840.50/1–645: Airgram

The Ambassador to the Netherlands Government in Exile (Hornbeck) to the Secretary of State

Netherlands Series A–4. Reference Department’s telegram No. 9872, November 23, 6 p.m. to London Embassy.1 In a note of January 1, 1945, the Netherlands Government welcomes the proposed exchange of views regarding the transfer of responsibility for civilian supplies but would “before replying to the specific suggestion made, like to draw attention to the following facts”.

“1. It is with growing concern that the Netherlands Government have observed that during the period in which full responsibility for the supply of the primary needs of the civilian population of the liberated part of the Netherlands rested with SHAEF,2 it apparently was not possible for SHAEF to meet the requirements of the situation.

2. The Netherlands Government are well aware of the fact that the unhappy conditions, notably with regard to food, clothing, shelter, fuel and medical supplies, which lasted for many weeks after the withdrawal of the Germans in the liberated area—conditions far worse than those obtaining during the German occupation—were at least partly due to other urgent demands made upon SHAEF in connection with the immediate prosecution of the war, and in so far, attributable to military necessity. Nevertheless, they cannot help but feel that, especially if the Netherlands Government had been placed in a position to provide the population of the liberated provinces with certain additional supplies for their own account, more could have been done to relieve the distress of these people.

3. For, fully realising the pressing demands of actual warfare, the Netherlands Government made repeated attempts to supplement those supplies which SHAEF had been able to provide, but which did not in themselves suffice to guarantee satisfactory minimum rations for the civil population in the liberated area. In doing so they were guided by the conviction that no nation that is in the fortunate possession of a considerable merchant marine can, save for a short period [Page 2] and in exceptional circumstances, be expected to remain inactive whilst seeing that the supplies provided for her citizens are so insufficient as to barely cover their most essential needs and prevent disease and dire distress. The Netherlands Government compare their position in this respect with that of the Governments of countries which have not been occupied by the enemy and which being, like the Netherlands, in possession of their own shipping, have experienced no similar difficulties in respect of the supply of essential commodities to their civilian population.

4. So far, the Netherlands Government unfortunately have not been successful in obtaining the desired quantities of essential primary supplies, the procuring of which has not infrequently been made dependent on authorisation to obtain means of transport. Availability of transport, on the other hand, has constantly been made dependent by the Combined Boards,2a the national Procurement Agencies and others, on the authorisation to procure supplies. Thus, it has not proved possible, so far, to break this vicious circle.

5. The Netherlands Government believe that any preparatory discussions in which they are to take part in view of their taking over from SHAEF the responsibility for the provision of supplies for the civilian population, should be based on the following principles:

  • (a) Sufficient provisions to be guaranteed to cover the requirements of the civilian population of the Netherlands on the level existing for countries which—without having been occupied by the enemy—are largely provisioned from overseas for a period to be agreed upon;
  • (b) Adequate and suitable shipping space to be guaranteed for regular transport of provisions to the ports of destination in Europe;
  • (c) Sufficient and suitable means of transport to be made available for a regular and adequate distribution of these provisions to the centres of consumption in the liberated Netherlands.

In the opinion of the Netherlands Government it would not be sufficient to re-affirm that the Inter-Allied and National Agencies concerned will give full co-operation in the procurement and transport of such provisions. It is their opinion that arrangements should be made which would place such supplies and means of transport fully and freely at their disposal. With regard, therefore, to these supply arrangements the adoption of the following practical measures should be ensured:

  • (d) The Combined Boards to allocate requirements submitted by the Netherlands Government for a period of 6 months after the complete liberation of their territory and to continue the allocation thereafter to such an extent as will enable them to acquit themselves in a just and reasonable manner of their responsibility to the people of the Netherlands.
  • (e) The Netherlands Government to be ensured the possibility of realising their purchasing programme, and the necessary instructions in this connection to be given to the National Procurement Agencies concerned, i.e., commodity controls in the countries represented on the Combined Boards.

6. The Netherlands Government consider the acceptance of the foregoing principles essential for the successful discussion of the point raised in your letter since they would be unable to acquit themselves of their responsibility if the conditions indicated above were not fulfilled. They would therefore be glad to learn whether the Government of the United States of America can see their way to considering these principles as a common basis for the proposed preparatory discussion and planning. If so, the Netherlands Government will be glad to transmit in due course the names of their representatives both for the matter of provision of supplies and of shipping space and other means of transport.

7. In connection with the subject matter of this letter, the Netherlands Government desire to draw attention to two further points:

Firstly, the Netherlands Government are fully aware that their need for shipping space, during the period in which the responsibility for the provision of supplies for the civilian population still remains with SHAEF is likely to grow more urgent. Adequate shipping space will consequently form the most important means of preventing interruption of the steady flow of supplies when the responsibility is transferred from SHAEF to the Netherlands Government. It is therefore confidently hoped that, in view of their present proposals, the Government of the United States of America will continue to support the Netherlands Government by having sufficient shipping placed at their disposal.

Secondly, The Netherlands Government have learned that the preparations for sending supplies for the civilian population of the Western part of the Netherlands after its liberation have been entrusted to the 21st Army Group, and that the necessary discussions in this respect will be held in Brussels. Although these arrangements deal with a different period from that under consideration, Her Majesty’s Government are, nevertheless, of the opinion, that these matters should not be discussed separately. The quantity of supplies required by the Netherlands Government to fulfill their own obligations in due time, will, of course, greatly depend upon the steps to be taken by the 21st Army Group for the still occupied part of Western Holland. It is therefore suggested that the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee also be adequately represented at the conversations to be held in Washington.

In view of the fact that the most pressing material needs of the people of the Netherlands are involved, the Netherlands Government have felt it their duty to submit this somewhat elaborate reply to the suggestion contained in your letter.”

  1. Not printed.
  2. Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force.
  3. For brief description and membership of the Combined Boards on which the United States was represented, see Department of State Bulletin, January 16, 1943, pp. 67–69.