Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs ( Murray ) to the Under Secretary of State ( Welles )
Mr. Welles: I have just spoken again with Admiral Towers regarding the question of planes for Greece.[Page 697]
It appears that Admiral Stark who, under present existing law, would be required to sign a certificate stating that the 30 naval planes now offered to the Greeks are not necessary for our national defense has definitely and finally refused to sign any such certificate. This refusal took place last Friday on the same day Admiral Towers again saw the Greek Minister and informed him that the implementation of this latest promise of planes to Greece would necessarily have to await the passage of the Lend-Lease Bill now before Congress. The Admiral assured the Greek Minister, however, that no time would in fact be lost in as much as the equipment for planes being manufactured for the Navy is customarily put on just before the planes join the fleet and the Navy has to ship this equipment to the factory for that purpose. All of this, of course, takes time.
Admiral Towers went on to state that he and Admiral Stark were convinced that any effort to make these planes available to the Greeks prior to the passage of the Lend-Lease Bill might jeopardize the bill in Congress and that, in any case, they cannot get them now for the simple reason that Admiral Stark refuses to sign the necessary certificate.
I asked Admiral Towers whether I was correct in assuming that after the passage of the Lend-Lease Bill the present existing responsibility of the Chief of Naval Operations to sign the certificate in question would be removed. He said that was his understanding, in as much as one of the amendments to the new bill provides only for “consultation” with the Chief of Naval Operations, which will apparently make it possible to dispose of such planes even though Admiral Stark believes they cannot be spared.
Admiral Towers further stated that he had laid this whole situation before Secretary Knox last Monday and gotten him to agree to discuss the matter with Secretary Morgenthau. Unfortunately, Secretary Knox had in the meantime left for Chicago and the matter had not been cleared through Treasury. Meanwhile, the Navy is proceeding on the assumption that the Lend-Lease Bill will soon become law and that it will therefore become possible to implement Secretary Knox’ commitment to the Greek Minister.