The American Minister in the Union of South Africa (MacVeagh) to the South African Prime Minister (Smuts)28


The American Minister had the honor to be received today by the Eight Honorable, the Prime Minister, and to speak with him regarding supply problems of the Union and the War effort.

[Page 189]

Mr. MacVeagh recalled that following the receipt of the Prime Minister’s strictly confidential memorandum of February 19, 1943,29 the American Government had asked him to seek a clarification of the Prime Minister’s desire for a “joint understanding in advance” regarding supplies for the gold mines, and that he had been instructed to make clear the American Government’s own view that such supplies should not be considered separately from other supply problems. He also recalled that the Prime Minister had then approved a message to the American Government in the following sense:

The Prime Minister has been informed of your view that supplies for gold mines should be considered together with other supply problems and not separately.
He has no objection to the above principle. He does not ask for a separate agreement in respect of supplies for any particular category of consumption. His object has been to insure acceptance of the principle that supplies in general that are considered by him and the Union Government to be essential for the maintenance of the maximum war effort by this country shall be so regarded by United States Government agencies.
The Prime Minister’s special reference to gold mining supplies in his communication of the 19th February, was due to the uncertainty that has hitherto existed as regards their status and his desire that there should be an understanding recognising their inclusion among other eligible essentials. If paragraph 2 above is acceptable to the United States Government the proposal previously referred to for a specific joint understanding in advance concerning gold mining supplies could be regarded as falling away.
It is realized by the Prime Minister that the quantities of all supplies to be released will continue to be subject to limitations and will be dealt with by the proposed joint body.

In connection with the above Mr. MacVeagh informed the Prime Minister that he had just received a reply from his Government substantially as follows:

[Here follows substance of telegram No. 63, printed supra.]

Mr. MacVeagh said he hoped that the Prime Minister would find the above satisfactory and that he would be able to confirm the understanding of the American Government.

Mr. MacVeagh quoted his Government as wishing to make it perfectly clear that although it is “willing to use its best efforts to furnish supplies for the gold mines within limits approved by the three Governments concerned,” its undertaking to do this “cannot be regarded as a guarantee or a firm commitment because it would be subject to lack of shipping, shortages of materials and other factors which are constantly shifting in the interests of the war effort. An obligation to furnish supplies for any purpose must of course be attended by such reservations.”

  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Minister in the Union of South Africa in his despatch No. 172, April 20; received May 17.
  2. For substance of memorandum, see telegram No. 186, February 19, 3 p.m., from the Consul at Capetown, p. 182.