Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Commander Paul Foley and L. I. Thomas to Edward N. Hurley, Chairman, United States Shipping Board

     Cablegram Sent Dec. 14th, 1917.

To   Opnav, Washington.       Serial No. 2145.

Prep. by            D.R.

2145.     Please communicate following to Chairman U.S. Shipping Board from Foley and Thomas.1 Begins. Through Ambassador Page have conferred with Mr. Walter Long deputized by Prime Minister2 responsible for all matter concerning petroleum supplies. British authorities express willingness to provide all data concerning xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx tonnage, stocks and requirements and this information now in process of preparation. Learned Thursday evening December 13th British Authorities pressing for immediate allocation of 100,000 tons dead weight additional American tank tonnage for assignment to Trans-Atlantic and that strong representation being made through Sir Frederick Black3 and British Ambassador Washington4 u<r>gency, the idea is to discontinue double bottom shipments of fuel oil making such dead weight available for wheat urgently required. Have explained that notwithstanding earnest desire to cooperate in every way this tank tonnage is not at present available and further material withdrawals is calculated to cripple entire American petroleum industry, thus creating a new situation of grave menace to Allied cause. Conferred with Admiral Sims this morning who has cabled counter proposal to Navy Department.5 Informally advised by British representatives that in their opinion Shipping Board’s policy of November 14th effects materially only the Far Eastern situation.6 They seem to express doubt whether future requirements can be supplied from the United States. Have requested figures as to estimated naphtha requirements during 1918 for Great Britain, France, Italy.7 Expect cable regarding this in two or three days. They couple with Far Eastern situation this <h>ypothetical question.(quote) In the event of supplies through some cause being interrupted from Mexico could United States take care of Allied requirements for 1918 base<d> on figures previously submitted (unquote). As we view situation at present do not think it necessary for Bedford or Teagle8 come to London.

Sims.         

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document is a: “Subject Copy.” While the letter bears Sims’ signature, it is clear from the text that he sent this cable to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations on behalf of Foley and Thomas with the intention that it would be passed on to Hurley.

Footnote 1: Chairman U.S. Shipping Board Chairman Edward N. Hurley. Cmdr. Paul Foley and L. I. Thomas were “experts” on maritime shipping that had been part of the mission to England led by Col. Edward M. House. Hurley, The Bridge to France, 198-200.

Footnote 2: United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom Walter Hines Page; British Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

Footnote 3: Black was the British Director-General of Munitions Supply.

Footnote 4: British Ambassador to Washington Sir Cecil A. Spring-Rice.

Footnote 5: In a cable of the same date, Sims wrote that the “one hundred thousand tons tank tonnage requested” was not available but suggested that the crisis could be mitigated by using Navy fuel ships to transport wheat to Europe. DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 6: Possibly, a policy promulgated by the Shipping Board that allowed foreign vessels to engage in the coastwise trade of the United States. Under the new policy, Japanese ships carried goods between California and Hawaii. Ibid., 44.

Footnote 7: Naphtha is a volatile petroleum distillate, usually an intermediate product between gasoline and benzene and is used as a solvent, fuel, etc.

Footnote 8: Bedford and Teagle have not been further identified.

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