Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Aviation Division (Morgan)
Mr. Underwood29 called and left the attached note No. 312, June 21,30 answering ours of April 18, 1945 concerning United States commercial air services in the Near and Middle East. Mr. Underwood apologized for the delay in answering, said the text had just been received from London, and asked if I considered it satisfactory.
I told him that while I could not say the note was unsatisfactory, to me personally it was rather disappointing as it was very vague in its terms and did not definitely set forth what we thought should be made plain, namely, that the British would refrain from trying to influence the other countries in any way in connection with our negotiations. The note referred generally to landing rights, but this might be interpreted in a variety of ways, for instance, they might advise these nations to limit these landing rights to a very considerable extent; and in fact we knew that they were doing so. Mr. Underwood stated that landing rights was the expression used in our note (which was true), and therefore they had used the same expression.
I said that I did not understand the necessity for the references in the second paragraph to the Interim Agreement, which did not seem to have any bearing on the present case. Mr. Underwood said that he also did not understand why that paragraph was included. I said if it was meant in any way to imply there was any limitation on our freedom to negotiate with the countries concerned regarding the ultimate disposition and use of airfields constructed by our military authorities, I thought that we would view it with some concern, but it did not clearly say anything of the kind. Mr. Underwood agreed and said he did not put any such interpretation on it, but admitted there must be some reason for its being included.
Mr. Underwood asked if there would be any reply, and I told him that so far as I personally was concerned I did not think I should recommend any reply as being necessary. We would now see how matters developed.
Mr. Underwood then went on to say that he thought the reports we might have received concerning activities of the British representatives in the Near East in connection with our efforts to obtain landing rights were greatly exaggerated, and asked if I could give him any instances. I told him I was not prepared on my own responsibility to give him confidential information of this nature, but I could assure him that [Page 71] the reports were so widespread and so definite that while they might be exaggerated there must be a great deal of substance to them.
I then asked Mr. Underwood whether if I read him a report which had just reached my desk he could remember the substance and forget where he heard it. He said that he could. I then read him the following excerpt from a report31 just received from Mr. Curren, Civil Air Attaché in the Near East, without divulging the source:
“I found that in each country the British Government officials have definitely been instrumental in causing delays in the acceptances of the Chicago Agreements and the bilateral Agreements. This may or may not be a policy laid down from London but in any case, individual British officials, members of British Legations and Embassy Staffs, aviation advisors, representatives of the British Air Ministry and even local British businessmen have taken it upon themselves to do everything they personally can to keep American aviation out of the Middle East scene.[”]
Mr. Underwood seemed somewhat stunned at the frankness of this language, and repeated that he hoped the report was exaggerated. I told him that it might be but asked him if he did not think that under the circumstances we had grounds for concern. He admitted that in our place he would feel as we did about it.