Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Acheson)
|Participants:||The Norwegian Ambassador|
|Mr. Sunde, the Norwegian Minister of Shipping|
The Norwegian Ambassador and Mr. Sunde called at their request. They told me that they had just had an interview with the President and handed me the attached copy of a memorandum15 which they had left with the President. They said that the President had requested them to repeat the substance of his interview with them to the Department and also to the War Shipping Administration. Their call upon me was for that purpose.
They informed me that, after glancing through the memorandum, the President had stated that he believed that it would not be feasible to transfer title to ships to Norway at the present time. He thought that there were legal complications in regard to this and that to do so might cause complications with the British and other countries. The Ambassador added that it was his impression that the President was not communicating a final decision but giving his impression of what the decision was likely to be. He stated, however, that the President had said that he would instruct the War Shipping Administration to carry through the transfer of the ten ships already under discussion to the Norwegians for operation. He added that these ships upon transfer should be “ear-marked” for the Norwegians and that there should be an agreement that the Norwegians should have the [Page 487]option to acquire them after the war upon as favorable terms as might be given to any other nation. The Ambassador stated that the President authorized him to say to the Norwegian Government and the Norwegian seamen that he “hoped and expected to be able to acquire these ships for the Norwegian merchant marine.”
Mr. Sunde stated further that the President had stated that, upon present forecasts, it appeared that the United States might, at the end of the war, own 50 per cent of the world’s tonnage—a situation which might produce serious national dislocations. He said that the President had said that in this situation it might be desirable to “pool” all the tonnage of the world and reallocate it on the basis of the losses of the several nations, so that each might have the percentage of the world’s tonnage with which it began the war. The President is reported further to have said that he was not prepared to adopt or announce such a proposal at the present time, but that he was considering it. Mr. Sunde suggested that such a proposal would have a great many practical difficulties since the tonnage in existence at the end of the war would consist of a great variety of ships, including a great number of victory ships, and that it would not be practicable to allocate shipping merely on the basis of tonnage regardless of the type of ship involved.
The Ambassador reported further that the President had mentioned that among the subjects discussed at Casablanca16 was the matter of what should be done in respect to ownership by the Axis powers of airplanes and ships; that it had been decided that the Axis countries should not be permitted to own planes for a period of twenty-five years after the war; and that some arrangement might be necessary to limit their ownership of ocean tonnage.
Mr. Sunde then asked whether the Department and the War Shipping Administration had made progress in preparing a memorandum for the Secretary and the President regarding a policy of replacement during and after the war. I stated that we had been continuously at work upon this matter and that obviously the views which the President had expressed to him would have a profound effect upon the study or work of the officials engaged upon it. Mr. Sunde thought that, in addition to the suggestion made by the President, it could be provided that ships turned over to the Norwegians might be chartered for some period after the war, certainly pending the negotiations regarding their acquisition, until a more suitable solution might be found to the replacement problem. He mentioned the matter of the price at which ships might be acquired, including the possibility that the insurance now being placed in the United States might provide a [Page 488]fund for the acquisition of such ships. He appeared to be in favor of postponing the matter of price and leaving that to negotiations to be undertaken within the terms of the President’s proposal.
Mr. Sunde then asked that the Department again take up with the War Shipping Administration the question of lend-lease aid in the repair of ships. He thought that Mr. Scoll17 was opposed to doing anything upon this matter and believed that some broad over-all plan, such as he had proposed before, should be put into effect—i.e., that the United States undertake to perform under lend-lease all repairs made in this country upon Norwegian ships and have turned over to it all insurance and that the Norwegians pay a certain per cent of the cost. I said to Mr. Sunde that I had discussed this matter with Mr. Scoll, who had pointed out certain difficulties in the way of accepting the Norwegian proposal as made. However, I would again raise the matter with the War Shipping Administration, and would hope to get within a very short time a definitive answer upon the basis of which we could fairly dispose of the question.