868.51/1618: Telegram

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

352. The Prime Minister called me to the Foreign Office this morning and gave me a written memorandum referring to the appeal of the Minister of Finance summarized in my telegram 305, November 14 and amplifying it to cover the extension of dollar credits in some form or other for desperately needed war material purchases by this country. In addition he asked that President Roosevelt be personally advised if possible of his views on the urgency of this matter as summarized below.

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General Metaxas said that operations are proceeding satisfactorily against the Italians but that it is absolutely necessary to bring the war in Albania to a close this winter because, without any doubt, Germany will attack in this region next spring. This explains why the Greek Army is not at present consolidating but pushing forward with all its strength despite the weather and difficult terrain. If Greece can drive the Italians out of Albania in the next few months as she now has the opportunity of doing the whole setup in the Peninsula will be changed and Yugoslav, Turkish and even, perhaps, Bulgarian resistance to Germany secured. Thus he regards the Greek war at present as a turning point in the battle for the freedom of all this region and perhaps in the whole war. But he emphasized and re-emphasized that Greece’s munitions and what the British can spare for her use this winter are not sufficient for unremitting operations on the present scale over a period of months. He understands the limitations imposed by the Johnson Act but he urged that it is in the interests of all that America stands for as well as in those of this heroic little nation that some means be devised as soon as possible to insure an adequate flow of war munitions to insure the continuance and success of Greece’s present effort.

The following is the text of the memorandum:

“On November 13th the Minister of Finance addressed to the United States Minister to Greece a long letter describing the insurmountable difficulties we are facing through lack of sufficient credit in dollars for our vital needs in supplies, and voicing a plea for American economic support so that the urgent requirements of the moment may effectively be met. With the evolution of the war situation our economic needs grow more pressing and facing them becomes an overwhelming problem. Although Great Britain has opened credits in our favor the problem still remains critical as the latter are limited to the sterling area, and a great number of goods of essential importance may only be procured in America and in countries requiring payment in dollars. Due to the decrease in exports to America, procuring dollars becomes extremely difficult, and our stock of dollars is running low at the very moment when we must apply to the American market for supplies of war material which Great Britain is unable to ensure. As the difficulties are becoming overwhelming, even endangering the successful outcome of the war, we deem it timely to appeal to the United States Government for financial aid.

“Consequently we request you to take the necessary steps in the name of the Greek Government and we trust that the United States Government will not deny Greece their aid so that she may effectively wage her struggle for liberty and the common ideals of our two nations.”