Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)
The Greek Minister came in to see me, at his request.
He raised again the question of the Greek planes. He said that he understood the British had raised as a condition the necessity that these planes be transported by American ships to Basrah; and that, following an unofficial query from me at dinner at his house, he had then wired his Government to ascertain whether they could not provide the shipping. As I knew, the Greek Government had answered that it could and would provide the shipping. He likewise intimated that in his conversations with Mr. Welles, the Under Secretary had rather clearly indicated that he did not consider that the transportation question was a serious obstacle, in view of the Greek willingness to provide ships. He asked what could be done to get the matter forward.
I said that I wished to clarify what I understood the promise had actually been. We had promised him thirty planes for early delivery, [Page 682] which, as I had then told him, meant as the planes came off the lines—presumably in May, June and July. This pledge we expected to keep.
We had likewise agreed that we would see what could be done in an effort to accelerate delivery, presumably by getting release from the British, or otherwise now, and replacing that release with the planes as and when they came off the assembly line. In other words, our pledge to deliver planes as they were manufactured held good; the promise to try to accelerate delivery could in the nature of things only be a promise to do whatever was possible, in view of the fact that the existing planes were naturally already committed.
I then said that while we had had every reason to suppose that such a release could be effected, the root of the difficulty lay in the now very pressing British needs. The British had indicated that in view of their own necessities and the possibility of a forthcoming attack, they needed all the matériel they had available, and in consequence probably were not going to release any planes which could be immediately useful in repelling attack. I said that in view of the British danger, it was very difficult for any of us here to argue with the British, since they were merely doing what one would naturally expect, under the circumstances.
The Greek Minister asked whether he should cable in substance that the delivery of the Greek planes was out of the question. I suggested that he do not do that for another few days, agreeing that meanwhile I would endeavor to look around and see whether anything could be done in the matter.
The Greek Minister, with a few expressions of courtesy, then left.