868.51/1619: Telegram

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

358. My telegram No. 352, December 7, 2 p.m. As a sequel to our conversation of yesterday I received last night a personal letter from the Premier in connection with Greece’s urgent need for planes and credits. Regarding credits he refers once more to the inability of sterling to take care of all the crushing necessities imposed upon this country by the war and to the decrease in Greece’s dollar holdings caused by the stoppage of her export trade. He then goes on “The amount of dollars at our disposal at the outbreak of the war totalling 23½ million inclusive of the Bank of Greece’s gold deposits in the United States is already completely pledged for payments due on foodstuffs and raw materials as well as for war material in the United States. It covers the cost of munitions about to be purchased and of the 60 planes which we hope to obtain and which will be entirely paid for from these funds. The Greek Government is decided to use all the dollars at its disposition for purchases in the United States. Nevertheless being at the end of its resources and forced by present need to purchase munitions which Great Britain is not able to provide, it is constrained to address itself to the Government of the United States for assistance.” The note closes with “the hope that in this time of crisis for Greece, which may become even more critical in the future, the Government of the United States will not allow the magnificent moral effort of the entire Greek nation to be compromised for lack of material to sustain it.”

Regarding planes the Prime Minister enclosed in his letter the following distressing exposé, and furthermore spoke to me about the matter personally, and finally sent his secretary to see me to emphasize once more that Greece can and will pay for the planes concerned if only the gordian knot of their procurement can be cut:

“On account of the imperious necessity of obtaining pursuit planes as promptly as possible to meet the repeated attacks of Italian aviation directed chiefly against unfortified and defenseless towns, the Greek Government addressed to the American Government early in November an urgent plea for assistance in according it 60 combat planes.

“In reply the Government in Washington informed the Greek Minister on November 20th that upon the personal intervention of President Roosevelt it was prepared to cede to Greece a first lot of 30 planes of the most recent type destined for the American Army and that it reserved for future consideration the question of ceding 30 more.

“Later on the 27th of the same month the Under Secretary of State advised the Greek Minister at Washington that following an examination [Page 597]of the question by the competent American authorities the 30 planes promised should be furnished from those manufactured for England. Nevertheless the British Government, when consulted on the matter refused its consent to this solution, maintaining that the planes in question should come from those reserved for the United States.

“As a result the question remains at present in suspense awaiting a solution of this difference of opinion. But the resulting delay deprives Greece, engaged in an arduous struggle against an enemy better equipped, of means of opposing effectively the latter’s aerial attacks.

“In view of the vital importance of prompt reenforcement for Greek aviation, not only to meet the present contingency but other contingencies now unforeseen which may arise in the near future, the Greek Government urgently prays that it may receive as soon as possible the assistance which it confidently expects from the Government of the United States and which only America can give.”

MacVeagh