Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray) to the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

Mr. Welles: It is our understanding that you are to receive this morning the British Chargé d’Affaires, who proposes to discuss with you the situation regarding airplanes for Greece. The underlying memorandum59 prepared by Mr. Green59a shows the developments which took place yesterday afternoon in the Secretary’s office. As a result of the decision taken by the Secretary, the attached letter to the British Chargé d’Affaires60 has been prepared. The salient points are that there are no appropriated funds with which this Government could pay for the cost of transport of airplanes to Basra. Furthermore, if, as is at present the case, American ships destined for Basra touch en route at belligerent ports they could not legally carry arms and munitions. It would appear, therefore, that in existing circumstances it will not be possible to adopt the solution of the Greek airplane problem as proposed by the British Government.

It seems to me that it becomes more and more clear that the only way out of the present impasse is for us to fulfill the commitment made to the Greek Minister61 during the latter part of November, at which time he was promised thirty P–40 airplanes. In order to fulfill that commitment it is my understanding that it would be necessary to reconsider the decision reached on December 30, 1940, by which approximately three hundred P–40 planes, which will be available in the spring, were allotted to the Chinese and to the British. The fact is that a prior commitment had been made to the Greeks and in this connection I should also point out that a somewhat similar commitment involving twenty P–40 planes was also made to Turkey. I, therefore, suggest for your consideration the desirability of reconsidering the allotment recently made to China and Great Britain with a view to fulfilling the commitments previously made to Greece and Turkey.

Wallace Murray
  1. Not found in Department files.
  2. Joseph C. Green, Chief of the Division of Controls.
  3. Not printed; the letter was not sent.
  4. Cimon P. Diamantopoulos.