868.24/91: Telegram

The Minister in Greece (MacVeagh) to the Secretary of State

316. I saw the Prime Minister this morning and gave him the President’s message as contained in the Department’s 266, November 16. At the same time I informed him of the Department’s views as expressed in that telegram and in the Department’s 262, November 15, 8 p.m. In addition, I told him of the issuance of the President’s proclamation of neutrality as suggested in the Department’s 263, November 15 [16], 9 p.m.80 And finally, I gave him a draft for $10,000 payable to the Greek Red Cross, together with a letter to that organization and an aide-mémoire, both stating explicitly the purpose for which this donation is made and adding the information regarding the purchase of milk in Yugoslavia, all as instructed in the Department’s telegram No. 261, November 15.81

The Prime Minister expressed his appreciation but appeared very worried. He told me that though the Greeks have so far been able to advance satisfactorily, they were subjected yesterday to attack from no less than 500 bombers and dive-bombers and that today the Italians have brought up even more of these planes. The small Greek aviation, he added, is practically exhausted, and under such conditions the Greek troops not only cannot continue advancing but are hard put to it to hold their ground. He asked that I telegraph this information as confirming the urgent necessity reported in the Legation’s telegram No. 290, November 8, 7 p.m.

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I reminded him that to get planes from America, even if it were possible, must take a long time and in this connection he assured me that at the present critical moment, he is making every effort to obtain British airplanes from Egypt, estimating that 150 fighters and bombers would make all the difference between success and failure. He said that he had even telegraphed to Mr. Churchill, himself, in this regard and added that as nothing serious has as yet developed in Egypt, the planes so necessary on this front might conceivably be spared from there for return later. The Premier said that Germany has so far remained at least ostensibly neutral and has given no aid to the Italians either in troops or in planes but reiterated that should Italian bombing of Monastir and other Serbian towns provoke Yugoslavia to open hostilities, Germany might be forced to come in, in which case “we would be lost”.

The Prime Minister’s plain speaking is not paralleled by the General Staff which gave the Military Attachés this morning no information beyond that contained in the official communiqué.

Department’s telegram No. 266 received today.

  1. Ante, p. 561.
  2. Not printed.