800.5018/6–1145: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant)

4668. Embs 5776, 7th.64 We are concerned about tone and implications of press comments on meeting of Food Ministers scheduled for 14th and would regret if meeting followed same line. Implication is that British have had primary concern about food for liberated areas, that Llewellin and Lyttelton came to Washington to try to better situation, and that British have taken lead in sending food to Western Allies and in reducing home rations.

We have no desire to enter competition to obtain credit for action but have in mind that Hopkins-Law discussions on shipping last winter were played up by British as an attempt on their part to obtain shipping for liberated areas from a reluctant U.S. Any repetition of such tactics would not only result in untrue impression but would have serious repercussions here.

The genesis of food talks was, as you will remember, the following: General Bedell Smith made a trip to Belgium which resulted in an urgent request from SCAEF that some hundred thousand tons of food be shipped to Belgium at once from U.K. PM cabled President65 saying this shipment could be made only on condition that British stocks be replenished from overseas. President replied that replenishment could only be discussed in connection with consideration of level of British stockpiles in general, and urged that discussions on this subject, which had started in January, should be renewed at once.66 President urged sending of British representatives to U.S. with power to commit British Government. PM replied that such representatives would be sent for the purpose of discussing whole world food situation. By mutual agreement, Canadians were included. During discussions agreement was reached that severe cuts would be necessary in several important food categories if minimum liberated area needs were to be met, the percentage cuts to be made by U.S. being in some cases greater than British and prospective ration equal to or less than British. Furthermore, substantial cuts in British stockpiles were insisted upon.

Therefore, any implication that initiative for the talks was made by British or that British exhibited greater concern for liberated areas than U.S. would be erroneous. British press reports refer to fact that supplies have gone to liberated areas from Britain. Some of these supplies came from stocks specifically built up through overseas [Page 1099] shipments for this purpose and stored in U.K. as a convenience. Others originated from Lend-Lease or Canadian mutual aid shipments.

We have requested Embassy here to arrange that text of Llewellin’s statement be made available to you beforehand so that you may agree to it. We feel it highly important that British should make completely clear die combined US-UK-Canadian nature of the supply action. Unless you strongly disagree, we suggest you informally express our concern as described above to appropriate officials. Please show this message to Fitzgerald67 and advise him that if he believes a false impression is being created, he should make a clear statement of U.S. participation. Suggest Hawkins68 attend meeting with him.

Failure of British Government to notify us formally of meeting and fact that press reports contain no reference to U.S. participation in meeting do not encourage us to feel that an objective statement of problems and action will be made.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Reference is to the Prime Minister’s telegram 902, March 2, p. 1072.
  3. Reference is to President Roosevelt’s telegram 712, March 10, p. 1076.
  4. D. A. Fitzgerald of the Combined Food Board, United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, was in London attending meeting of Food Ministers.
  5. Harry C. Hawkins, Counselor of Embassy for Economic Affairs.