Mr. William Phillips, Personal Representative of President Roosevelt to India, to the Officer in Charge at New Delhi (Merrell)

My Dear George: Since my arrival in Washington I have discussed with various officers in the Department the duties Lane59 is expected to perform as the Mission’s representative in the coordination of the activities of American war agencies in India. In this letter I wish to convey to you and Lane the information I have received as to the Department’s expressed wishes for the effective and efficient supervision of the work of the representatives of these agencies in India.

[Page 287]

[Here follows a discussion of attempts by the United States to establish with the British the principle of joint examination of India’s import requirements; for correspondence, see pages 246 ff.]

Now a few comments on our procurement program in India. As you are aware, India is one of the fruitful sources of strategic materials: jute and jute products, shellac, cashew nut shell oil, goat skins, mica, manganese, and other mineral products such as kyanite, chromite, talc, and beryl. Certain of these materials are obtainable in quantity only from India; and the cessation or curtailment of their flow would severely prejudice the war effort.

On the whole, the procurement program of the United States in India has gone forward successfully. Almost all methods of purchase have been employed: private buying, United States Government buying, and joint British-American buying. The practice has been to adopt whatever method seemed best adapted at the time for the particular commodity concerned; there has been no predilection for any one method of procedure. With respect to certain items, shellac in particular, considerable discussion and divergence of opinion has arisen as to the best method to be followed. It has been the attitude of the Department and of the Purchasing Agencies to maintain an objective outlook and to avoid precipitate decisions and changes of policy. In order to obtain the most complete information upon the difficult problem of obtaining adequate supplies of shellac, the Board of Economic Warfare is having a special investigation made by Mr. Gillespie who plans to leave for Calcutta at an early date.

It has also been the studied policy to maintain close cooperation with the British Supply Agencies in the purchase of Indian strategic materials. It is believed that the Joint Mica Mission has, on the whole, achieved a very considerable measure of success. Even with respect to commodities where no formal cooperation has existed, it has been felt that mutual consultation has been most helpful. Some months ago, the suggestion was made by the American Consul-General in Calcutta and by Mr. Simon Swerling, the representative of the Board of Economic Warfare, that there be established in Calcutta a “Joint Office of Strategic Purchases”. This proposal has laterally been under active consideration. It has been the attitude here that it would not be best to establish machinery which would merge the buying programs of the two countries, but that it would be preferable to have a “Joint Policy Committee” which could exchange pertinent information and discuss policies of mutual interest.

As you know, India is also an area of transshipment for strategic materials from China; namely, tungsten, tin, bristles, tea, silk etc. These commodities arrive by air at Dinjan and are exported to the United States by steamer from various Indian ports. The Board of Economic Warfare has sent representatives to expedite these shipments. [Page 288] It would seem likely, however, that there will be ways and occasions in which the Department’s representatives may appropriately lend their assistance.

The Department believes that the Mission should in general keep a watchful eye upon our whole procurement program without having to become too immersed in detail. The general purpose would be that, from a more detached viewpoint, the Mission might be in a position to make helpful suggestions or to point out harmful developments. This would be particularly true of developments wherein the operation of the procurement program might be adversely affecting relations with the British or Indian governments, officials, or other categories of persons or interests. In making such observations, there should, however, be borne in mind the primary responsibility for the procurement of strategic materials with which the Board of Economic Warfare is definitely charged.

I trust the above rather lengthy commentary will give you and Lane a clearer conception of the Department’s objectives in so far as its requirements and procurement programs are concerned.

My warmest personal regards to you and all the other members of the Mission.

Sincerely yours,

William Phillips
  1. Clayton Lane, Consul at Calcutta, had been appointed to New Delhi as Director of War Economic Operations on April 26; Ambassador Phillips had returned to the United States for consultation.