Memorandum by the Secretary of State to the Secretary of the Navy (Forrestal)


Dear Forrestal: I am leaving for Boston this morning but before departure wish to take up with you the naval side of the lend-lease settlement with the U.S.S.R.

The Navy Department insists that the Soviets be called upon to return all serviceable naval vessels of seven classes. Authority will be given to the United States negotiators to curtail these demands if necessary.

General Hilldring1 and I think that this procedure is not advisable for several reasons:

This Government has declared as surplus and sold vessels of some of the types lend-leased to the Soviets, for example, mine sweepers have been sold to Greece and Turkey.

To ask for the return of all “serviceable vessels” will certainly result in a Soviet reply that all or nearly all vessels remaining” are unservicable.

The result of the Navy Department proposal will have an unnecessarily adverse political effect upon our relations with the Soviet Union without compensating results.

We think the negotiators should be given authority to offer for sale to the Soviets all motor mine sweepers and all large mine sweepers.

We think the Navy Department should designate a specific number of vessels to be returned of the remaining five classes. This number might be determined by applying United States attrition rates to totals lend-leased.

As to ice breakers we agree that the return of all should be demanded.

As to our position with Congress in this matter, I think that we should balance our stand against the probability of any productive result, and I am of the opinion that the present Navy Department proposal on the one hand will get back little or nothing for us and on the other hand will add to the existing hard feelings and the consequent [Page 692] complications in the negotiations ahead. The other procedure, I believe, may produce some modest results. I am prepared to accept the responsibility before Congress for the action indicated.

G. C. Marshall
  1. Maj. Gen. John H. Hilldring, Assistant Secretary of State for Occupied Areas.