Memorandum of Conversation, by the Adviser on Political Relations (Hornbeck)

Sir George Sansom14 called on me this afternoon at his request and said that he had come to impart information. Sir George said that the Chinese had been asking the British Government to send them transport planes—for use in China’s internal transportation. The Foreign Office had instructed the Embassy to the effect that Great Britain had no transport planes to spare with the exception of perhaps a half dozen “old planes”; that the British Government was party to a commitment whereby the China theater is an area to be supplied by the United States; that General Stilwell did not want to have these old planes sent in because he would have to supply them with gas and maintenance; and that the British Government is informing the Chinese Government that it is not in position to meet the Chinese Government’s request. Further, the Foreign Office instructed the Embassy to inform us of the above.

I thanked Sir George for his imparting of this information and I asked whether I might inquire just why his Government was bringing this to this Department’s attention. Sir George replied that he would assume, and he would assume that his Government would assume, that the matter would be of interest to this Department. I then asked whether the commitment to which Sir George had referred provided that the furnishing of supplies to China was to be exclusively a function of the United States. Sir George replied that he did not know but that he would infer that such was the case. I then asked whether this would mean that Russia also was excluded. Sir George replied that he did not know. I then asked whether there is any area which is exclusively to be supplied by [Page 668] Great Britain. Sir George replied that he did not know but he would assume that there was. Sir George then added that, as he understood it, all allocations of war supplies were to be made by a Board which sits in Washington. I then asked whether the British Government would consider itself bound in the light of that fact to refrain from supplying any country with any transport planes independently of and without reference to procedures and decisions of that Board. Sir George smiled—as each of us had done at earlier points in the conversation—and replied that he did not know. I then said that I hoped that, in informing the Chinese Government that they were unable to comply with the Chinese Government’s request for any transport planes, the British Government did not say to the Chinese that they were unable to comply with the request because they had promised the United States that they would not do such things without permission and the American Government or an agent or agents thereof would not give permission. Sir George again smiled. This marked the end of the official chapter of this conversation.

S[tanley] K. H[ornbeck]
  1. British Minister in the United States.