840.811/7–2545

No. 754
Memorandum by the United States Chiefs of Staff
secret
C. C. S. 896 (Terminal)

Internationalization of the Danube River

1.
The free efficient use of such rivers as the Rhine, the Weser, the Elbe, and the Danube in the supply of the armies of occupation and in maintaining the bare needs of the civilian populations under their control is essential in view of the limited means of transportation available to fulfill their task.
2.
Adequate machinery in the formation of the Rhine Navigation Agency under the Allied Control Council in Germany, and the active measures presently under way to clear the river of obstruction, scheduled for completion in the United States and British zones by 1 September and in the French zone by 15 October, promise to meet the basic needs served by the Rhine. Russia has now no representative on that agency because it has no supply interest. However, politically, it might be expedient to consider favorably a request from Russia for such membership.
3.
The Weser and the Elbe while important in the restoration of the German economy are not so vital to the fulfillment of immediate supply needs of the occupying armies.
4.
The Danube, however, though largely clear of obstructions and open to use, cannot fulfill its proper role as a transportation artery in the supply of the armies of occupation and of the populations under their control, unless a Danube Navigation Agency similar to that set up for the Rhine is organized promptly. The need for action is stated in Scaf 471, 3 July 1945, (Enclosure “B”).
5.
There are certain embarrassments to the formation of such an agency. Local Russian commanders have no authority to act. The river lies both in Germany and Austria and its regulation therefore involves the Allied Control Councils of both countries. The request does not include French membership although politically they are necessarily eligible and no vital disadvantage should result from their inclusion. A Russian protest to representation of the British and the French on the ground that they have no frontage on the river may lead to their request for membership on the Rhine Navigation Agency.
6.
The opportunity for the creation of a Danube Navigation Agency will probably never be more favorable than at this conference attended by the heads of state and their foreign ministers to whom the Chiefs of Staff may now so effectively appeal for assistance.

The United States Chiefs of Staff recommended that the Combined Chiefs of Staff forward the enclosed letter (Enclosure “A”) to the Department of State and to the Foreign Office.

[Enclosure A]
Draft
secret

Letter to Department of State and the Foreign Office1

The Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force,2 on 3 July 1945, urged the consideration at Terminal of internationalization of the Danube. While recognizing the necessity to re-establish at the earliest practicable date the international character of the Danube waterway to meet the over-all question of navigation of the Danube and the rights of all states having interest, he emphasizes the immediate need of an interim Danube Navigation Agency composed of U. S., U. K. and U. S. S. R. representatives, set up in a manner similar to that followed in the creation of the present Rhine Navigation Agency to meet the current problems of supplying the armies of occupation in Austria and the populations dependent upon them.

There are certain difficulties to the creation of such an interim agency. Local Russian commanders lack authority to discuss questions involving navigation of the river within the Russian zone. The [Page 653]river flows through both Germany and Austria thus involving the two Allied Control Councils of Germany and Austria. These councils include the French. The Rhine Agency has no Russian membership. The SCAEF proposal does not include a French representative for the Danube Agency. It is evident that politically all four nations must be eligible to membership on such an agency. It is equally apparent that in the creation of a Danube Navigation Agency there should be but one national representative for each of the four allied nations mutually acceptable to the Allied Control Councils of both Germany and Austria.

It is believed that the opportunity presented by this conference to come to an agreement with the Russian Government creating an interim Danube Navigation Agency should be seized in order to meet the immediate military needs and responsibilities of our armies of occupation in their own supply and that of the civilian population under their control. It is accordingly recommended that the necessary action be taken to consummate this purpose at Terminal.

[Enclosure B—Paraphrase]
The Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force (Eisenhower) to the Combined Chiefs of Staff
secret

Scaf 471. The urgency of the international problem discussed herein would suggest its inclusion on the agenda of the forthcoming Conference of the Big Three, if such action is deemed appropriate.

Before the official date of the surrender of the German Armed Forces, all craft on the Danube were moved into the American zone by the officer commanding the Combined German-Hungarian Navies. We have affidavits that this move was completed by the date specified.

The Soviet authorities contend that certain craft did not arrive until after the date mentioned, and have demanded through the American Third Army that certain of these ships be returned to the Soviet zone of occupation. The Soviet authorities have been told that consideration is now being given at the governmental level to restitution of such property.

We have offered, however, for our mutual benefit, to enter into local agreements for the employment of such shipping. Soviet commanding officers who were approached did not have authority to discuss matters which had to do with large-scale navigation of that part of the Danube which lies within the Soviet zone of occupation.

Clarification is needed for over-all questions concerning navigation of the river and the rights of various allied nations, including Yugoslavia [Page 654]and Czechoslovakia, which, together with other countries, formerly owned much of the shipping now under our jurisdiction. The immediate problems which demand decision soon are (1) to reach agreements, so as restore navigation on the Danube, for the mutual use of available shipping; (2) to define policy for returning shipping to the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia; and (3) to assign relative priorities.

I recommend that our policy aim at re-establishing the international character of the Danube, and, as a first step in this direction, that an interim Danube Navigation Agency, similar in nature to the corresponding agency dealing with the Rhine, be set up as soon as possible, membership in the first instance to be confined to the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and the United States, but to be expanded, when expedient, to include all other countries concerned in navigation of the Danube, with a view to re-establishing eventually a permanent International Danube Authority.

  1. This letter was dispatched on July 24. See document No. 756, footnote 2.
  2. General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower.