751.5 MAP/6–1050: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Bruce) to the Secretary of State


2806. Tomap. Pleven has given us copies of two letters, one from Mayor of Cherbourg dated June 4 and the other from secretary of dockers union of Cherbourg, concerning situation among dockers at Cherbourg.1

The letter from the Mayor expresses great concern that disappointment of Cherbourg dockers at failure of more work to materialize through MDAP deliveries is creating psychological situation among dockers which Communists are trying to exploit to the utmost. The Mayor emphasized that his appeal to Pleven to do his utmost to arrange for more frequent arrivals in Cherbourg in order to give dockers work is designed to forestall in future a fundamental change in dockers’ attitude towards the unloading of American equipment. He emphasized that this situation has not yet come about and dockers are still willing to work, but having taken the lead in voting overwhelmingly to unload American equipment in face of most extreme Communist propaganda, bribes, and even threats of violence against themselves and their families, there is growing disappointment among dockers, and he feels workers are beginning to be receptive to Communist propaganda to effect that they had been duped. He emphasized that it required considerable amount of courage on part of workers, primarily for patriotic reasons, to have resisted this strong Communist pressure and to have voted overwhelmingly to support the government in what he considered the first battle of Cherbourg. But this courageous action on the part of workers was, in part at least, based upon the expectation that some steady work would develop as a result of MDAP deliveries.

The letter from the secretary of the dockers union merely points out that despite expectations there have only been two boats arriving in Cherbourg since Pleven’s visit on 13 of April to welcome the first MDAP shipment and asks Pleven to do what he can to increase these arrivals in Cherbourg where “we wish to work and in other ports they have refused.”

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In furnishing copies of these letters, Pleven did not make any complaint or criticism of US in regard to arrivals, but merely wished to draw our attention to a situation which he considered could become serious. He even raised the question as to whether or not it would be possible to divert to Cherbourg some ECA shipments in order to maintain the morale and spirit of the Cherbourg dockers who, as he correctly pointed out, had set an example in defying the Communists by voting to unload US arms shipments which had had a very important effect on dockers in other parts of France. Should through lack of work and Communist pressure the Cherbourg dockers abandon this fight and through some action or other indicate a reversal of their previous decision, Pleven felt the effect would be very bad in other parts of France.

We told Pleven that according to our understanding US authorities, once procurement authorization had been approved in Washington, had no part in decision regarding the manner of shipment or port of arrival in France on delivery which was left entirely to arrangements made by French importer with American exporter and shipping companies, but we promised to inquire about the matter, ECA–France has confirmed that above is procedure. Pleven had somewhat similar understanding, and he was already investigating on French side possibility of some ships being diverted to Cherbourg. He stated that the officer in command of arrangements for reception of MDAP shipments in Cherbourg had also been in to see him to express his concern at possible future developments in dockers attitude.

Embassy believes that considerable importance should be attached to these communications, copies of which will be airpouched to Department, since they are confidential and earnest appeals from Cherbourg to the Minister of Defense. We do not know here whether anything can be done in respect of ECA shipments from our side, but obviously the best solution would be the acceleration and steady arrival of MDAP deliveries.2 Pleven felt that if, for example, two ships a month could be scheduled for Cherbourg, this would provide sufficient work to encourage the dockers to maintain their present position. One difficulty up to present has been that although two ships have arrived, only a very small part of their cargo was unloaded at Cherbourg.

  1. Neither printed.
  2. In telegram 3064 to Paris, June 28, the Department of State expressed concern at the plight of Cherbourg, confirmed the Embassy’s understanding of shipping procedures, and pointed out that current schedules already called for substantial shipments there in July (751.5 MAP/6–1050).