The Acting War Shipping Administrator (Conway) to the Assistant to
the War Shipping
74. To Admiral Land for Morse from Conway. SD 4486.
In view of the Polish crew strike, Helmbold and I believe we should immediately withdraw N3’s and re-allocate. State Department also of this opinion but believe with us that no action should be taken pending clearance from you since it may embarrass your current negotiations or U. M. A. questions. Liberty crew so far has not joined strike. At meeting in Shipping Division Office State Department Polish desk advised it would be an advantage to take action now on vessels as this would be a propitious time to take a necessary if unpleasant step. However Saugstad fully advising Clayton on situation.2 I have signed the following letter and dispatched it to the State Department today:
“The State Department has been informed of the arrangements under which the War Shipping Administration has allocated six U. S. owned ships to the Polish Government on a ‘Bareboat out, time charter back’ basis. Since the date on which the ships were delivered there has been a change in the recognized Polish Government.
Although we understand that the Polish Government now recognized is apparently the legal successor to the prior government, it has occurred to us that there may be reasons why it would not be desirable to continue the ‘Bareboat out, time charter back’ arrangements with the new government. A strike on the part of the crews [Page 1117]of five of the six ships involved has brought this point to an immediate head which will require action on our part. We are informed by a cable from London today3 that the crews have struck in protest against the recognition of the Warsaw-Polish Government.
From an operating point of view, we cannot justify the idleness of these ships for such a cause; and the only practical method by which we could deal with the present situation is to withdraw the ships from their present allocation either by taking advantage of our charter option to cancel the present arrangements on thirty days notice or otherwise. Since this might be interpreted as an uncordial act towards a newly formed friendly government we would appreciate your advices before taking any further action.
In the event that the ship delay problem is settled before we have been able to take any action along the above lines, it would appear to us, from an operating point of view, that the present arrangements could be continued and the ships thus kept moving without interruption until such time as a definite policy be established. We believe this possible even though, because of the many uncertainties involved, we have felt it necessary for the present to stop payment of charter hire to protect our interest.
The present arrangement was concluded with the then duly authorized Polish authorities, and we have worked with their duly appointed agency, the Gdynia–America Line, which is ninety eight per cent owned by the Polish Government. Pending official word from Warsaw, we feel there is some basis for continuance of the present arrangements. Because of the many factors involved and because of the maturing obligation to pay charter hire, we would also like your advice on this point.
In view of the operating problem involved, your immediate advice is urgently requested.”
We have received following cable from Devlin: “Wsa 3714–W 2084 reference our Wsa 3590–W 20383 on five Polish coasters. Situation unchanged as regards Kowel[,] Kolno and Kielce. Kutno crew remains with exception of master and vessel continues in Liverpool–Belfast trade. Krosno anchored Southend with crew and cargo on board[;] crew will leave when vessel ties up at berth. London berthing situation tight account labour and British hesitate to berth vessel as she will be immobilized immediately she ties up. Prospects of settlement extremely uncertain. Unless otherwise advised by you we will take no action as problem apparently one of high level foreign relations.” To which we have replied as follows: “Your present method for handling situation approved. Settlement of dispute not desirable until we are prepared to act under necessary diplomatic clearances. Necessary that we be kept fully advised of any possibility that situation may be changed. We are handling with State Department here and with Morse in Potsdam.”