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Lieutenant Commander Paul Foley to Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations



Foreign Fuel Oil Situation

August 20, 1917.

1. The essential facts contained in the Memorandum presented by Sir Frederick Black1 at the Fuel Oil Conference2 yesterday are :-

(a) The tactical freedom of the Grand Fleet is no longer threatened by shortage of fuel oil.

(b) Gross shipments of fuel oil from the United States have been arranged for the coming six months, at an average total of 333,000 tons per month.

(c) This gross shipment is 20,000 tons per month in excess of the Admiralty estimate of the combined consumption of the British, American, and French Forces.

(d) The Admiralty estimates of consumption are calculated with handsome factors of assurance.

(e) The augmentation of monthly fuel oil deliveries accomplished, arises principally through the transportation of 100,000 tons of fuel oil per month in the double bottoms of other carriers. This of course involves a corresponding loss in the total volume of other freight carried.

(f) The specific information with regard to the distribution of British tank tonnage, referred to in paragraph fifteen in the Memorandum of August 14, 1917, is presented in the Black Memorandum3 in sufficient detail for all practical purposes.

2. The significant fact developed at the Conference yesterday was not so much the Black-Bedford Memorandum itself; as that the successful accomplishment reported therein is to be used as a lever for urging upon the President, approval of a scheme which looks to the control of all United States tonnage by an International Board, having full authority to requisition and apportion such tonnage. It is noted that the Board proposed is to be entirely commercial in character, that is, composed of men who have taken no special oath to support and defend the interests of the United States against any other interest whatsoever.4

3. The military inter<ests> of the Government require that no Executive action in approval or disapproval of the Black-Bedford scheme be taken until the study thereof within the Department, now in progress, shall have been completed. This matter is one of the utmost importance in relations to the general military situation. The naval forces of the United States must not be in any degree immobilized through lack of proper control of their logistic requirements.

4. It was pointed out to Sir Frederick Black and to Mr. Bedford at the Conference yesterday that while the tactical freedom of the Grand Fleet had now been assured; that of the United States Fleet had not by any manner of means been assured. It was pointed out that this fact had not escaped the attention of the Navy Department, but that the security of the Grand Fleet had been given precedence.

5. The logistic survey now being made under your direction will include a forecast of the tonnage necessary to assure to the United States Fleet the same tactical freedom in the theatre of war that is now enjoyed by the Grand Fleet.

P.J. Foley

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Identification numbers “Op-29” appear in the upper-left corner.

Footnote 1: Black served as the Director General of Munitions Supply in the Ministry of Munitions.

Footnote 3: Alfred C. Bedford was president of Standard Oil Company and chairman of the Petroleum Committee.

Footnote 4: For the proposal of a Joint Transportation Board, see: Josiah S. McKean to William S. Benson, 4 August 1917.

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