Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Adviser on Shipping (Mann)

Participants: Mr. Francis Irgens, Counselor, Norwegian Embassy
Mr. Summers, Le17a
Mr. Mann, SD17b

Meeting was held in Mr. Saugstad’s18 office at Mr. Summers’ suggestion and went over much the same ground that Mr. Irgens and [Page 88] Mr. Mann had gone over at a previous meeting on November 8. The following points were developed:

The Darss had not, to the best information of the Norwegians, been brought to a prize court by the Germans.
Mr. Summers stated that the statutory authority for the Anglo U.S. Liberated Vessels Agreement19 was the Lend Lease Act,20 and therefore, to enter into such an agreement with Norway now that the war is over would present serious difficulties from the legal standpoint.
Mr. Summers raised the point that if the Darss is the only vessel involved, the question might well be disposed of under the pending bill HR 4231,21 which would permit the setting up of a prize court at the port where the ship is lying.

Mr. Irgens again pointed out that the German taking was illegal and not supported by international law, and should be considered null and void; that the United States Navy was placed in a position to seize the vessel, not necessarily by force of arms, but it went into Bremerhaven as a matter of Allied convenience, and that Norway is an ally too and just happened to be fighting somewhere else, that Norway’s Lend Lease agreement with the United States22 recognizes that the United States will do what it can to assist in the rehabilitation of Norway’s Merchant Marine and that its action in the Darss case might be considered inconsistent with this policy; that public reaction towards the United States would be very bad when the facts are known in Norway.

It was decided at the meeting that Mr. Mann and Mr. Summers would first sound out the Navy Department with the view to developing the Navy’s position; and after such exploration would, if it appeared feasible, invite the Department of Justice and War Shipping Administration to attend a joint conference with State and the Navy with a view to ironing out the Darss matter and making suitable recommendations to all of these agencies.

Pursuant to the foregoing arrangements, Mr. Mann telephoned Captain Myron Avery of the Navy Department with regard to making an appointment for himself and Mr. Summers to discuss the matter. Captain Avery is tied up all next week and, therefore, put on the phone his assistant, Lt. Wood, who is also working on the Darss case and [Page 89] a three-cornered conversation was held. Captain Avery stated that the U.S. Navy might not be interested in remaining on the Darss or in bringing it to prize court, however, it could not turn the vessel over to the Norwegians without possibly incurring liabilities to German individuals who might make claims; that in view of the bad condition of the Darss, Naval Operations might be sympathetic to a recommendation that the Navy prize crew abandon the Darss whereupon the Norwegians could move on board and settle the matter with the Germans or any other nation which might make a claim; but before the Navy could consider any such recommendation it would have to be furnished with an indemnity agreement from the Norwegian Government which would protect the U.S. Navy against any claims or liabilities or activities growing out of the U.S. Navy’s taking possession of or abandoning of the Darss; that such indemnity must not be conditioned on the Navy’s turning over the vessel to the Norwegians because the Navy had no such intention. The Navy might consider just getting off the Darss if properly indemnified against any claims whatsoever by reason of getting on the vessel or of abandoning it, and if not so indemnified would have to have the rights of all parties properly adjudicated.

Mr. Mann suggested to Captain Avery that he would try to get together with Mr. Irgens of the Norwegian Embassy and Mr. Summers of the Legal Division to see if the three of them could draft an indemnity which the Norwegians might be willing to make to the Navy, and which Mr. Summers and Mr. Mann feel would meet the Navy’s points. Captain Avery stated that if Mr. Mann would mail him such a draft that he and Lt. Wood would give it immediate consideration and mail it back with any changes the Navy would want to insist upon. Captain Avery will be glad to see Mr. Summers and Mr. Mann at any time after next week but suggested that we first try to work out the matter along the lines of the draft indemnity which was discussed.

  1. Office of the Legal Adviser.
  2. Shipping Division.
  3. Jesse E. Saugstad, Chief of the Shipping Division of the Department of State.
  4. For documentation relating to the agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom regarding the use and disposition of recaptured vessels, see Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. iii, pp. 140 ff; for text of the agreement effected by exchange of notes signed May 7 and June 15, 1945, see Department of State, Treaties and Other International Acts Series No. 1556, or 60 Stat. (pt. 2) 1909.
  5. Approved March 11, 1941; 55 Stat. 31.
  6. Public Law 222, 79th Congress, an Act to facilitate further the disposition of prizes captured by the United States, and for other purposes, approved November 14, 1945:59 Stat. 581.
  7. For text of the agreement of July 11, 1942, see Department of State Executive Agreement Series No. 262.