740.00119 (Potsdam)/7–3045

No. 1014
Proposal by the British Delegation1


Disposal of the German Fleet and Merchant Ships

Memorandum by the United Kingdom Delegation

When this question was discussed at the Third Plenary Meeting on the 19th July,2 on the basis of the Soviet Delegation’s Memorandum of that date,3 certain conclusions were reached and it was agreed to leave the matter until the last stage of the Conference.

2. The British Delegation have given further consideration to the questions raised in the Soviet Memorandum, in the light of the discussion on the 19th July, and submit the following suggestions as a basis for the decisions of the Conference on the subject. These suggestions relate to the numbered paragraphs of the Soviet Memorandum:—

(1) (a) It was agreed on the 19th July that the German surface ships should be shared equally between the Three Powers. The British Delegation suggest that consideration should now be given to allotting a share to France which is an equal party to the terms of surrender for Germany and is a full member of the Control Council for Germany. The allocation of specific vessels is, it is suggested, a matter upon which an expert commission should submit recommendations to the Three Governments, after it had drawn up a list of all available surface ships, including those under construction or already launched, and those under repair which can be quickly completed. Any ships requiring more than three months for completion should be removed from Germany by the country to whom they are allocated. Remaining ships under construction will be destroyed.

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(b) At the same time it was agreed in principle that the German U–boats should be dealt with separately, the greater part being destroyed. A token number would be retained for equal division among the Three Powers for purposes of research. The question of a French share of the retained U–boats should also be considered. Here again, it is suggested that the expert commission should be instructed to make concrete proposals after full investigation of the numbers of U–boats—seaworthy, damaged and under construction or repair—which are in the hands of the Allied authorities. Each of the Three Powers would be responsible for arranging the destruction of U–boats in its control, apart from the token number which it may be agreed to retain.

In deciding the allocation of German warships, the British Delegation consider that account should be taken of the Rumanian and Bulgarian warships available to the Soviet Union.

(2) The Soviet request for a proportional share of the German Navy’s reserve of armaments, ammunition and supplies was not discussed at the Plenary Meeting on the 19th July. The Soviet request is acceptable in principle to the British Delegation, who must point out, however, that these stores have been dispersed by the Germans and that the first step must be the preparation of an inventory which should be one of the tasks assigned to the proposed expert commission.

(3) It was agreed in principle that there should be a division of the surrendered German merchant shipping, but no final conclusion was reached as to the proportions to be allotted to the different Allied States. Mr. Churchill expressed the view that account should be taken of merchant shipping which had passed under the control of the Soviet Government as the result of the armistices with Finland and Rumania. President Truman emphasized the need for German shipping in the war against Japan and for bringing supplies for the rehabilitation of Europe.

The meeting agreed in principle that without prejudice to the preparation of a scheme for the division of surrendered German merchant ships, all such ships should be available for use in support of the Allied war effort against Japan.

The British Delegation maintain their point of view that in the division of the surrendered German merchant shipping account should be taken of the shipping taken as reparation by the Soviet Union from the Satellite States. Account should also be taken of the need for providing ships for local German purposes, in accordance with any recommendations which may be made by the Allied Control Council for Germany. Subject to these conditions, the British Delegation renew the suggestion made by Mr. Churchill on the 19th July that a fourth part be made available for division between the other Allied States whose merchant marines have suffered substantial losses at the hands of Germany. The share of the Soviet Union would in that case be one quarter of the total available.

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The shares of the various Allied States would be counted as reparation receipts.

(4) The British Delegation cannot agree to the timetable proposed by the Soviet Delegation, since, as pointed out above, there is much essential preliminary investigation and listing to be done before the transfer of ships can begin. The British Delegation suggest that the following timetable should be approved in principle by the Conference:—

Warships. Transfers will be carried out as soon as possible after Governments have approved the recommendations of the proposed expert commission.
Merchant Ships. Proposals for the allocation of specific German merchant ships, in accordance with such decision on allocation as may be agreed by the Conference, should be agreed as soon as possible between the three Governments, in the light of recommendations made by the experts, and particular ships would then be earmarked. The transfer of these ships would take place as soon as they became available after the end of the Japanese War.

5. The Plenary Meeting on the 19th July agreed in principle upon the formation of a Three Power Naval Commission, with reciprocal rights for each party to make the investigations required for their work in any territory under the control of the other parties. As mentioned above, the British Delegation propose that there shall be established an expert commission to deal with German warships. Its composition and duties are suggested in paragraphs (1) and (2) above.

As regards merchant ships the British Delegation suggest that detailed recommendations to give effect to the proposals in paragraphs (3) and (4) (b) should be worked out between suitable expert representatives nominated by the Three Governments to deal with merchant ships, in consultation with representatives of other interested Governments.

3. There is the possibility that any public announcement that German warships are to be divided amongst the Allies may result in the German crews scuttling ships which might be ordered to sail to Allied ports. It is therefore desirable that no announcement of the division of the German Navy be made, at any rate until the expert commission has completed its investigations, which should include the detailed arrangements for carrying out the transfer of ships. A similar delay is necessary before making any definite announcement about the division of the surrendered German merchant ships.

  1. Attachment 6 to the summary of the Tenth Meeting of the Foreign Ministers, July 30. See ante, pp. 492, 498.
  2. See ante, pp. 118122.
  3. Document No. 1007.