711.94114 Supplies/1–1845: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman)

181. While the information conveyed in Embassy’s 173, January 18, is a source of some encouragement, it is quite evident that the Soviet reluctance to permit Japanese ships in their waters will preclude [Page 1055] the establishment of a regular and continuous means of shipping relief supplies to the Far East via Nakhodka or any other Soviet Pacific port. It seems highly unlikely that shipments can be made in the desired amounts overland via Manchuriya. Therefore, in order to achieve our goal of putting into operation a regular supply line for the benefit of Allied nationals in Japanese custody, it would appear that other possibilities should be explored.

Since Soviet ships proceeding from the American West Coast to Vladivostok pass through La Perouse Strait, the best present solution might be that these ships unload relief cargo at either Odomari or Wakkanai. If the Japanese would not want Soviet ships to enter a Japanese port, the relief shipments could be transferred off shore from the Soviet ships to small Japanese boats. Individual shipments would not need to be large if successive shipments could be made frequently. We visualize shipments of several hundred tons each (which should raise no great unloading problem) but frequently enough to result in average monthly total shipments of from 1500 to 2000 metric tons.

A somewhat similar proposal was communicated to the Japanese authorities through Red Cross channels some time ago. No reply was received. Whatever the Japanese attitude may have been at that time however, it seems possible that they might be willing to consider such a proposal at this time.

Please discuss this matter informally with the Soviet authorities at an appropriate time and inform Department of their reaction. We would not wish to risk offending Soviet sensibilities by approaching the Japanese in this regard without the consent of the Soviet Government. On the other hand we are obliged to make every practicable effort, to arrange for a regular and continuing means of forwarding relief supplies to the Far East. It might be the case that the Soviet Government would be willing to present the matter to the Japanese Government thereby obviating any inference on the part of the Japanese that arrangements heretofore made between the American and Soviet Governments in regard to the transfer of these supplies have not been satisfactory to this Government. Such an inference might be drawn by Japanese if this Government made the approach to Japanese Government.

It should be made clear to the Soviet authorities that this proposal is not to be construed as in any way critical of them. On the contrary we are extremely grateful for the assistance we have received from the Soviet Government in this regard. Without that assistance it is doubtful whether we could have arranged for any relief shipments to the Far East except in the infrequent exchange ships. We fully appreciate the reasons for Soviet reluctance to agree, on a continuing basis, to operations of this nature in its waters. An arrangement such [Page 1056] as that proposed would seem to solve the problems confronting the Soviets in this connection.

This proposal should not be taken by the Soviets as superseding arrangements for a second transfer of supplies at Nakhodka and, therefore, Embassy may wish to defer presentation of matter to Soviet authorities until arrangements in that regard have become more definite. It is, however, essential that once the shipment of supplies to the Far East has begun, further shipments be made without interruption. Any prolonged delay in making additional shipments will result in a demand on the Department by the American public for an explanation. Obviously it would be undesirable for the Department to be forced to explain that continued Soviet cooperation was not forthcoming. The above proposal, if given effect, would, therefore, spare both the Soviet and American Governments the embarrassment resulting from such an explanation to the American people. In addition, it would be to the Soviet Government’s advantage since it would still be in the position of assisting us in the matter (by transporting the supplies) but would be spared the difficulties incident to transfers at a Soviet port. The proposed arrangement would work to the Japanese Government’s advantage since, in the eyes of Allied public opinion, it would receive credit for its cooperation in connection with the reception and distribution of supplemental relief supplies sent from abroad without having to send its ships away from Japan to pick up the supplies. From our point of view this proposal would result in the more expeditious and regular shipment of relief supplies to Japan for the benefit of detained Allied nationals.37

  1. In telegram 285, January 30, 1945, 3 p.m., from Moscow, the Chargé, George F. Kennan, replied: “It would be highly advisable in my opinion to defer making the proposal for the transfer of relief supplies to the Japanese in La Perouse Strait … until arrangements for the second transfer of supplies at Nakhodka are well advanced.” (711.94114 Supplies/1–3045)