868.48/11–1744: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Minister in Sweden (Johnson)

2329. Department and British Embassy have studied London’s telegram no. 371 Relief, November 8, as well as comments on that message from you (reurtel 4667, November 14) and from your British colleague (repeated to Washington as London’s 383 Relief). Basic assumption of our discussions here is that all urgent efforts must be made to retain Swedish ships in view of conditions in Greece and of critical shipping shortage.

Swedish Government’s recent instruction to Commission that some of its members must remain in Greece as authorized consignees and distribution advisors indicates that, according to Swedish official view, there has been and should be no alteration in neutral position of Commission, and that nominal continuance of Commission guards safe conduct of ships (reurtel 4705, November 1723). MacVeagh has reported that Sandstrom and two assistants will remain in Greece in advisory capacity and as members of a policy committee for relief distribution. Furthermore, we perceive nothing unsatisfactory in continuance of safe-conduct per se, except its extreme uncertainty and the impossibility of intelligent forward planning without assurance of continued availability of ships. In view of Swedish attitude, we see no advantage in attempting to urge Swedes to change status at present. However, we do seriously need informal assurance that, in case of withdrawal of safe conduct, Swedes will devise some scheme to continue the present amount of shipping in Greek relief traffic. Convoy would probably be the most feasible solution, but any other arrangements which would make ships available would be satisfactory. Swedes previously indicated (reurtel 1087, March 30, 1944) that convoy arrangements would probably be acceptable after liberation of Greece. As for neutrality status, we are aware that other Swedish ships, under British charter but still flying Swedish flag, are regularly traveling in convoy.

Department recommends that, in concert with your British colleague and if you perceive no serious objection thereto, you make further informal [Page 208] approaches to the Swedes along aforementioned lines. Similar instructions are being telegraphed to British Legation.

In our view the question of Swedish relief fleet in Greek traffic is not germane to shipping discussions currently being held in London and should preferably not enter those negotiations. Even if Swedes should decide to enter shipping pool (and for your confidential information shipping authorities here are sanguine that they will), pool commitments do not become effective until after the end of war with Germany, when the safe conduct arrangement would no longer be needed in any case. The period in which we primarily are interested for Greek relief scheme is from the present until German surrender.

Reference Paragraph 10, London’s 381 Relief, Department has inquired of Athens if Swedish plan to recall Fenris and Virginia has approval of military authorities, but no reply has yet been received. Reports of caique shortages lead us to believe that small Swedish ships might be used to advantage for local relief distribution. Fenris could, in opinion of authorities here, be profitably used in St. John run.

For your information, and at your discretion for communication to Swedes, 150,000 tons additional Argentine wheat have been made available to International Wheat Council (reurtel 4521, November 424). Department informed Greek Embassy but made it clear that we assumed no responsibility for shipment of any such supplies obtained. In view of wheat supply in Mediterranean and of backlog of varied foodstuffs in this country, Department and FEA think it advisable for time being that all Swedish ships load at St. John.

Sent to Stockholm, repeated to Athens.25

  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Repeated as telegram No. 33.