would stand a fair chance of serving a material purpose as well.

The latest word that we have on the subject, which has come in this morning, gives support to this view. A telegram from Moscow dated January 26 repeats a telegram from Kuibyshev dated January 22 reporting on information given by the Chinese Chargé d’Affaire[s]. This telegram ends with a statement that the Chargé said that, in the negotiations between the Soviet Government and the Chinese Government for exchange of goods, discussion of details being in process, whenever he urges the Soviet authorities to hasten their replies those authorities cite the absence of any arrangement whereby the United States would supply the trucks necessary to carry out the operations; [Page 599] and the Chargé said that he believes that if by some process the American Government could assure the Soviet Government and his Government that the trucks would be supplied he could expect to receive from the Soviet Government an early and favorable reply to the latest proposal which his Government had made.

Such appear to be the simple facts and the essentially important considerations.

We are not contending strongly either for or against this proposed allocation. We feel it politically desirable. We feel that it might have material advantages as well. We feel, however, that this Department should not take or be represented as taking a substantial responsibility for whatever decision is arrived at. This Department’s opinion has been sought and it has been given. As given, it brings out and stresses the political angles of the question.

All that we urge is that the War Department take into consideration all of the points, factors, possibilities, etc. that, bearing upon this problem, have been brought to its attention.16

  1. Former Chinese Ambassador in the United States.
  2. This memorandum was sent on January 29 to the Secretary of War by the Secretary of State, who on January 27 in a telephone conversation had discussed the subject of proposed allocation of trucks to China.