Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray) to the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)

Mr. Berle: With reference to our telephone conversation this morning, regarding 100 fighter airplanes which might be available for export, we have considered the question from the point of view of the needs of countries in the Near East and I recommend that Greece be given first consideration with regard to the purchase of these planes.

When the question of aid to Greece was first being considered during October, it was not clear whether Greece would resist attack, and I recommended at that time that Greece be not permitted to purchase planes in this country on the grounds that planes shipped to Greece might result in a presentation of the planes to Italy. Since that time, however, events have taken place which have changed the picture fundamentally. Greece has shown that it intends to resist with its available forces and is doing so with some measure of success. On November 7 I recommended to the Division of Controls (memorandum attached82) that since Greece had entered the category of a small nation resisting attack by an aggressor, as sympathetic consideration should be given to Greece’s requests for military supplies as might be consonant with our own defense needs.

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Since the 100 planes you mentioned could be spared apparently without seriously affecting our defense needs, I believe Greece should be allowed the first opportunity to acquire them, or a major portion thereof.

The Greek Minister has been after us almost every day since the Italian attack, begging for airplanes. Prime Minister Metaxas made a direct appeal to the President for help, and the Department has replied that the President appreciates the considerations pointed out by Metaxas and has instructed the appropriate authorities of the Government to pursue actively the negotiations taking place with the Greek Minister. Greek morale would doubtless be bolstered considerably, therefore, by the opportunity to acquire these planes at this time.

As regards other countries of the Near East, the Turkish Ambassador informs me that he has obtained all of the airplanes his Government has actually instructed him to purchase. He has been asked to undertake some preliminary investigation of the possibility of obtaining 50 additional planes from Curtiss-Wright, but he is not yet in a position to place an order for them.

As regards Iran, the Iranian Legation informed us this morning that in principle 30 additional pursuit planes and 50 bombers were desired, and it is very likely that the Iranians would be pleased at an opportunity to consider purchasing some of the 100 fighters you mentioned. (We have not, of course, given any intimation to either the Turks, Iranians or Greeks of the availability of these planes.) The Iranians frequently make difficulties over purchasing any planes except the latest models, and might not be so ready to act immediately in the present matter as the Greeks undoubtedly would. However, an offer of some of the planes, say 10 or 15, would be appreciated by them, might be taken at once, and would be a helpful gesture in my opinion. As you know, the Iranians have been after us for planes even longer than the Greeks. I should like to encourage the Iranians by offering them a small number of these planes, provided this action would not deprive the British, Greeks or Turks of their requirements. I should like to make it clear, however, that in my opinion the Iranian claims should be considered as distinctly secondary to those of Greece and Turkey.83

Wallace Murray
  1. Ante, p. 582.
  2. For further correspondence regarding Iranian requests for planes, see pp. 638 ff.