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

Participants: Mr. N. M. Butler, Chargé d’Affaires, British Embassy
Mr. Murray

Mr. Murray asked Mr. Butler for his impression of the British Government’s proposal concerning the shipment of thirty P–40 (Tomahawk) planes to Basra on an American vessel. Mr. Murray asked whether these P–40 planes had already been completed and were ready for immediate shipment.

Mr. Butler said that the telegram which he had received from his Government on the subject was not entirely clear on the point. He [Page 676] said that P–40 planes were being completed for Great Britain at the present time and that probably as many as thirty of them were available for shipment abroad at the present moment, but that in view of the urgent need for these planes in the British Isles, it did not follow necessarily that the British Government would desire to send thirty P–40 planes to Basra immediately. He said that he would talk to Mr. Morris Wilson66 on this subject to obtain more definite information.

Mr. Butler added that the Embassy had just received a long and urgent telegram from London regarding the seriousness of the military situation there, which would doubtless affect the British Government’s position with regard to the allotment of airplanes to Greece, China or any other country. He said that according to the telegram, the next few weeks would be extremely critical and that every possible airplane would be needed in the British Isles to defend cities there under merciless attack. Mr. Butler said that in consequence, his whole proposal to Mr. Welles regarding the delivery of Mohawk planes to Greece to be replaced by Tomahawk planes from the United States should be considered as in suspense.

As regards the Mohawk planes, Mr. Butler said that he would like to dispel any false impression which he might have given regarding the immediate availability of these planes for delivery to Greece. He understood that a shipment of Mohawk planes had left New York about Christmas Day, but he was not certain where these planes were being shipped, or by what route. He said that at any rate he would not like for the Greeks to gain the impression that they were already in the Mediterranean area and could be turned over to the Greeks within a few days.

Mr. Butler indicated that his Government might desire, in view of the immediate situation in the British Isles, to defer the proposed allotment of one hundred planes to China and that certainly if Great Britain should supply Greece with thirty Mohawk planes in the near future, he thought the number of planes for China should be correspondingly reduced.

  1. Deputy Chairman of the British Supply Council in North America.