745A.13/11–851: Airgram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in the Union of South Africa 1


A–72. Reference Embassy Despatch 310 November 8, 1951.2 The Department and other interested agencies have followed the question [Page 1463] of chrome and manganese exports with increasing concern. It was hoped that materially increased shipments would result in the latter months of 1951 after alleviation of winter conditions and labor difficulties, and in view of the repeated assurances from the South African government (Note from the Department of External Affairs dated July 11, 1951 and letter from the Minister of Transport dated October 8, 19513) that an amount equalling or exceeding the 1950 volume would be shipped. Despite these assurances, shipments of manganese ores for 1951 will not only be far below the contracted amount but below the 1950 volume. The total shipments of manganese to the United States in 1951 may not exceed 370,000 s.t. compared to a total of 479,426 in 1950, and the backlog of unshipped manganese ore as of October 31 equalled 315,700 s.t. Chrome ore shipments are closer to the 1950 level but will fall far below the 1951 commitments.

The Department, therefore, concurs that the Ambassador should renew the discussion with the Minister of Transport at an early date, and should make a vigorous and comprehensive statement of the case. The importance of South African chrome and manganese shipments for the U.S. defense effort and for the security of the free world should be clearly and firmly emphasized. It should be pointed out that stocks of manganese ore are declining in the U.S. and that steel production will be jeopardized by continued delay.

The Department has been informed that one factor which perhaps is responsible for the tie-up of a large volume of rolling stock is the right of port consignees of coal to store it in railroad cars for a period of thirty days. If in the opinion of the Embassy this is a genuine factor, it would be a good point to discuss with the Minister. In addition any other evidence of improper utilization of rolling stock of which the Embassy is aware might be discussed. In the event the Minister brings up the shortage of rolling stock or other railway equipment as a reason for decreased shipments, an effort should be made to obtain details of such orders, i.e. names of manufacturers, and status of deliveries. For the Embassy’s information, if rolling stock and other railway equipment comprise the major bottleneck the Department might explore the possibilities of expediting shipments.

If the Minister should refer to technical or administrative transport difficulties as a deterrent to ore shipments, the Ambassador may wish to suggest that a really cooperative approach to such problems might yield beneficial results, and that the United States would be very interested in learning in what way it might be able to assist South Africa in solving such problems.

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The Defense Materials Procurement Administration has suggested that an American railroad expert as a consultant in South Africa might be helpful. The Department requests the opinion of the Embassy as to whether the Embassy feels the need of a transportation expert to assist in observing the situation and in carrying on discussions with the Government of South Africa. If such a consultant is desirable, his territory should presumably include Southwest Africa, the Rhodesias, Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Mozambique and possibly Madagascar.

The conversation with the Minister of Transport should be followed by a formal note to the Minister of External Affairs, unless the Ambassador perceives objection. This note should review fully the matter of manganese and chrome ore shipments, with emphasis on United States efforts to expedite such shipments, and should illustrate graphically the disappointing results. The note should point out that this matter is regarded by the United States Government as of the highest importance in the relations between the two Governments, and as an instance in which the South African Government is in a position to contribute significantly to the mutual security efforts of the free world. The note should omit any reference to an offer of technical assistance, but should inquire as to the Government’s plans for increasing ore shipments.

  1. This airgram was drafted jointly by Armstrong (OMP), Skavang, and Bridgman (MMS), was cleared in BNA, DMPA, and EPS; and Armstrong (OMP) signed for the Secretary of State.
  2. Not printed, but see footnote 2, p. 1454.
  3. Neither printed. The principal documentation on the interest of the United States in production and transportation of manganese ore in the Union of South Africa is included in Department file 845A.2547.