Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs ( Murray ) to the Secretary of State

The Situation in Greece

1. The Problem:

The most immediate aims are the termination of hostilities and the formation of a government sufficiently representative of all factions to ensure stability for the distribution of relief supplies. Long-term aims include the holding, under fair and free conditions, of a plebiscite and elections on the return of the King and the future government.

2. Basic Factors:

The present crisis appears to have arisen from the profound distrust among various Greek factions. The resistance groups suspected that the Papandreou Government,10 with British backing, desired to restore the King and a conservative regime. Such distrust came to a head over the disarming of the resistance forces without similar [Page 100] treatment for the Government forces, which had been purged of EAM sympathizers in Egypt last spring.11 Civil strife was precipitated after the resignation of six Leftist ministers and the British decision to support Papandreou and to attempt to control the Athens-Piraeus area until ELAS could be neutralized and free elections held. Notwithstanding the creation of a Regency under Damaskinos and the announcement on January 4 of the formation of the Plastiras Government, a truce has not yet been achieved.

3. Action Taken to Date:

This Government has made increasingly clear, particularly by statements of the Secretary on December 5 and 7,12 its policy that the form of government to be established in Greece after liberation should be one chosen freely by the Greek people themselves, democratically representing the wishes of the majority of the nation. On December 13 a telegram from the President to Mr. Churchill13 recommended that the King consent to a Regency, that elections be fixed for a specific date no matter how far in the future, and that all armed groups in Greece be disarmed under a new coalition government, order meanwhile being maintained by British troops. Later, on December 28, a message embodying the same suggestions was despatched to King George II,14 and a statement approving the King’s subsequent action was made to the press by the Secretary on January l.15

4. Possible Future Action:

The United States Government may be requested by the Greek Government, with British backing, to participate in an Anglo-American-Russian commission to supervise a free and secret plebiscite in Greece on the question of the regime (monarchy or republic) and subsequent elections for a constituent assembly. The Staff Committee [Page 101] on December 26 advised the Secretary that the United States, if requested, should be prepared to consider sympathetically sharing responsibility in the administration of an impartial plebiscite.16 This course was also advocated in a memorandum prepared for the Secretary, January 1, 1945,17 in which it was further suggested that such a commission might be a military commission headed by a special representative other than its Ambassador to Greece. The commission should be provided with sufficient military civil affairs personnel to enable our Commissioner to keep fully informed. The memorandum expressed the view that such personnel would be needed in Greece probably not longer than six weeks and could presumably be obtained from Italy or Germany.

The memorandum to the Secretary also stated that should the EAM–ELAS oppose by arms the efforts of the Archbishop-Regent to find a reasonable political solution in Greece, it would then be clear that the extreme left minority was seeking to gain power by force. In such an event the memorandum suggested that this Government should make clear its support of the Archbishop-Regent and the duly constituted authorities.

Wallace Murray
  1. George Papandreou, President of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister) of Greece, April 26, 1944 to December 31, 1944.
  2. This refers to the mutinies which occurred in April 1944, in Greek Middle East Army in Egypt and units of the Greek Navy in Alexandria harbor. For documentation regarding the interest of the United States in this crisis and its denouement, see Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. v., pp. 90104, passim.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. v, p. 149, footnote 48a.
  4. Ibid., p. 150.
  5. Ibid., p. 177.
  6. In lieu of a press and radio news conference on January 1, two questions were submitted to the Secretary of State, one of which dealt with the political situation in Greece:

    “Q. What is the attitude of the United States toward the newly-created Regency in Greece?

    “A. This is an important step that would appear to pave the way for a solution of the present difficult situation in Greece and as such, it is welcomed by this Government.” (Verbatim Reports Press Conferences, 1945, No. 1, January 1).

  7. See Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. v, p. 165, footnote 61a.
  8. Not found in Department files.