Secretary of State to the Assistant Secretary of
73. For attention Clayton.
WSA have brought to our attention problem arising out of Polish seamen’s strike regarding which they are communicating to Admiral Land [Page 1115] at Potsdam.2 Crews of merchant vessels controlled by London Polish authorities and chartered or allocated to British Ministry of War Transport struck last week in protest against recognition of Warsaw-Polish Government. Ships affected include five small American-owned coasting steamers transferred to Polish flag by regular procedure under Lend-Lease and operating in British coasting service. So far as known strike has not extended to the single Liberty ship similarly transferred to Polish operation and now loading on West Coast South America.
WSA state idleness of five Lend-Lease vessels on which crews have struck can not be justified for such a cause and only practical method to deal with the situation is to withdraw the ships under charter option requiring thirty days notice or more promptly on some other basis. However, they wish to avoid any action which might prove prejudicial in present Polish situation or which might prejudice atmosphere or otherwise prove embarrassing in connection with Potsdam conference.
Our view is that political character of strike voids essential purpose of allocation these ships to Polish operation, which was to provide crews for them. This seamen’s strike, however justified from viewpoint of the seamen themselves, constitutes interference with shipping and foreign policy operations of this Government and therefore cannot be tolerated; moreover, strike indicates prospect of continuing trouble with these seamen if existing arrangements continue. Therefore we believe ships should be withdrawn from Polish allocation by promptest legitimate procedure unless such action at this time would in any way embarrass proceedings of Potsdam conference. It is believed British would provide substitute crews if the vessels are allocated to them in view of importance to them of coasting services. If new Polish Government subsequently wishes to take over and operate American-owned ships under similar charter arrangements, this question can be discussed on the basis of then existing circumstances. Of course transfer of these ships to British or other allocation would likely make it more difficult to find other ships for later allocation to new Polish Government.
Possibility has been suggested that withdrawal of these ships from Polish operation might provide new Polish authorities with excuse for withdrawing from UMA and that Polish withdrawal might be followed by others. Since however withdrawal of these ships would reduce tonnage under Polish flag and in no way improve Polish ability to provide shipping space for Polish import requirements, disadvantage to Poland of withdrawal from UMA would not be lessened by transferring [Page 1116] these struck ships to other operation. In light of information available to us therefore we do not believe possible repercussions UMA should be considered a significant factor as against greater objection to any course of catering to seamen who have struck for political reasons. We understand strike also affects about twenty Polish-owned ships chartered to British Ministry of War Transport but that presents problem for British to solve independently of action taken toward our ships allocated to Polish operation.
We presume this question will be subject of direct discussion with Admiral Land Potsdam, but would appreciate your instructions or comment.