Moscow Embassy Files: Lot F–96

Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Edward Page, Second Secretary of Embassy in the Soviet Union

Participants: Mr. Molotov, Commissar for Foreign Affairs
The American Ambassador
Mr. Page, Second Secretary of Embassy
Mr. Pavlov, Interpreter
The Ambassador opened the conversation by commenting in general on his thirty thousand mile trip to and from the United States and of his visits to Eritrea and Tashkent. He remarked that he was especially impressed with the great economic and agricultural developments in Uzbekistan and stated that he hoped to visit that area at a later date.

[Here follow references to the Ambassador’s appreciation for Soviet courtesies, and other details.]

The Ambassador expressed his appreciation of the courtesy of the Soviet Foreign Office in furnishing the Embassy with copies of communications sent to the President by Mr. Stalin through Mr. Litvinov.67 He explained that since he left the United States on December 20 he was out of touch with certain phases of recent American-Soviet relations and added that he would appreciate being brought up to date in respect to the status of the Bradley survey flight as proposed by the President. Mr. Molotov replied that he would furnish the Ambassador with a copy of Mr. Stalin’s message to the President of January 13, sent through Mr. Litvinov, which would fully explain the situation. A copy of this message, received today, is attached.68
The Ambassador stated that he wished to discuss the question of the American bomber crew now interned at Okhansk. He said that Dr. Lang who had recently visit3d the men had reported that they were being well treated and that their physical condition was good; however, their mental condition was not good and this could mainly be attributed to the fact that the men had nothing to do. The Ambassador requested that the Soviet authorities arrange for the five members of the crew to participate in some useful professional work under parole in the Soviet Union. Mr. Molotov inquired into the nature of such work. The Ambassador stated that the men might well be used in aircraft assembly or related work, that they could be usefully employed in the office of the Military Attaché in Moscow. He added, as an afterthought, that they of course could even be released and permitted to return to the United States. Mr. Molotov smiled and stated that he would speak to the appropriate Soviet authorities in regard to the question raised by the Ambassador.
The Ambassador read to Mr. Molotov a paraphrase of telegram number 16 of January 8, 10 p.m. from the Department69 regarding the operation of the southern section of the Iranian Railroad by the United States Army and stated that his government had expressed the hope that the Soviet Government would at an early date notify the Iranian Government of its position in regard to the transfer. He added that he understood that the Soviet Government was aware of the transfer plan and was in favor of it. Mr. Molotov stated that the Iranian Government was quite correct in believing that under the Anglo-Soviet-Iranian Treaty of Alliance70 it should have Soviet consent to the plan to transfer operations to the American Army, but added that the American-British agreement regarding the actual transfer was not entirely clear to him. He asked the Ambassador exactly what the plan envisaged; for example, would American personnel operate the entire railroad replacing former Iranian personnel; would such personnel be military or civilian; for what term or duration would American operation be in effect; have Britain and the United States agreed on all details of the transfer; is the transfer plan secret or has it been made public. The Ambassador stated that he assumed that Mr. Smirnov, the Soviet Ambassador in Iran, had been fully informed of the transfer and the details thereof and had reported accordingly to his government. Mr. Molotov replied that Mr. Smirnov had indeed sent in some information on the transfer. [Page 619] The Ambassador stated that he was not fully conversant with all the details of the transfer but that it was his understanding that American Army units under General Connolly71 would operate the southern section of the railroad, together with other transport routes and points on the Persian Gulf for the duration of the war and for the express purpose of increasing and expediting the shipment of supplies to Russia; that General Connolly had informed him that the carrying capacity of the road could be increased five-fold. Mr. Molotov stated that he would look into the question of Soviet notification to the Government of Iran and communicate again with the Ambassador.
The Ambassador briefly outlined to Mr. Molotov the Department’s telegram number 19 of January 9, 1 p.m.,72 regarding the situation in North Africa and left with him in the form of a memo a paraphrase of the telegram. Mr. Molotov thanked the Ambassador for the information.
The Ambassador stated that he desired to have an interview with Mr. Stalin in order to convey to him certain personal messages from the President pertaining to the possible use of heavy arm bombardment units and the necessity for conferences and discussions as to the course of action when Germany is defeated, etc. He added that he had promised to bring Mr. Stalin some good American tobacco which he was doing and that an admirer in the United States had sent with the Ambassador a smoking set and another admirer in Asmara had sent with him a lighter. Mr. Molotov stated that he would inform Mr. Stalin of the Ambassador’s wishes and would communicate with him.
The Ambassador stated that after his conversations with the President he felt sure that the presence in Moscow of special representatives of the President would not be required in the future and that future diplomatic representations would be handled by the Ambassador. In order to further this procedure, the Ambassador stated that he proposed to spend most of his time in Moscow. Mr. Molotov signified his approval of this proposal.
In conclusion Mr. Molotov commented briefly on the present Soviet military situation stating that although it was “not bad” the enemy was still deep in Soviet territory. However, he said that the Soviet public felt confident that Germany could and would be defeated. In reply to questions as to the situation in the United States the Ambassador stated that war production was satisfactory—for [Page 620] example, forty-nine thousand planes had been produced in 1942 and there was reason to believe that this number would be doubled in 1943; that the American public was most anxious to get on with the war; and that the political situation was somewhat unsatisfactory since it was complicated by certain groups in the United States demanding of the Administration a statement of post-war policies. The Ambassador remarked that such a statement should be avoided at this time since it was impossible to know what situation or circumstances would prevail when the war terminated. Mr. Molotov appeared to acquiesce in this view. Mr. Molotov remarked that the slowing down of the African campaign had caused some disappointment in the Soviet Union and expressed the hope that the American advance would soon re-commence. The Ambassador stated that according to the information he had the American ground units had gotten ahead of their air support and that there would be certain delays until sufficient air installations had been constructed in order to assure the American Army of this support.
  1. Maxim Maximovich Litvinov, Soviet Ambassador In the United States.
  2. Infra.
  3. Vol. iv, p. 438.
  4. Signed at Tehran on January 29, 1942; for text, see Department of State Bulletin, March 21, 1942, p. 249, or British Cmd. 6335, Persia No. 1 (1942). For correspondence regarding the reservations of the United States with respect to this treaty, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. iv, pp. 263 ff.
  5. Maj. Gen. Donald H. Connolly, commanding Persian Gulf Service Command from October 1942.
  6. See footnote 7, p. 498.