Memorandum of Conversation, by the Liaison Officer (Wilson)

Participants: Mr. Yilma Deressa, Assistant Minister of Finance of Ethiopia
Mr. Araya Ababa
Mr. Caldwell, United States Minister to Ethiopia
Colonel Douglas V. Johnson
Colonel E. F. Gillespie
Major Schmidt
Mr. Lewis—NE22
Mr. Perkins—EE23
Mr. Wilson—U–L

A meeting was held in U–L this afternoon in order to enable Mr. Deressa to discuss with the appropriate officials of the Army his Government’s desire to obtain arms and munitions of war under Lend-Lease. Mr. Deressa has already had preliminary conversations with Lend-Lease officials and is authorized to conclude an agreement.

During the conversation Mr. Deressa stated that his Government desired to obtain arms and equipment sufficient for three divisions. It appears that this equipment would include trucks and light tanks. Each Ethiopian division consists of approximately 12,000 men. When asked what need the Ethiopian Government had for a military organization of this size Mr. Deressa answered that it would be necessary to maintain internal order over an area of 350,000 square miles, and, if necessary, to lend assistance to the other United Nations if called upon to do so. When asked how the Ethiopian forces could be trained in the use of this armament he stated that a British Military Mission is already in Ethiopia and that, if necessary, an American mission could be engaged.

The equipment seized by the British from the Italians is not available to the Ethiopians, who are consequently nearly destitute of armament. Colonel Johnson pointed out that three divisions constituted a considerable force and that there is no surplus equipment in the United States which could be supplied. Consequently it would be necessary to determine the assistance which Ethiopia could render to the common wax effort before determining whether any material could be supplied. Mr. Deressa answered that the Emperor had already offered a [Page 99]division to the United Nations and that in addition to maintaining internal order an armed force would be helpful in repelling a possible Japanese attack. In addition, it was indicated that Ethiopia is the source of certain useful raw materials, the procurement of which would be facilitated by the maintenance of internal order.

As Mr. Deressa stated that he had a detailed list showing the amount and character of the armaments desired, it was decided that he would furnish this list to the Department for submission to the Lend-Lease office, which would then transmit it to the International Division of the War Department. The latter will keep in touch with Colonel Johnson of the Operations Division and at the proper time will bring it to the attention of the Munitions Assignments Committee. Mr. Deressa was informed that it would be necessary to conclude a Lend-Lease agreement before any material could be furnished to his Government under Lend-Lease.

Mr. Deressa stated that it would be unnecessary to give further consideration to the list furnished General Maxwell in February, as these articles would be comprised in the larger list which he will soon submit.

Orme Wilson
  1. Charles W. Lewis, of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs.
  2. Samuel E. Perkins, of the Division of Exports and Requirements.