840.48 Refugees/11–3048

The Assistant Secretary of State for Occupied Areas (Saltzman) to the Under Secretary of the Army (Draper)

Dear Mr. Draper: Acting on current reports from the United States missions at Nanking and Shanghai, the Department of State on November 17, 1948 requested the assistance of the International Refugee Organization (IRO), Geneva, (Department’s telegram 1511 to Geneva, November 17, 1948, copy enclosed11) on behalf of 5,000 Jewish, 8,000 White Russian and 40 Polish refugees whose lives are endangered in Shanghai. With respect to the 5,000 Jewish refugees for whom the Israeli Government has offered entrance visas the IRO was requested to provide transportation to Palestine utilizing ships in its Australian run on the return voyage. In view of the fact that no permanent places of refuge are yet available for the White Russian and Polish refugees, the IRO was requested to provide care and maintenance in such temporary havens as may later be found for them.

In response the IRO (Geneva’s telegram 1464, November 18, 1948, copy enclosed12) offered two ships, the Wooster Victory and Castelbianca, now in Australia, to shuttle Jewish refugees from Shanghai to Australia where they might embark for Palestine on IRO ships returning from Australia. You will note from the IRO telegram that this tentative plan of movement is considered possible only if authority is given to IRO to use three of the USAT’s currently in IRO service on the Australian run and provided these ships may enter Palestine ports. Further, IRO assumes that only USAT’s with passengers for Israel can be assured of passage through the Suez Canal.

As you know, the Department of the Army has not heretofore permitted the use of USAT’s outside Atlantic waters. In view of the emergency which has arisen in Shanghai and the need for saving the [Page 952] lives of the persons endangered, your urgent reconsideration of this decision to permit the use for a limited period of three USAT’s in the Australian run is requested. Subject to your concurrence, the Department of State is prepared to advise the IRO that it is not feasible for the USAT’s to enter Palestine ports and that routing via the Panama Canal would be preferable because of the saving of toll charges involved in transit through the Suez Canal. In this event, debarkation might take place in Italy from which onward movement to Palestine might be arranged by interested Jewish agencies. The Department of State has no information at this time that the Australian Government will grant the request made by IRO for transit facilities in Australia for the persons concerned, or that the Italian Government has been formally requested to grant transit facilities. It is believed, however, that the Italian Government would make such facilities available on assurance of onward movement. On the assumption that transit facilities will be granted by the Australian and Italian Governments, the Department of State will welcome your decision in principle as soon as possible as to the use of the USAT’s for a limited period to accomplish the proposed movement from Australia to Italy. If your answer to the foregoing question is favorable, I shall appreciate designation by you of a deputy to work out the details of the movement with one of my assistants and General Wood, Washington representative of the IRO. Arrangements for the evacuation will need to be made quickly under rapidly changing conditions.

Sincerely yours,

Charles E. Saltzman
  1. Ante, p. 948.
  2. Ante, p. 949.