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

top secret

Subject: British Desire for Consultation Regarding Composition of Turkish Armed Forces.

The Problem: The British Foreign Office has communicated to Ambassador Wilson in Ankara and to the Department here its desire for discussions between British and American military authorities in Washington to reach “final decisions” on the size and composition of the Turkish Army. A suggestion of the same sort was made by the British in February, when the question of American aid to Turkey first arose. It is now being made again as a result of a statement by Ambassador Wilson to the British Ambassador in Ankara that we hoped that British military and naval instructors would remain in Turkey. The British say that there will be no difficulty regarding their naval and air force instructors, but that they must know just what is to be done with the Turkish Army in order to decide whether it would be useful for them to leave ground force instructors in Turkey. They apparently envisage that the American and British governments should decide the kind of army Turkey should have and then inform the Turks.

Specifically, the British request that we agree (a) to hold joint discussions regarding future composition of the Turkish armed forces, such discussions to take place in Washington after the return of the American Survey Mission, and (b) to instruct our Survey Mission now to make its investigations and prepare its report with a view to these subsequent discussions.

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Discussion: Ambassador Wilson, in his telegram no. 405 of May 31,1 (Tab A, attached) expresses the view that we should not attempt to impose upon the Turks any hard and fast decision as to what their armed establishment should be, although we should of course give them whatever advice they may request on the subject. He considers that our task is primarily to determine the most effective use of the $100 million we intend to spend to aid Turkish national defense and that our assistance should not be conditioned upon Turkish acceptance of our views on the size and composition of their armed forces. He fears that it would create an unfortunate impression on the Turks if they thought that the British and ourselves were conferring independently in order to make decisions regarding what Turkey should do. He further points out that our survey group is obtaining information from the Turks which the latter have not given to the British and do not wish us to pass on.

NEA is in general agreement with Ambassador Wilson’s views. Since we are particularly anxious to avoid the appearance of dictating to Turkey, we do not feel that we should attach any hard and fast conditions to our assistance with respect to the future composition of the Turkish armed forces, although our military people will undoubtedly have occasion to make suggestions to the Turks in this respect. We have every reason to believe that the Turks will give such suggestions serious consideration. We also feel that it would be unfortunate to commit ourselves to the British in any way which would restrict our freedom of action or lead the Turks to believe that we were making decisions jointly with the British without their knowledge or concurrence. However, we recognize that the British have a continuing interest in Turkey, and it had been our thought that the British would continue to help there through the provision of technical instructors and in such other ways as they may be able to afford. We should not, therefore, attempt to exclude them from the picture. In the particular instance, the British appear to have a logical argument when they say that they cannot decide regarding the continuance of their ground force instruction group unless they know what sort of ground force Turkey is to have and what kind of equipment it will use.

Recommendations: It is recommended that NEA be authorized to seek War and Navy Department concurrence and then to carry out the following:

The British Embassy here be advised, informally, that we do not wish to attempt to dictate to the Turks what they should do with their armed forces, and that we would therefore not wish to engage in formal conversations leading to “final decisions” in this regard.
The Embassy to be told, however, that we recognize the British interest in this subject and their need for information in order to plan their instruction program in Turkey. Consequently, we would be glad to have informal consultation in Washington following the return of the American Survey Mission from Turkey, at which time the Mission would of course furnish the British with such information as it obtains regarding Turkish plans and our own plans with respect to the supply of the Turkish armed forces. (It would be understood by our representatives in such conversations that they would not convey to the British any information supplied by the Turks which the latter requested be withheld from the British.)
The Embassy to be advised that it would be undesirable to summon either the British or American Service Attachés from Ankara to take part in the informal consultations here, because this would undoubtedly arouse speculation on the part of the Turks and magnify the importance of the talks.2

Attachments: Tab A: Ankara telegram no. 405, May 31, 1947.
Tab B: Paraphrase of Foreign Office telegram of May 29, to Ankara.3 Copy left at Department June 2, 1947.

L[oy] W. H[enderson]
  1. Not printed.
  2. Marginal notation by Mr. Acheson: “I agree and suggest you look at one of the answers to the Vandenberg questions, in which I said that there would be no agreements with the British.” Mr. Acheson was referring, presumably, to his answer to Question 93, namely that “There is no agreement with the British Government with reference to the implementation of the proposed plan of assistance to Greece and Turkey. The United States is free to act in agreement with the Greek and Turkish Governments, respectively.” (Department of State Bulletin, May 4, 1947, Supplement, p. 890).
  3. Not printed.