Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)

The British Chargé came in to see me at his request. He had received instructions from his Government regarding Greek planes. In his interview with Mr. Welles, His Majesty’s Government had made three conditions as part of the integral proposal:

They would deliver 30 planes to Greece;
These planes would be replaced by the same or better planes later;
Such planes were to be transported to Basrah in American ships.

Following my suggestion to him that there might be legal difficulties in transporting by American ships, he had cabled his Government. His Government continued to believe that transport by American ships was essential. They did not consider that transport by Greek ships would suffice. They considered that transport by American ships was the American implementation of the President’s pledge to Greece. He thought, likewise, that transport by American ships, irrespective of our laws (which he thought could be interpreted to permit transport to Basrah) was indicated in the President’s pledge of “all aid” to Britain.

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I said that I noted his point. As to the legal point—transport by American ships—this was a case of laws, and we had to abide by them. I personally hoped that the interpretation he put on the laws would be adopted by our Department of Justice, but when the Department of Justice ruled on a point, we were, of course, bound by it. I added that I had had the opportunity of chatting at dinner the previous night with the Greek Minister, who had indicated that if they had sufficient notice, it probably would be possible to supply Greek shipping.

A. A. B[erle], Jr.

Note: I understand from Wallace Murray that the British are now handing over the planes to the Greek Government. The transport question will not arise until the new planes shall have reached the assembly line next June. I believe the matter could profitably be left for a little time, since the situation is certain to change between now and when the transport is needed. The important point is that the Greeks are immediately getting the planes and we shall have additional planes to deliver.