The Minister in Egypt (Tuck) to the Secretary of State

No. 464

Sir: I have the honor to enclose a memorandum, together with enclosures mentioned therein, entitled “Position of the United States Army [Armed] Forces in Egypt”, which has been prepared by Counselor J. E. Jacobs for reference purposes as problems arise in the future concerning our Armed Forces here.

Mr. Jacobs has not attempted to go into hypothetical problems that might arise out of the activities of the United States Armed Forces in Egypt; he has merely attempted to set forth in a brief, concise manner the various activities of the Army in Egypt, which have been the subject of negotiations and discussions with the Egyptian authorities, citing in his memorandum the various notes exchanged with those authorities [and?] the despatches already submitted to the Department. In some instances communications with the Foreign Office have never been submitted to the Department. For this and other reasons, it is believed that it might be helpful for the Department to have this memorandum in its files.

Respectfully yours,

S. Pinkney Tuck

Memorandum by the Counselor of Legation in Egypt (Jacobs)

The establishment of the United States Army in Egypt under its present title, “United States Armed [Army] Forces in the Middle East” (USAFIME), was the result of the attack of Japan upon the United States in December 1941. At that time the United States had a small group of officers and technicians in Cairo who had arrived about six weeks previously to assist the British Army in the operation, maintenance and repair of airplanes, tanks and cars and other military equipment being delivered through Lend-Lease. As the Maxwell4 Mission came more or less under British auspices before the United States entered the war, no permission was sought of the Egyptian [Page 92] Government for the entry of the Mission into Egypt. Such permission was not actually necessary in as much as these officers were in a sense attached to the British Army, which enjoyed special rights under the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of August 26, 1936,5 and already had various contingents in its forces—(Czech, Greek, etc.). In the light of later developments it would have been preferable to have obtained the prior approval of the Egyptian Government, which probably could have been easily obtained. However, no opportunity was given to consider the question, as the first information the Legation had of the arrival of the Mission was the Department’s telegram no. 603 of October 25, 1941,6 which contained no instructions with regard to obtaining the approval of the Egyptian Government, and the members of the Mission actually arrived shortly afterwards.

After the entry of the United States into the war in December 1941, the complexion of General Maxwell’s Mission was changed overnight and his mission began to expand its activities, not only as an advisory group to the British Army but for the purpose of setting up its own maintenance and repair shops and the handling by air of the enormous military traffic that followed. Events happened so rapidly, with the German Army menacing the borders of Egypt several times within the ensuing year,7 that no thought was given to the question of regularizing the position of the American forces with the Egyptian Government.

At the end of 1942, however, and at the beginning of 1943, due to the large increase in the personnel of the Army Command, various incidents involving soldiers began to focus attention on the necessity of having some arrangement with the Egyptian Government for regularizing the position of these armed forces in Egypt, particularly in connection with criminal jurisdiction. As a result several agreements were reached as follows:

