Memorandum by the Assistant Chief of the Aviation Division ( Walstrom ) to the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs ( Henderson )

AV46 understands that the Secretary wishes a memorandum citing specific instances where the British have opposed our plans for operating United States international air services in various countries, particularly the Middle East.

For background, the Department had received various reports to this effect and in April of this year a note was sent to the British Government stating that we would “welcome assurances that the British Government will not oppose the efforts of the United States to acquire landing rights at this time in the Near and Middle East for United States commercial air services”. The British replied to the effect that they had no desire to exclude us from acquiring landing rights but when friendly nations requested the advice and the opinion of the British Government the latter was compelled to state its views, which are in opposition to the so-called Fifth Freedom rights. The Fifth Freedom rights would permit an American airline to carry traffic between intermediate countries, but not to engage in traffic within each country. This Government strongly feels that such Fifth Freedom privileges are essential to the sound economic operation of its international airlines.

The following specific instances of British opposition have come to the attention of the Department:

Egypt: While the War Department has requested that the following information not be divulged, it is nevertheless pertinent. On March 30, 1945 Lord Killearn, British Ambassador to Egypt, addressed a letter to the Egyptian Prime Minister stating the British opposition to the “Fifth Freedom” which the United States Government wished to incorporate in its air transport agreements. Lord Killearn said he felt sure the Egyptian Government would wish to consult the British authorities before reaching any decision on granting such privileges to United States airlines. In a further letter of September 2, 1945, Lord Killearn told the Egyptian Prime Minister that Great Britain was anxious to conclude an agreement on civil aviation “in order to safeguard her interest not only in Egypt, but in all the countries of the Middle East”. The letter further said that it would be necessary for Great Britain to see that the aviation rights granted by Egypt to American airlines should not injure British aviation interests as provided for in an Anglo-Egyptian agreement on civil aviation.

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When Lord Swinton (former British Minister of Civil Aviation) visited Cairo in April of this year, he is reported to have told the Egyptian officials that “the United States wants to control all civil aviation and that if Egypt signs the Fifth Freedom they will find the United States coming in to take over aviation and the entire world, and that the British are going to prevent them from doing so”. Lord Swinton also is reported to have made a number of derogatory remarks concerning American aviation in general.

A telegram from the Legation at Cairo dated July 20, 1945 reports conversations between our Civil Air Attaché and the representative of the British Ministry of Air to the Middle East. The latter official admitted advising the Middle Eastern countries along the lines of the British position at Chicago, advocating restrictions on traffic rights as protection for local airlines, and restricting frequencies. A report from the Legation at Cairo dated July 31, 1945 says “the British Air Ministry has continued its efforts to obstruct the acceptance of our bilateral Agreement through their own advisor in the Civil Aviation Department in that they have assured the Department that they will give them advice on the effect of the American trunk service between Egypt and Lydda on the Egyptian and other eventual Arab airlines and also on the adequacy of Almaza Airport as compared with Payne Field for American commercial operation.” A further report from the Legation at Cairo dated October 5, 1945 includes the following reference: “The Egyptians seem to desire to postpone acceptance of the Agreement as long as possible upon the assurance by the British that the matter of the Fifth Freedom traffic will eventually be changed through their influence. There has been definite evidence that on more than one occasion Lord Killearn and other British Government officials in Egypt have definitely “instructed” the Egyptian Government not to accept the American Air Transport Agreement until the entire matter of air traffic rights and international operation can be given further consideration and discussions held in England and in the Middle East.”

Recent reports from the Legation at Cairo indicate that prospects for the conclusion of our bilateral air transport agreement are more encouraging, but certainly no thanks are due to the British.

Greece: A report from the Embassy at Athens dated April 7, 1945 quoted a Greek official as stating that his Government’s reply concerning our draft bilateral air transport agreement had been delayed at the request of the British Embassy. Further information from Athens indicates that the British have continued to persuade the Greeks against the conclusion of a Fifth Freedom aviation agreement, and a more recent telegram has reported that the Greeks are unwilling to commit themselves to a final policy on this matter until the British and American viewpoints are reconciled.

