868.48/1172: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant)

5630. Berry, Second Secretary at Rome, who has just returned from Athens where he has been distributing British relief payments, confirms reports of unparalleled suffering in Greece and states that mass starvation is now a fact there. The Embassy in Rome emphasizes that a chief German propaganda argument in Greece, and one which is having effect in causing even staunch supporters of Britain in Greece to waver in their loyalty, is a report that the British Government refuses to permit Australian wheat, bought by the Royal Greek Government and already shipped as far as Egypt, to be sent on to Greece.

Mr. MacMurray1 reports that the Turkish people have been asking themselves whether it is worthwhile for Turkey to resist aggression if nations such as Greece are allowed by Britain and America to starve after they resist gallantly but are overrun.

Please make known these reports to the British authorities. In view (1) of the appalling need in Greece, (2) of the fact that even well-disposed Greeks are reported to resent the withholding of wheat already purchased, and (3) of the effect on Turkey of the policy adopted with regard to the relief of Greece, the British Government may consider it desirable for the wheat in question to be permitted to be shipped from Egypt, on the understanding that the distribution in Greece will be under the supervision of the International Red Cross representative there and that Berry will be permitted to visit Greece freely and to report on conditions there. Alternatively, the British Government might wish to consider the possibility of permitting the wheat in Egypt to be shipped to Turkey with the understanding that the Turks would release an equal amount for direct shipment to Greece. The American Embassy [Page 725]at Ankara has already discussed with the Turkish authorities the possibility of making shipments of wheat from Turkey to Greece and has found those authorities receptive provided that any wheat supplied by Turkey is replaced at an early date from some other source. Such replacement was said to be imperative in view of the existing shortage in Turkey.

The Department considers that the general question of the policy to be adopted with regard to the relief of Greece, and particularly the political considerations involved such as the effect of this policy on Turkey, is primarily for the British Government to decide. The Department will be glad to cooperate, however, with regard to any feasible measures for the relief of Greece and believes the situation there to deserve particularly sympathetic consideration.

  1. J. V. A. MacMurray, Ambassador in Turkey.