In connection with the entry into Egypt of military matériel for the United States Army, it became necessary to work out some arrangement for the exemption of this matériel from the payment of Egyptian customs and excise duties. There were considerable correspondence and various interviews with the officials on this subject and finally, on April 23, 1942, the Foreign Office in its Note No. P.55.9/102 bis (7) informed the Legation that the Council of Ministers had decided to exempt American military matériel from the payment [Page 93] of Egyptian customs and excise duties.8 The aforementioned note will be found in the Legation’s file no. 624.1 for 1942. After the general permission was granted there was a conference at Alexandria on April 25, 1942, at which the same privilege was granted to the Quartermaster’s Department of the Army, the Post Exchange, the Pan American Airways, the Transcontinental Western Airways, and the Air Corps Ferrying Command. Correspondence regarding that meeting will be found in the Legation’s file no. 624.1 for 1942. Subsequently the Pan American Airways and the Transcontinental Western Airways withdrew their operations from Egypt and the Air Ferrying Command became what is now known as the Air Transport Command (ATC). In order to obtain free entry for shipments of these military agencies the Army from time to time must provide facsimiles of signatures of the appropriate officers who sign on behalf of the agencies. These facsimiles are sent through the Legation to the Director General of the Egyptian Customs at Alexandria.
With regard to the question of criminal jurisdiction, an exchange of notes, dated March 2, 1943,9 was effected which conferred upon American Military Courts criminal jurisdiction over uniformed personnel of the United States Army and American civilians actually attached to the American Army. While there was some difficulty in getting the Egyptian authorities to grant this concession, these difficulties arose out of technical questions involved in the application and administration of this privilege. At no time did the Egyptian Government question the right of the United States armed forces to be in Egypt. The text of this exchange of notes and other pertinent information was reported to the Department in the Legation’s despatch no. 897 of March 6, 1943.10
In order to facilitate the entry and departure of uniformed military personnel and civilians attached to the Army without compliance with Egyptian laws and regulations governing entry and exit visas, an arrangement was worked out with the Ministry of the Interior in [Page 94] March 1941 which permitted the American military authorities to issue certain special passes which have since come to be recognized in nearly every Middle East country as a travel document and which permits the above-mentioned Army personnel to move freely across Egyptian borders. A full report on this subject was made by Consul Albert W. Scott in despatch no. 1142 of July 3, 1943.10 That despatch lists the various citations to notes and letters exchanged with the Egyptian authorities.
In August and September of 1942 the American authorities raised the question of asking the Egyptian authorities to accord to the Army similar privileges accorded to the British Army with respect to the maintenance in Egypt of an Army Post Office. Discussions and exchanges of notes took place, extending over a number of months, and the Post Office was actually in operation before the Egyptian authorities finally agreed. The agreement was contained in Foreign Office Note no. P. 1.–55.9/102 (12), dated June 19, 1943, which provided for the payment by the Army of $50 per month to the Egyptian Post Office for this privilege.
Also, during the summer of 1943, the United States Army authorities raised the question of the installation of a radio station at its Heliopolis Service Commandant Camp for the purpose of sending messages to the United States, and of constructing a telephone line between Heliopolis and Headquarters in Cairo. The Heliopolis Service Commandant Camp was later removed to what is now known as Camp Huckstep, where the radio station has been established. Negotiations in regards to this matter also dragged on for some time and the installations were actually in operation before the agreement was reached. This agreement is contained in Foreign Office Note no. P.I. [1], (17), dated July 25, 1943.
In 1944 the Army also raised the question of installing at Camp Huckstep a small broadcasting station to reach American military personnel in Egypt and nearby areas. The Egyptian Government, in a note no. 55.9/137 (10), dated September 12, 1944, agreed to the establishment of this broadcasting station, which in fact had already been and still is in operation, but there was attached as a condition precedent to this permission that the American Army sell the station to the Egyptian Government when it is no longer needed. This phase of the question is still under discussion, as the Army is only prepared to agree to this condition on the further condition that the Army will only sell the radio equipment if, when the Army moves from Egypt, the equipment is no longer needed. The Army’s position is that this equipment is portable and the Army may wish to remove it to other scenes of military operations at some later date. The Foreign Office has stated orally that the Egyptian Government will probably agree [Page 95] to the Army’s condition but in the interim the station is functioning without difficulty.*

Accordingly, in the light of the foregoing agreements, the Egyptian Government can be said to have recognized the presence and the position of United States armed forces in Egypt.

J. E. Jacobs
  1. Brig. Gen. Russell L. Maxwell, Chief of the United States Military North African Mission, who established headquarters at Cairo on November 22, 1941.
  2. Treaty of Friendship and Alliance signed at London, League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. clxxiii, p. 401.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. iii, p. 314.
  4. For documentation on the concern of the United States regarding the effect of axis military advance into Egypt, see ibid., 1942, vol. iv, pp. 71 ff., passim.
  5. Of further concern to the United States was the levying of taxes by the Egyptian Government on electricity used by United States Army Forces and on real estate improvements made by military authorities on leased real property. In telegram 400, February 15, 1945, 5 p.m., the Department authorized Cairo “to request of the Egyptian Foreign Office that if an Act of Parliament is necessary to exempt United States military authorities from payment of real estate taxes all payment be held in abeyance until such time as this question, the question of electricity taxes, and any similar present or future taxes can be taken up in general discussions or when negotiations concerning United States military establishments and the lend-lease agreement are entered into.” Cairo was further advised “it would not be desirable at the present time to attempt to have the Egyptian Parliament consider legislation exempting the United States Army from payment.” (883.5122/2–1545) For documentation on the unperfected Lend-Lease Agreement between the United States and Egypt, signed at Washington on April 17, 1945, see pp. 88 ff.
  6. Signed at Cairo, Department of State Executive Agreement Series No. 356, or 57 Stat. (pt. 2) 1197; for documentation on this agreement, see Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. iv, pp. 73 ff.
  7. Not printed.
  8. Not printed.
  9. Since the above was written, the Egyptian Government has granted permission for the radio station without condition. See Foreign Office Note #2 of February 5, 1945. [Footnote in the original.]