Briefing Book Paper
German Shipping and Shipbuilding
Questions relating to the treatment of German shipping and shipbuilding need to be considered from two aspects:
- The immediate disposition of German resources for utilization in the United Nations war and rehabilitation program;
- Long-range policies involving the future of German shipping and shipbuilding.
Both aspects need to be considered in relation to each other, so that decision and action in one phase may avoid so far as possible prejudicing decision and action in the other.[Page 564]
In general, Soviet accession to the United Maritime Authority (UMA), or at least a benevolent and cooperative Soviet attitude toward that Authority would be a major step toward the satisfactory handling of problems relating to German shipping and shipbuilding. This is discussed in a separate memorandum.1 In addition, it is desirable that Soviet policy and procedure be brought into line with principles agreed between the United States and British Governments relative to the handling of recaptured, captured, and surrendered German vessels; agreement needs to be reached regarding the immediate disposition of German shipbuilding and ship repair resources; and the development of reparations and economic disarmament policies calls for agreement on long-range policies toward German shipping and shipbuilding.
[German Shipping and Shipbuilding]
Complete and precise facts regarding the condition of German shipping and shipbuilding at the time of surrender have not yet become available. Presumably amplified information will be available in Berlin. It appears however:
- That a substantial volume of merchant shipping has come into Allied possession in the course of events leading up to and including the German surrender. Much of this tonnage is doubtless in a condition requiring substantial repair or reconditioning. It includes a large variety of vessels, from small coasting cargo vessels up to large passenger liners. The greater number of these vessels have evidently fallen into American or British hands; of these, the military authorities retain what they require to fulfill their responsibilities, and all other sea-going tonnage acquired is turned over to the Anglo-American Combined Shipping Adjustment Boards (CSAB) acting on behalf of UMA, for temporary disposition and immediate utilization in United Nations Service. Little if any information has become available as to Soviet acquisitions, either as to their number or character, or as to their disposition.
- The interest of the United States is primarily in the acquisition of the larger passenger-carrying vessels for use as troop carriers and possibly hospital ships. United States Army and War Shipping Administration representatives have been dealing with British representatives in connection with the disposition of the vessels acquired.
- That much of the German shipbuilding and ship repair capacity has been damaged, but not so completely that a substantial part of it could not be put into condition for utilization without great delay, provided required materials and supplies are made available, [Page 565] if decision to utilize these resources should be reached. The principal resources are in British-occupied territory, but substantial facilities are located in the Soviet-occupied area.
1. Immediate Objective. The essential immediate objective is to make the vessels and other useful shipping industry resources acquired from Germany available to the fullest possible extent, in a fair and orderly manner, to serve the current requirements of the United Nations and other friendly countries. Consideration may here be confined to questions of principle: details involved in the implementation of policy decisions reached may satisfactorily be left to the authorities concerned with shipping operations to work out. As between the United States and British Governments satisfactory progress and results are generally achieved through established procedures and channels; the salient problem is to achieve Soviet concurrence in policies already established and a satisfactory basis for Soviet collaboration (a) in reaching further policy decisions of tripartite importance, and (b) in the implementation of decisions of significance to all three Governments. In this respect the essential problem is similar to that involved in Soviet relationship to UMA, discussed in a separate memorandum; Soviet decision to join UMA would be a major step forward in handling all these problems.
With reference to vessels previously under enemy control which have now come under United Nations control:
- The United States and British Governments have reached agreement on principles to be followed in the handling of recaptured vessels, which were of United Nations’ ownership prior to their capture. These are to be returned to the United Nations’ Government under whose flag they were registered, but are to be immediately available for operation for United Nations purposes through UMA. It would be desirable to reach similar agreement with the Soviet authorities.
- Similarly, agreement in principle with respect to captured and surrendered vessels is most desirable. These have mostly come into the possession of the United States or the British, but the Soviet authorities have some, and since the surrendered ships have technically been surrendered to all these governments, it is most desirable that there be tripartite agreement as to their use, to facilitate their immediate utilization for United Nations purposes through UMA, without prejudice to and pending determination of their ultimate disposition.
