Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

The British Ambassador, accompanied by the Australian Minister,30 called at his request.

[Page 830]

With respect to the Ambassador’s former inquiry as to whether this Government would aid Turkey direct or through Great Britain, the Ambassador said that he had unexpectedly come in contact with the President and brought this matter up at that time. He added that the President had indicated it would probably be preferable for us to aid Turkey through Great Britain.

The Ambassador handed me a copy of a telegram (attached), received from his Government, relative to the matter.

C[ordell] H[ull]

The British Embassy to the Department of State

Telegram from London dated February 23rd, 1941

As you are aware, under the Anglo-Franco-Turkish Treaty of Mutual Assistance special agreement annexed thereto we are under an obligation to provide Turkey with war material of 25 million pounds including material urgently required in order to enable her to withstand an attack against her European frontiers. As originally signed the Treaty contained a suspense clause whereby Turkey was absolved from fulfilling her obligations until such time as she had received her urgent armament requirements. The stipulations of this clause were declared fulfilled in January 1940 largely as a result of the agreement on definite programme of armaments deliveries drawn up between a Turkish Military Mission and the French and British Governments in December 1939. Following the collapse of France our delivery of certain items e. g. anti-aircraft guns has been delayed and in certain cases (e. g. fighter aircraft) suspended indefinitely. French supplies ceased altogether and Turkey has failed to obtain such vital defence equipment as anti-tank guns, machine guns, and anti-aircraft guns promised in large quantities by the French but never delivered.

Hithero in spite of repeated offers of assistance recently made by His Majesty’s Governments to send British anti-aircraft units and air squadrons to Tunkey the Turkish Government has taken up the attitude that the assistance which, we have so far given is not sufficient to enable her to risk action that might provoke a direct German attack. She adds that it might, have been different if the armaments promised her had been supplied but as things are she does not to withstand successfully a German attack.
It is impossible above all to any appreciable extent to supply Turkey from Empire sources and it is therefore necessary if she is to be induced to intervene in the near future that she should be able to [Page 831] draw on the United States. The sure knowledge that American aid will be given may well tip the scale in a crisis.
  1. Richard G. Casey.