Raymond B. Stevens, Vice-Chairman, Shipping Board, and Representative, Allied Maritime Transport Council, to Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, Edward N. Hurley, Chairman, Shipping Board, and Philip A. S. Franklin, Chairman, Shipping Control Committee in New York
Chronological Copy. File No.
Cablegram Sent 20 April 1918. ROC
To Opnav, Washington. Serial No. SM-132
Prep. by. C-3 Greene D.R.
Shipmission Number 132. For Secretary of War, Hurley and Franklin only.
We are advised this afternoon by both British and French Governments that the movement of troops and supplies in the Arras District now requires the entire use of the railroad facilities in that region. As a result it is necessary for the present that all shipments of coal from that District be stopped. As stated in our Shipmission 110, these mines have been producing 900,000 tons of coal per month. The coal reserves of France are near exhaustion and at least 500,000 tons of coal per month must from now on be shipped to France from England in addition to the amounts heretofore carried. This enlarged movement of coal from England to replace in part the stoppage of coal supply from Northern France is absolutely essential in carrying on the military movements in France.
In our opinion it is not likely that steamers from England will be able to make more than one round trip to France per month with coal although the Ministry of Shipping estimate that they can be turned around in three weeks, which is about the present turn-around. This additional coal movement will therefore require at least 350,000 and possibly 500,000 deadweight tons of shipping. It will be impossible for the British and French to supply the necessary tonnage and in our opinion it is inevitable that help come from American shipping. Any additional ships from America will have to be available for loading in England beginning May 1st. This will require the ordering of American steamers as fast as they complete discharge in France to England in order to load coal.
I expect to get in touch with General Pershing tomorrow either directly or through the French military authorities and you will receive a further message direct from France or from me here. In making your plans, however, you should be prepared to receive a call that cannot be disregarded for tonnage for this most important purpose. Stevens. 22320. SM-132.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.