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Iraq: On April 3, 1945 the Iraqi Foreign Minister told Mr. Henderson, then Minister at Baghdad, that it would be helpful and would save embarrassment for the Iraq Government if we could first obtain an undertaking from the British Government that it would not press the Iraqi Government to reply unfavorably to our proposals for air transport rights in Iraq. While the Foreign Minister personally was in favor of an agreement for American air rights, he was confident that the British would object. The Foreign Minister asked, however, that his remarks on this subject be treated in the utmost confidence, for which reason it probably would be unwise to cite this specific instance to the British.

Our Civil Air Attaché at Cairo reported on May 8, 1945 that British diplomatic personnel and air ministry representatives in the Middle East continued to exert every possible influence on local governments to refuse Fifth Freedom rights to American airlines and to delay acceptances of the bilateral agreements. He further said that these Governments were unable to take action regarding acceptance until British sanction was obtained.

The Legation at Baghdad reported on July 31, 1945 that the British Chargé d’Affaires said that, acting under instructions, he had advised Iraqi Government to be cautious in giving air rights for Fifth Freedom traffic, and to guard against granting any rights which might later prove embarrassing “to Iraq, its neighbors or friends”.

On July 25, 1945 the Legation at Baghdad reported that “a usually reliable Iraqi source” had stated that the draft Pan-Arab civil aviation agreement was obviously drafted by British aviation experts, and was calculated, among other things, to hinder the entrance of American airlines into Iraq.

Iran: The Embassy at Tehran has recently reported that information regarding British efforts to block conclusion of an American-Iranian air transport agreement had been abundantly confirmed from another confidential source, which had reported the British to be exerting continued and relentless pressure in this connection.

On October 24, 1945 the American Ambassador had an audience with the Shah and the latter himself mentioned the possibility that delays in the negotiations for the air transport agreement might have been caused by British pressure in certain quarters of his Government.

Lebanon: On May 28, 1945 our Civil Air Attaché at Cairo reported that the British and French in Beirut had completely blocked dollar exchange for the purchase of American aircraft by Mr. El Hoss, who had planned to start a local airline with American planes and technical advice. The Civil Air Attaché reported that the British commercial secretary had offered El Hoss the distributorship for the Morris automobile if he would give up the idea of operating an airline. [However, this approach does not seem to be particularly reprehensible [Page 80] on the part of any foreign representative desiring to promote his own country’s commercial interest.]46a

The British Minister to Lebanon is reported to have definitely stated to the American Minister that the British do not want American airlines to operate in the Middle East.

It is further reported that the British sent the Lebanese Ambassador in London to Beirut for the purpose of persuading the Lebanese Government not to grant Fifth Freedom privileges to American airlines, and to block the purchase of American planes by El Hoss. Our Civil Air Attaché in Cairo also reports that when he arrived in Beirut the British Air Ministry representative arrived the same day and “used unbelievable pressure against the Lebanese as regards the air transport agreement and the purchase of American aircraft, warning that if they cooperated with Americans they would lose considerable British support and assistance generally.”

Belgium: While not pertinent to the above discussion of Middle Eastern countries, this Government has been endeavoring to negotiate a bilateral air transport agreement with Belgium, so far without success. On October 12, 1945 Brussels reported that the Belgian Foreign Minister had referred to the British, who have endeavored to dissuade Belgium from concluding a Fifth Freedom agreement with this country.

Over the past year aviation representatives of Sweden and the Netherlands have also informed the Department that the British have made known their displeasure with the acceptance of the Five Freedoms concept by these two countries.47

  1. The Aviation Division.
  2. Brackets appear in the original memorandum.
  3. This memorandum by Mr. Walstrom, together with a report by the Division of Near Eastern Affairs on aspects of United States aviation problems in Saudi Arabia, not printed, was sent to the Secretary of State by Mr. Henderson on November 23. Mr. Henderson’s transmitting memorandum, after quoting paragraph numbered 4 of the British aide-mémoire of October 29, p. 75, concluded: “It is highly questionable, however, whether it justifies the types of pressure brought by the British Government on certain third countries to obstruct our legitimate aviation objectives.” (811.79600/11–2345) There is no record in Department files of a substantive reply to the aide-mémoire. The aide-mémoire contains the marginal notation “File for reasons indicated in NE’s memo” but this memorandum has not been identified.