835.24/5–2948: Telegram

The Ambassador in Belgium (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

secret   us urgent

1102. ReDeptel 656, May 4. Sense of Department’s instructions conveyed to the British who have addressed note to Foreign Office stating that, as many Van Loo tanks appear of potential military value if only for training purposes, they be declared military resources of Belgium available for western Europe defense and permanent Five-Power Military Committee be so informed.

This morning Van der Straten-Waillet, Minister Foreign Commerce convened Moens de Fernig, Minister Importation, de Gruben, and [Page 319]representatives American, British Embassy to discuss matter.1 De Fernig outlined in detail Belgian position stressing that Belgium has received approximately 40 percent vegetable fats and 66 percent butter from Argentina (under contract described second paragraph Embtel 663, April 52) for which it had agreed send 500 (not 600 as they previously stated) tanks, none of which yet shipped. While conceding desirability making tanks having military value available to Military Commission Belgians stressed financial loss they would suffer if they did not fulfill contract. Stated Argentine ship now Antwerp to load 87 demilitarized tanks and requested our approval this shipment. Britishers indicated willingness accept this proposal provided these tanks were completely demilitarized. Accordingly agreed that Monday or Tuesday Belgian, British and American military representatives would be present at loading tanks assuring that 87 tanks are those of nonmilitary value.

Re submission matter to Five-Power Military Commission de Gruben stressed that once this action initiated Belgian hands completely tied in implementing Argentine contract and that some tanks might be unfit for military use even training. Accordingly agreed that British and Belgian tank experts would make detailed inventory of tanks remaining Antwerp for presentation to Five-Power Military Commission of usable tanks as part Belgian military resources. View US interest British inviting US tank experts also participate. Am contacting EUCOM and requesting US ordnance and tank experts proceed Antwerp near future.3

Sent Department 1102; repeated London 106.

Kirk
  1. Hugh Millard and G. McMurtrie Godley, second secretary of the U.S. Embassy, represented the United States. W. H. Montagu-Pollock, Counselor of the British Embassy, represented the United Kingdom.
  2. Not printed.
  3. In telegram 1111, June 2 (835.24/6–148, not printed) Embassy Brussels reported that the inventory of the tanks revealed that they mounted cannons and were apparently in good condition. This was reported to the Belgian Foreign Office, which then refused to authorize their exportation.