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

Participants: The Greek Minister
Mr. Berle
Mr. Murray

The Greek Minister called on Mr. Berle by appointment this morning to discuss further the question of airplanes for Greece.

The Minister stated that he wished to make it clear that when the recent offer of the thirty naval planes was made to him it never occurred to him that these latter planes were intended to be in lieu of and to replace the P–40 fighting planes which have already been promised to him by this Government. He emphasized that when this latter offer was made to him the British proposal to supply Mohawk planes at once, to be replaced at a later date by Tomahawk planes, was still active and that at no time in any conversation with any Government official in the Treasury or elsewhere had any indication ever been given that it was intended to substitute the old training naval planes for modern combat planes.

Mr. Berle explained to the Greek Minister the various developments in this matter in so far as the British offer was concerned, namely that the British were willing to release at once to the Greeks the thirty Mohawk planes and to wait for later delivery of the Tomahawk planes. In view, unfortunately, of the critical situation now confronting Great Britain and the possibility of an imminent and devastating attack, the British had recently informed us that their above-mentioned offer must now be considered in abeyance, if not actually withdrawn. Mr. Berle emphasized that we all, of course, including the Greeks, had every sympathy for the British in this alarming situation and could not properly criticize their withdrawal of the Mohawk offer.

During the course of the conversation Mr. Berle suggested to the Minister that in order to arrive at a solution of this problem, he might possibly wish to discuss the matter with the President, and the Minister indicated that he would do so.

The Minister then stated that he had been informed by Mr. Welles that the matter of finding planes for Greece had been entrusted to Mr. Berle and that Mr. Welles had intimated that one solution might be to induce the British to release fifteen of the thirty planes needed, the Army to supply the other fifteen. Mr. Berle informed the Minister that, while he could not give him any precise assurance as to the particular solution that it might be possible to find in this matter, he would nevertheless make every effort to solve the problem. He [Page 686] made it clear to the Minister, however, that it might not be possible to obtain any fighting planes for early delivery and that the Greeks might have to wait until June or July before they could get any planes. By that time production would be rapidly expanding and undoubtedly planes would be more readily available.

The Greek Minister emphasized that his Government would be bitterly disappointed to learn that the United States was unable to furnish thirty planes at this time, and he asked that the Department give him a reply in writing to his latest note on this subject in order that he might be assisted in presenting the matter to his Government.74

  1. There is no indication in Department files that any written reply was made to the Greek Minister’s note of January 28, printed on p. 682.