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United States Ambassador to Great Britain Walter Hines Page to Secretary of State Robert Lansing

From      London             

Dated     June 26 1917  

Rec’d June 27, 7:30 A.M.

Secretary of State,


     6543, June 26, midnight.


     I have just received from the Admiralty the following startling information:

     Tank steamers of sixty thousand tons capacity have been torpedoed since the first of this month. This heavy loss comes upon the top of arrangements which at best would have brought an insufficient supply. The result is stock now England for the use of British Navy will last only six weeks at the lowest conventional rate of consumption. If any special demand should be made by navy the entire supply might be used up at once. No such dangerous situation has (*)2 during the war. All the oil that can be carried in this country by the tankers available for naval use is only two thirds of required amount even when fleet activities are curtailed as at the present time. This perilous situation seems to me to warrant the following recommendations:

     First. That ships at the present time carrying oil in bulk to neutral countries be diverted to the United Kingdom.

     Second. That tank ships doing any service other than that directly aiding European military situation be taken for this purpose.

     Third. That construction and conversion ofoilers be hastened to the extreme limit and if necessary regardless of cost for bonuses. A failure quickly to replenish stock here may at any time cause disaster.

Two hundred thousand tons must be delivered by August thirtieth and an additional by September thirtieth and the vessels which bring these quantities must be continued in the service. These quantities must be in addition to shipments already arranged for. Of course I need not (*)3 the necessity for absolute secrecy regarding this matter.

     The Admiralty will highly appreciate an answer saying what can be done. This message is sent after consulting the First Lord of the Admiralty and Admiral Jellicoe who expressed gratitude for sending it.4


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B

Footnote 1: President Woodrow Wilson.

Footnote 2: The word “existing” is written over the parentheses and asterisk.

Footnote 3: The word “stress” is written over the parentheses and asterisk.

Footnote 4: First Lord of Admiralty Adm. Sir John R. Jellicoe. For the American response, see, William S. Sims to Secretary of the Admiralty, 23 October 1917, Anglo-American Naval Relations, 127.

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