740.00119 PW/2–1446: Telegram

The Chargé in the Soviet Union ( Kennan ) to the Secretary of State


430. ReDeptel 123, January 23.83 In letter dated February 12 Lozovski84 replied to my letter of January 25 on question of transfer to Soviet Union of Jap destroyers and surface combatant vessels of lesser tonnage as follows:

“Mr. Harriman85 as early as on October 21, 1945 informed the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the USSR, V. M. Molotov, on behalf of Mr. Byrnes, of the agreement of the Government of the USA to the transfer to the Soviet Union of one-forth of the remaining ships of the Jap naval fleet beginning with destroyers and surface vessels of lesser tonnage.86 In this same letter it was indicated that the Government of the USA expressed willingness to discuss with the USSR and other Allies a plan for the division of the Jap merchant fleet.

“Proceeding from the above and taking into account the fact that considerable time has already passed from the moment of reaching an understanding on the question of the Jap naval fleet, the Soviet [Page 480] Government thinks that it would be expedient to proceed (this has the sense of ‘proceed at once’ translator’s note) to the realization of this understanding on the transfer of the above-cited portion of Jap combatant vessels to the Soviet Union.

“As regards vessels of the Jap merchant fleet, in the opinion of the Soviet Government it also seems expedient to make a division of them among the four interested governments, USSR, USA, Britain and China, in the very near future.

“In as much as Jap combatant and merchant ships are also needed by the command of the Soviet troops for repatriation and other purposes connected with the implementation of the capitulation of Japan, the Soviet Govt believes that it would be most expedient of all to discuss the question of using these vessels immediately after they have been divided among the four interested countries.”

If we are to accept this position of Soviet Govt I think we should point out that main burden of implementing Jap surrender terms in repatriation, minesweeping and other matters requiring utilization of sea-going vessels falls upon Supreme Commander for Allied Powers in Tokyo; that we should inform Soviets exactly how much diversion of Allied shipping will be required if Jap naval vessels are to be turned over at once; and that we should inquire to what extent Soviets will be willing to assist by diverting shipping from their regular merchant or naval fleet for these purposes.

Dept will recall that Soviets are now operating, presumably exclusively for their own purposes, a total of 3 icebreakers, 12 tugs, 36 Liberty ships, 53 other merchant vessels, and 9 tankers received from US on Lend-Lease. I am not aware that any of these vessels have at any time been employed for general United Nations purposes.

It should also be borne in mind in this connection that according to records of this Mission Soviets have never consented, despite repeated requests, to inform us of amount and condition of merchant shipping which they themselves captured from Japs during period of their military operations. Our inquiries along this line, taken at instance of Joint Chiefs of Staff and of General MacArthur, were—as a matter of fact—never even given courtesy of acknowledgement.

  1. Not printed (894.85/1–2346); it instructed the Embassy to present a note to the Soviet Foreign Office, the text of which was substantially the same as the letter of January 24 to the Chinese Chargé, p. 477.
  2. Solomon Abramovich Lozovsky, Soviet Assistant People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs.
  3. W. Averell Harriman, Ambassador in the Soviet Union; his resignation was accepted February 14 by President Truman.
  4. See telegram 2197, October 20, 1945, 8 p.m., to Moscow, Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. vi, p. 995.