740.00112 E.W. 1939/9562

The Acting Secretary of State to Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy

My Dear Admiral Leahy: I refer to the Department’s letter of January 27, 194432 and your reply dated February 28 concerning the military aspects of a proposal to initiate limited relief programs for the benefit of women and children in certain of the occupied countries of Europe.

[Page 265]

This matter has been discussed with the British authorities whose preliminary reaction in a negative sense appears to be based on the supposition that relief operations of this character would be incompatible with the military and naval situation which is now developing in that general area. The British Government has suggested, however, that the whole question might be submitted by the United States Government to the Combined Chiefs of Staff where the military aspects of the matter could be fully discussed. The British Government has indicated its willingness to consider the proposal afresh in the light of the recommendations of the Combined Chiefs of Staff.

The proposal, in brief, envisages the furnishing of limited quantities of supplemental food supplies to children and nursing and expectant mothers initially in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Norway, provided German agreement can be obtained to certain necessary conditions designed to safeguard the distribution of imported supplies. This is the element of the populations of those areas which because it is not contributing to the German war effort is being neglected while the bulk of available rations go to those who are producing for the enemy’s war machine. The Swedish Government would be invited to act as neutral guarantor of the programs and would be requested to take the initiative in presenting the proposal to the German Government for consideration.

It is not contemplated that mechanical implementation of the proposals would be in the immediate future, since time would be consumed in submitting the proposal to the German Government and by that Government in considering the proposal. If approved and the necessary assurances were given by that Government, additional time would be needed to work out the details for the administration of the programs. If, at a time when it should become possible to give effect to this proposal, military operations were in progress which, in the view of the military authorities would preclude the shipment to and distribution in all or any of the areas under consideration, such shipments would, of course, not be made. It is, however, considered to be of importance that the German Government be approached in this matter since by so doing the United States and British Governments could free themselves of the criticism now being directed against them by reason of their failure to take the initiative in endeavoring to work out means of relieving the distress of that element of the population which is not contributing to the German war effort. If the proposals were not accepted by Germany, it might be possible to transfer such criticism to the enemy. As stated above, should the proposal be accepted by the German Government and should it become impracticable to give effect to the proposal in whole or in part because of military operations, nothing would seem to have been lost by making the [Page 266] attempt. By having made the effort the Allied Governments might re-gain some of the good will which has become lost to them by reason of their failure to attempt to relieve the distress in the occupied countries.

I should appreciate it greatly if you would present this matter to the Combined Chiefs of Staff in its most favorable light. I shall await with great interest an expression of the views of the Combined Chiefs of Staff on this question.

Sincerely yours,

Edward R. Stettinius, Jr.
  1. Not printed.