867.24/336: Telegram

The Ambassador in Turkey (Steinhardt) to the Secretary of State

667. In conversation with Numan Bey last night he expressed concern at difficult position in which Turkey has been placed by Britain’s failure either to adequately equip Turk Army during past 2 years or in the alternative maintain substantial forces of its own in Middle East. He said for over 2 years British have made only limited deliveries of non-mechanized war material insisting in event of a German attack Britain would come to Turkey’s assistance. He stated not a single tank and only a negligible number of airplanes have been delivered. [Page 701] He then remarked had British assurance of military assistance been implemented by maintenance of powerful British forces in the Middle East he could have understood the failure to supply Turkey with modern equipment but that the non-delivery of such equipment for the use of the Turk Army and the failure to maintain adequate British forces with which to render Turkey prompt and effective assistance now threatened Britain with the loss of the Middle East, than which he could conceive of no more serious blow to the future of Turkey which was firmly bound to [Britain;] he added that he found it extremely difficult to understand a policy which had entrusted defense of vital Middle East primarily to a miscellaneous aggregation of “South African, Indian, Free French, Greek, Polish, Yugoslav and colored troops” with extremely limited armament while large numbers of powerfully equipped British forces were being continually assembled in British Isles from among which a relatively limited number would have made Middle East impregnable.

He then observed that while he did not regard situation in Egypt as critical at the moment what he feared was that the deferment of a major German offensive against the Soviet might indicate that center of gravity of German offensive would be located in eastern Mediterranean rather than on Eastern Front and that it was no more of a secret to Axis than to him that Britain was ill-prepared to meet such an offensive.

Numan Bey concluded his observations with following remarks:

“Please do not misunderstand me. Traditionally Turkish Armies have been courageous. If necessary even though surrounded we shall fight German tanks with infantry at Gallipoli at a cost of 400,000 men.”