Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. William S. Farrell of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs

Major Chaltchi called this morning in response to my telephone message inviting him to do so. He stated that it is only in the past week that he has received orders from the Iranian Ministry of War authorizing him to make contact with government authorities in this country. Up to then he was limited to broaching his business affairs with private companies only. He mentioned the well-known axiom that Iranian military officers must in general have nothing to do with foreign government officials. He presumed that the contact established by the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs between Engert and the Acting Minister of War (as reported in Engert’s telegram of July 29) reflected the Shah’s personal interest in the question of obtaining airplanes, and would explain the recent change in his orders giving him greater latitude for making official contacts in this country.

The Major’s name, by the way, is officially spelled with French phonetics “Chaltchi”, and he informs me that it is so written in his Iranian passport.

He first referred to a purchase of airplanes from the Curtiss company, effected several months ago, for 10 machines on “service order”, construction to commence in December next, for completion in February or March 1941; payment terms, 50 percent down and the remainder guaranteed. This trial order, he says, has nothing to do with his present concern for 50 bombers and 30 pursuit planes. It is his government’s hope that the 10 machines already contracted for can [Page 647]be used as models for further construction in the already existing plant in Iran.

His immediate concern is to obtain as soon as possible 50 Douglas bombers (DB320) and 30 pursuit planes (either “Curtiss P 46” or “North American 73”). He has received the letter from Philip Young48 of last Saturday, which tells him that this Government has no objection to the release of the planes provided the factories can furnish them after fulfilling current orders for our own national defense.

The Iranian desiderata and arguments at this point are the following:

In view of the American friendship for Iran, cannot the Department prevail upon the War Department, National Defense Commission and any others interested to allow a very small proportion, up to the 50 desired units of bombers and the 30 of pursuit planes, to be earmarked for Iranian needs, for delivery as soon as manufactured? With the factories running full blast to produce for American needs, it would be a simple matter for them to turn out the equivalent number to make up the U. S. defense demand immediately after turning over the allowable quantity, up to the numbers above stated, to Iran. In other words, from a hypothetical U. S. order of 1000 bombers from a given company, could not the first 970 represent those immediately needed and to be turned over to U. S. Army and/or Navy, the following 30 for Iran, and the factory at that point to continue its mass production, by that time functioning at maximum speed, to produce the remaining 30 for U. S. needs.
The Shah desires that the existing Iranian aircraft manufacturing facilities be improved to produce a more up-to-date model of plane. It is hoped that the 10 “service order” Curtiss planes already booked, as well as any number no matter how small, of the bombers and pursuit planes now desired, can be used as models for manufacture in Iran. Hence the urgency for obtaining them before U. S. needs are completely fulfilled as outlined in Young’s letter. In view of American friendship for Iran, cannot the Department prevail upon the Curtiss company to make available one of its experts to fly to Iran, examine the present manufacturing equipment there, recommend what is needed to modernize the Iranian factory, and fly back to the United States? This should not take more than three months at the most Chaltchi states that he realizes that the airplane manufacturers in this country can not easily spare an expert under the present circumstances, but is hopeful that this Government can induce them to send one, out of friendship for Iran.
While half payment has already been effected, and remainder guaranteed, for the order of Curtiss planes already placed, the Iranians would like longer credit terms for subsequent orders for planes, and are hopeful that the Department will induce the American manufacturers to grant them.

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The Major states that his trip to Buffalo has no connection with the present endeavor to order new planes, but is concerned with the previous order for 10 Curtiss planes. He must translate the specifications from English into Persian for transmission to his War Ministry.

The Iranian Minister in suggesting a conference had in mind being put in contact by this Division with the appropriate officials of War and Navy Departments and National Defense Commission, to induce them to make available from current U. S. orders the small numbers of planes desired by Iran.

  1. Member of the Interdepartmental Liaison Committee. See United States Government Manual, Fan 1940, p. 59b.