Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray)

The Greek Minister telephoned me last Saturday morning to state that he had just received a long-distance telephone communication from his Government conveying the information that it was “accepting” the thirty Mohawk planes which figured in the most recent British proposal conveyed officially to Mr. Welles on December 27 by the Counselor of the British Embassy.

I thought it desirable to inquire of the Minister whether he was aware of the full scope of the British proposal, particularly the requirement that the thirty Tomahawks subsequently to be made available in this country to the British Government in lieu of the thirty Mohawk planes should be transported on an American vessel to Basra. The Greek Minister replied that he was of course aware of this phase of the question since it had been mentioned to him by Mr. Welles in my presence, but that he had gained the impression at the time that this was a matter for adjustment between ourselves and the British. He added that he had not gathered at the time that Mr. Welles felt that there would be any difficulty with regard to the transport angle of the British proposal.

I told the Minister that while it was of course true that when the British proposal was conveyed to Mr. Welles and when Mr. Welles informed the Minister of its substance no mention had been made of possible difficulties under the Neutrality Act64 with regard to an American vessel carrying the planes to Basra, a subsequent examination of the question and discussion with the Legal Advisers of the State Department and with the Justice Department had revealed that it might be impossible to accept that phase of the British proposal.

The Minister then went on to say that he saw no necessary connection between the proposal of the British to make available immediately the Mohawk planes to Greece and the shipping angle, which would arise subsequently. He therefore was emphatically of the opinion that his Government would take the view that the Mohawks should be delivered now and that the British should work out the question of [Page 674] transportation when the time arrived to send the Tomahawks. I gathered from my conversation with the Minister that he will strongly recommend such a procedure to his Government.

  1. Approved November 4, 1939, 54 Stat. 4.