Raymond B. Stevens, Vice-Chairman, Shipping Board, and Representative, Allied Maritime Transport Council, to Edward N. Hurley, Chairman, Shipping Board, Philip A. S. Franklin, Chairman of the Shipping Control Committee in New York, and Assistant Secretary of War Benedict Crowell
Chronological Copy. File No.
Cablegram Sent March 26, 1918 MJK
To Opnav Washington Serial No. 5604
Prep. by C-3 Greene D.R.
5604. Urgent Ship Mission 51. For Hurley Franklin and Acting Secretary of War only. Reports received since I sent my Ship Mission No. 50 show Italian coal situation even more critical owing to the effect of the great German offensive upon railway transportation in France.
Lord Milner sent the following message today to British War Cabinet and Lord Robert Cecil: Quote Italian coal situation still critical. It will be ag<g>ravated in immediate future by movement of 5 divisions from Italy. M. Clemenceau tells me that while this movement lasts it will inevitably involve a reduction of 2,000 tons a day in the despatch of French coal. As this comes on top of already existing great scarcity cannot we do something more in way of direct shipment as an exceptional and temporary measure? Italian Government suggests coal from Malta in British vessels.
Matter very urgent as military movements may be stopped for want of coal. Unquote.
Prime Minister Orlando also cabled today to the Italian Ambassador in London that Military movements over the Italian railways render imperative and extremely heavy the requirements of coal and that the same causes will render impossible the transport of coal by rail through France to Italy, that stock of coal in Italy has been reduced to 5 or 6 day supply; and that unless extraordinary measures are taken the situation will become disastrous.
I am advised that British Government cannot ship coal from Malta but is diverting ships now en route to Gibraltar to Italy and will send coal direct to Italy by all vessels that it can secure. This may require eventually a greater amount than 70,000 tons of Dutch tonnage to replace tonnage so diverted.
I transmit the foregoing information to you in order that you may have before you the extreme gravity of the coal situation in Italy. Stevens. 09226 5604.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.