Memorandum of Conversation, by the Officer in Charge of Economic Affairs in the Office of Chinese Affairs (Barnett)

Subject: Norwegian Vessel Hoi Houw at Bombay: Cargo Destined for China.

Participants: Mr. Hulley—BNA1
Mr. Rogers—BNA2
Mr. Aars—First Secretary, Norwegian Embassy
Mr. Barnett—CA

Mr. Aars, First Secretary of the Norwegian Embassy called today at Mr. Hulley’s office at the latter’s request. Mr. Hulley said that the Department was concerned over certain cargoes which it had been reported would be carried from Bombay to Communist China aboard a vessel of Norwegian registry. Mr. Hulley requested Mr. Barnett to set forth the details of the problem. Mr. Barnett stated that the Departments of Defense and Commerce had been, for some weeks, disturbed by the fact that there had been off-loaded at Bombay from two Isbrandtsen ships3 certain commodities destined for Communist China which, they believed, should not be delivered, in view of the existing military situation, to Communist China. Intermingled in the cargo was a quantity of hydrochlorate from which “truth serum” is produced. [Page 1877] The matter was taken up at a meeting of the President’s Cabinet4 and the Secretary of State undertook to use the diplomatic channel to frustrate this transshipment if possible. It had been believed earlier that the ship to haul the cargoes from Bombay to Communist China—direct or through Hong Kong—was of British registry. In consequence we called in the Counselor of the British Embassy,5 presented our problem, and requested his cooperation in frustrating the transshipment.6 We informed the British that what was involved in the case was not a violation of any then applicable United States laws, regulations, orders, or of agreed international policy. However, there was the strong possibility of adverse political repercussions within the United States were it to become known that a vessel of Allied registry was subverting our present purpose of desiring to prevent the cargo in question from falling into Chinese Communist hands, either by direct delivery or indirectly. Mr. Barnett said that today we received word from Bombay that the ship involved in the proposed transshipment to China was not of British, but of Norwegian registry.7 We felt obliged, therefore, to request from the Norwegian Government the same cooperation asked from the British. Mr. Barnett supplied Mr. Aars with location, the name, ownership, and managers of the ship. Later, Mr. Rogers supplied Mr. Aars with information regarding the cargo. Mr. Aars stated that he would communicate these details and the Department’s request to Oslo at once.

  1. Benjamin M. Hulley, officer in charge of Northern European Affairs, Office of British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs.
  2. Charles E. Rogers, country specialist, Office of British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs.
  3. The Flying Cloud and the Sir John Franklin.
  4. A memorandum of January 8 by Mr. Livingston T. Merchant, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, to the Secretary of State (not printed) noted that this problem had been raised with Mr. Acheson by the Secretary of Commerce, Charles Sawyer, at the Cabinet meeting of January 5 (493.119/1–851).
  5. Hubert A. Graves.
  6. Memorandum of conversation of January 8 with Mr. Graves, not printed (493.119/1–851).
  7. In telegram 241 to Bombay, December 31, 1950 (not printed), the Department of State had requested details with respect to the possible off-loading in Bombay of the cargo of the Sir John Franklin and the Flying Cloud. In reply, telegrams 359 and 361 from Bombay, January 17 (neither printed) reported that the China-destined cargo of the two Isbrandtsen vessels was being loaded on the Hoi Houw. It was further reported that, although the Hoi Houw flew the Norwegian flag, it had a Chinese crew. (911.534/1–1751)