The Secretary of State to President Roosevelt on Strategic Materials, WASHINGTON, October 21, 1938.


I should like to refer to the problem of strategic raw materials, which becomes more and more urgent as time goes on.

Events of the past few weeks have shown so clearly the wisdom of adequate handling of this problem with all possible despatch. They indicated how disturbed sources of supply would be in any general war. They made it clear that countries would undertake to control or to prohibit exports, especially of essential materials. They also indicated the way in which the insurance mechanism would bog down and the movement of supplies be impeded in a hundred and one ways.

You know, of course, that there are insufficient supplies in the United States of a number of raw materials which would be of great strategic importance in the event of a general war, whether or not this nation were involved. This problem has been the subject of a number of bills introduced in Congress. Almost without exception, however, these bills have, in the opinion of the interested executive agencies, been more concerned with certain private interests to be advantaged than with the national welfare and have, on the whole, dealt unwisely or ineffectively with the national problem of strategic materials. Where these bills have come to your attention, you have quite rightly expressed your opposition to them.

This Department has concurred in the view of the War and Navy Departments that it is highly desirable to adopt a national policy with respect to this problem and to secure early and effective action by Congress. I believe that full agreement was reached by the exerts of these and other interested departments and executive agencies as a result of a series of conferences last spring. It is my opinion, therefore, that the whole matter is in proper shape to bring before you.

It is our feeling that there should be no further delay in initiating steps which would make available with the greatest possible despatch adequate supplies of the few materials which are of the most critical importance. With these supplies on hand we should have greater freedom in deciding the course of action this Government should take in any given international crisis; without reserve stocks we may be exposed to bargaining by the suppliers of these materials, if indeed we could by any line of policy secure all of the supplies required.

The question of procedure has just been cleared with Secretary Woodring and Acting Secretary Edison, and they join with me in the hope that you will find it convenient in the very near future to discuss the matter briefly, with the three of us, in a general Cabinet session, or in any other manner that you may prefer.
I think you may be interested in glancing at the enclosed resume of known information regarding the action now being taken by a number of other powers to store up adequate reserves of strategic materials. [39] You will note that this problem is being attacked with vigor not only by the great powers who may be engaged in preparation for war, but also by other powers whose traditional policy is to maintain a position of neutrality.

Faithfully yours,


Source: U.S., Department of State, Publication 1983, Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941 (Washington, D.C.: U.S., Government Printing Office, 1943, pp. 430-31

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