Memorandum by Mr. Huntington T. Morse, Assistant to the Administrator of the War Shipping Administration (Land), to the Chief of the Shipping Division (Saugstad)58

The representatives of the Communications Department of the Chinese Supply Commission of which, as you know, the Chinese Ambassador is Chairman, have recently requested the War Shipping Administration to consider establishing a program for the allocation of additional Liberty ships (or other type vessels as they become available) to the Chinese Government on a “bareboat out, time charter back” basis. The War Shipping Administration has, as you know, already turned over three Liberty ships to the Chinese Government on this basis. One of these vessels was lost in enemy action.

The request of the Chinese Government was presented by Mr. Wang, Chief of the Communications Department of the Chinese Supply Commission, and Mr. Wei, who is in the Navigation Section of that Department. Messrs. Wang and Wei stated that they would like to arrange a program under which Chinese deck and engine room officers would be brought from China to the United States for further training here. Upon the completion of such training these men would, it was hoped, be available, together with Chinese unlicensed personnel which is in abundance in this country, to man Liberty ships. Mr. Wei said that for one Liberty ship the Chinese Government would bring, from China, the following personnel:

[Page 42]
Master 1
Officers 3
Chief Engineer 1
Assistant Engineers 3
Radio Operators 2
Purser  1
Total 11
deck 4
engineer  4
Total 8
Gun crew
officer 1
men  26*
Total  27
Total 46

Mr. Wei reviewed the shipping situation in China pointing out that, as a result of the Japanese occupation of the Chinese coastline, the men and officers manning the 500,000 tons of Chinese shipping prior to the Japanese war had, at best, become “rusty.” He indicated that it was the opinion of his Government that considerable trained personnel would be required as soon as the Chinese coast was reopened and that it would be to the advantage of the United States to have such personnel available. He indicated that his Government would like to have a program established calling for deliveries of between 30 and 50 ships to the Chinese Government. He pointed out in this connection, however, that it was not expected that all these ships would be Liberty ships but many of them could be much smaller vessels. “Whatever might be available”, said Mr. Wei.

We advised the representatives of the Chinese Government that the War Shipping Administration would not be willing to commit itself to supply any specific number of ships to the Chinese Government and certainly could not, at this time, bind itself to an undertaking which met, quantitatively, the above stated request of the Chinese Government. However, we did indicate to these gentlemen that, subject to State Department and F. E. A. clearance, the War Shipping Administration might consider the possibility of scheduling, say, one Liberty ship for delivery to the Chinese Government every two months for the next ten months.

The Chinese Government intends to select, for the licensed personnel to be included in this program, men who are competent and experienced and the training they would receive here would, according to Messrs. Wang and Wei, be in the nature of refresher courses. The “cadets” will be young men who have been graduated from the Chinese Merchant Marine Academy and it is intended that they would be placed aboard the requested vessels in order to obtain sea experience.

[Page 43]

Under the circumstances, this arrangement would be advantageous in that it would conserve U. S. manpower by utilization of Chinese crews. There is also a financial advantage in turning the vessels over to the Chinese Government as the operating costs would be somewhat less than if the vessels were operated with U.S. crews. Furthermore, there is without doubt some merit in the representations of Messrs. Wang and Wei as to the desirability of having trained Chinese seamen available at the time when the Chinese coast is opened up.

While the W. S. A. is of the opinion that a program such as the one heretofore outlined would be desirable and would not be detrimental to the war effort, it is our view also that the matter appears to involve over-all policy and political considerations and, before taking any action in the matter, we should appreciate the favor of your advices as to whether the program would meet with the approval of the Department.59

Huntington T. Morse
  1. Transmitted to Henry L. Deimel of the Shipping Division, by Jesse Saugstad in his memorandum of February 6, not printed.
  2. Including two signal men and one radio operator. [Footnote in the original.]
  3. In response to this communication, Mr. Saugstad stated in a memorandum of March 20 to Mr. Morse: “As you have been informed by phone, we have discussed the matter with the Department’s Division of Chinese Affairs, and neither Mr. J. C. Vincent, the Chief of that Division, nor I see any objection, from the point of view of the Department of State, to carrying out a program along the lines indicated in your memorandum.”