Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)
The Yugoslav Ambassador85 called to see me this afternoon at his request.
The Ambassador stated that the group of 40-odd Yugoslav aviators who had been undergoing training by this Government and who were now stationed at Salinas, California, would probably complete their training at the end of next month. He said the idea originally had been to have this unit serve as a Yugoslav unit integrated into the American Expeditionary Forces in the Middle East. Recently, the Ambassador said, he had had word that the United States Army authorities were thinking of giving these men commissions in the United States Army so that they would serve as American aviators. The Ambassador expressed the very earnest hope that this latter alternative would not be followed. He said it was in the highest degree important, from the standpoint of morale in Yugoslavia, that this [Page 1042]unit, which would be the first Yugoslav unit which could serve with completely modern equipment and with full modern training, should serve as a Yugoslav unit and not be completely obliterated within the American Army. He said that such gestures as those which the President had so generously carried out to the Norwegians,86 to the Dutch and to the Greeks by transferring to them naval vessels flying a flag of those occupied countries could not, of course, be carried out in the case of Yugoslavia, and that the nearest to this would be the permitting by this Government of this aviation unit to serve as a Yugoslav flying unit.
I said I would be very glad to take the matter up with the appropriate authorities and let the Ambassador know what the final decision might be.