- The Allied Control Commission in Berlin is of course concerned in the disposition of vessels surrendered by Germany, but it is the general consensus of United States and British authorities that the Commission be guided by the purposes and objectives of the above-mentioned agreements including the agreement establishing [Page 566] UMA,2 and Soviet concurrence in this is most desirable. The military authorities participating in the Control Commission will presumably retain within their own control such inland and coasting or short sea watercraft as they find necessary for the conduct of operations which are their responsibility as occupational forces, and it is to be assumed that the requirements of tripartite understanding and collaboration in this respect will be effected through the Allied Control Commission itself. It is with respect to sea-going vessels not required to meet the essential inland and local responsibility of the occupying military forces that tripartite understanding and agreement as to policies and as to the continuing handling of problems of tripartite interest is essential.
- Somewhat similar considerations may arise in connection with the possible utilization of ship repair and ship building resources of the surrendered enemy. It may be found essential and desirable to make some temporary utilization of these resources for current requirements but in general such utilization should be confined to the minimum for the sake of the longer range considerations relating to reparations and economic disarmament discussed below.
2. Longer Range Objectives: With respect to all of these matters, there are longer range aspects of less immediately pressing character, which fall outside the present purpose. They involve questions of reparations policy, economic and industrial disarmament of the enemy, and long-range commercial and international policy including national shipping policies, and international shipping relations which it is desirable to avoid freezing too quickly before the long-range situation clarifies. In deferring or dealing with these aspects, however, it is most desirable that the more deliberate handling of the longer range questions should not be complicated by, nor in turn complicate the most effective disposition of the resources available for the immediate purposes of the United Nations.
There is enclosed a memorandum on German Ships and Shipbuilding as Reparations Items prepared for the use of the American representatives on the Reparations Commission, in which the essential considerations of a longer range character are set forth from the American point of view. The statements of fact set forth in the first section of this enclosure are of course subject to correction and amplification on the basis of additional information available to the occupying forces following the surrender of Germany, but their general character is believed to be correct or at least not to involve any change in the policy considerations set forth which may be summarized as follows:
- The basic principle should be the avoidance of action which would contribute to or stimulate the resumption of German sea-going shipping or shipbuilding. In view of the importance of merchant shipping and shipbuilding in the conduct of oversea military operations, these industries are clearly involved in the problem of economic [Page 567] disarmament. In so far as disarmament and reparations considerations clash, the former should take precedence, so far as possible.
- All efforts on the part of our Allies to employ German yards for the construction of new merchant vessels on reparations account should therefore be resisted. In this connection, the possibilities of sale of surplus vessels from our war-time construction program, at low prices for the reestablishment of Allied merchant fleets may provide a useful consideration.
- The repair and reconditioning of damaged German merchant vessels should be limited to those required for immediate use and to those of types which war-time (and early post-war) construction will not have supplied in numbers adequate to meet early post-war requirements. The extensive repair and reconditioning of German ships which are comparable to our war-built ships of which we will have a surplus, should be avoided so far as possible consistent with essential immediate requirements, in order to avoid augmenting the problem of post-war surplus of these types of vessels.
- The United States should participate actively in the distribution of German merchant vessels on reparations account, on the basis of equitable principles taking into account war losses of allied nations and their post-war requirements. Such participation should include the assertion of claims to a fair share in the ultimate disposition of German merchant shipping acquired as a result of the defeat of Germany.
- The assertion of such claims is motivated primarily
by general considerations, including:
- the interest of the Government of the United States as the World’s largest shipowner, in achieving the most rational possible readjustment of world shipping to peace-time requirements, and
- the United States Government’s concurrent interest on security grounds involving the limitation of German war potential, in the restriction of German participation in post-war ocean shipping.
- The purpose of maintaining the position of the United States as a claimant is essentially to preserve any means of exercising influence toward the effective and judicious settlement of these issues.
- In addition, but as a relatively secondary
consideration, the United States is likely to be
interested in the ultimate disposal of a few German
ships of special types in deficient supply for post-war
needs. This is likely to be true chiefly with respect to
passenger ships useful for the prompt reestablishment of
overseas passenger services, for a temporary period
pending the restoration of the American passenger fleet
with modern and efficient ships constructed in American
yards. In asserting claims on this account, however, it
will be necessary to exercise care to avoid:
- loading down the American merchant marine with obsolescent white elephants;
- confusing immediate short-run objectives (troop transport and hospital ship requirements) with long-range post-war objectives: any grounds for suspicion that the latter are being advanced under cloak of the former will immediately complicate [Page 568] the handling of immediate requirements by introducing considerations relating to the parallel long-range interests of Great Britain, the Netherlands, France and possibly other Allied countries in post-war competition in ocean passenger services.