Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, by Mr. George V. Allen of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs

I called Mr. Butler56 to say that there had been referred to the Near Eastern Division his conversation with Mr. Welles57 of December 2758 regarding the British Government’s suggestion that Greece be supplied with thirty Mohawk planes now in the possession of Great Britain, provided the United States would agree to ship “thirty Tomahawk planes on an American ship to Basra”. I said that it was not entirely clear to us what the British Government had in mind by the phrase quoted, and that I would appreciate receiving his understanding of the matter.

Mr. Butler said that in his opinion the new arrangement suggested by the British Government would involve the American Government only in one respect, namely, the shipment of thirty Tomahawk planes to Basra. He pointed out that these planes, known under the American designation as P–40’s, had already been manufactured by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation on the order of the British Government, had been paid for, and were either ready or practically ready for shipment abroad. He thought the advantage of the suggested arrangement to the United States was that we would be relieved of having to find thirty planes which he understood we had promised the Greeks.

I said that as regards shipment to Basra, two interpretations of his request of this Government were possible. I asked him whether his Government desired (1) merely an assurance that the American Government would permit a vessel of the American flag to transport British airplanes to Iraq or (2) whether his Government had in mind that the American Government would find the tonnage and undertake the shipment, at the expense of the American Government, of the planes to Iraq. Mr. Butler said that he was inclined to think that the second interpretation was the correct one, although his telegraphic instructions from his Government were not entirely specific on this point.

  1. Nevile M. Butler, British Chargé d’Affaires.
  2. Sumner Welles, Under Secretary of State.
  3. See memorandum of December 27, 1940, Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. iii, p. 605.