Memorandum by the Secretary of State to President Roosevelt 5

On August 23, 1944, the Munitions Assignment Board approved the assignment to Ethiopia from surplus stocks of 5,000 rifles and a small amount of other military equipment which the Ethiopian Government has for several months been particularly anxious to obtain, in anticipation of the increased responsibility for maintaining internal security in Ethiopia which fell upon that country on August 25, 1944, with the termination of the Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement.6 The British [Page 74] members of the Board dissented on “political” grounds to this decision and have indicated their intention to carry the case to the Combined Chiefs of Staff. The British Embassy has taken the matter up with the Department and has indicated that the British objections are based on “security” considerations. The War Department and the Department of State are unable to admit the validity of the “security” arguments so far advanced by the British. While this modest request of the Emperor may, if granted, give him the ability to enforce order among his restless people, it is difficult to see how British security in north-eastern Africa could be vitally affected by the Emperor’s possession of such a small amount of equipment.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

While the political and economic interests of the United States in Ethiopia are not now of major importance, this Government does wish to maintain a position of equality of opportunity in Ethiopia so that any future development of American interests would not be prevented by exclusive or preferential rights obtained by third parties. This Government has a natural interest in the welfare of Ethiopia, one of the two independent countries of Africa, and is sympathetic to the desire of the Emperor to re-establish order and restore the economy of the country which was so badly disrupted during four years of Italian occupation.

There does not appear to be a valid reason for the United States to acquiesce in British desires in this case.

Since it is possible that this question may be raised with you by Mr. Churchill7 at Quebec,8 it is thought desirable that you should be informed on the matter.

Unless you perceive some objection thereto, or unless more substantial reasons are advanced by the British against the release of the rifles than have so far been advanced, the Department proposes to advise the War Department that the rifles may be sent forward to Ethiopia at its convenience.

C[ordell] H[ull]
  1. Marginal notation: “CH OK FDR.”
  2. For correspondence relating to the interest of the United States in negotiations leading to a new Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement, see pp. 76 ff.
  3. Winston S. Churchill, British Prime Minister.
  4. No record has been found of any discussion of this question at the Second Quebec Conference; correspondence relating to this Conference is scheduled for publication in a subsequent volume of Foreign Relations.