The Secretary of State to Governor Dwight P. Griswold, at Washington1

top secret

My Dear Governor Griswold: The American Mission for Aid to Greece is embarking upon a task of exceptional difficulty and of great significance in the foreign relations of the United States. I need not emphasize the importance of the issues with which you will be confronted at this juncture in world affairs. So deeply concerned is this Government in the success of your Mission that I am outlining below, for your strictly confidential information and guidance, the political considerations which motivate the policy of this Government today in its relations with Greece and especially in providing the assistance requested by the Greek Government in its appeal to the Government and people of the United States on March 3, 1947.

I. The situation in Greece today should be viewed against the background of a world-wide Communist effort to subvert governments and [Page 220] institutions not already subservient to the Soviet Union. The American Embassy in Athens is fully informed as to the facts regarding Soviet aims and objectives and you should rely heavily on the Ambassador for advice as to how they apply to the problem in Greece. For example, under the direction of the Soviet Union, the government and Communist Party of Yugoslavia, and to a lesser extent those of Bulgaria and Albania, have been carrying on activities the purpose of which is: 1) to set up in Greece a Communist-controlled government which would force Greece into a Soviet-dominated Balkan bloc; and 2) to separate Macedonia from the remainder of Greece in order to make Grecian Macedonia part of a Yugoslav or Balkan Federation. These activities have included, in particular, the despatch of arms and military equipment to Greek guerrillas, the training and sending to Greece of reinforcements for the Greek guerrillas and the extension of aid through many other means to the Greek subversive Communist movement. In addition there is a possibility that organized Communist groups are now being made ready in other countries to go to Greece to furnish direct military support to the guerrillas.

In this connection you should have in mind that the activities of the American Mission are designed to assist the Greek Government in meeting the threat of an aggressive Communist movement and that the major considerations in this situation are of a far-reaching political nature.

II. The overall political objectives of United States policy in Greece may be summed up as follows:

Maintenance of the independence and integrity of Greece, specifically to keep Greece from falling into the Soviet orbit; and
development of the economy of Greece on a self-sustaining basis as soon as possible.

The difficult and inconclusive battle with Communist-inspired armed bands which the Greek Government has been waging on its northern boundaries is directly responsible for the instability of the political situation and the serious deterioration of economic conditions, which have kept the country in a state of unrest and effectively prevented post-war reconstruction. Obviously, no reconstruction can take place while such armed groups defy the authority of the state and foster economic chaos, with the ultimate objective of seizing control of the government by force. In fact, the reports received by the United States Government clearly indicate that unless substantial support is immediately given to the Greek Government in its efforts to restore internal security and to bring about economic improvement, Greece will be forced to succumb to Communist pressure seeking the establishment of a Soviet-controlled dictatorship.

[Page 221]

The main problem confronting ns in Greece, therefore, is to so strengthen the internal security and the general economic structure of the country that the government can be relieved of the danger presented by an armed subversive minority and can proceed peacefully to the building up of an independent, democratic nation. We desire to see stable conditions restored as soon as possible, in order that Greece may assume full responsibility for its political and economic welfare and be left free to develop its trade and economic resources on a self-supporting basis.

III. We desire to see in Greece a government whose members are firmly united in their loyalty to Greece and who are primarily interested in keeping their country from falling under Communist control or Soviet domination. They should not only place patriotism above personal or party interests, but they should have the courage and strength of character to pursue their objective with complete single-mindedness of purpose. In a word, they should be devoted to the ideal of a free and independent Greece in accordance with the best traditions of their country.

In order that it may enjoy the respect and confidence of all loyal elements of the Greek population, it is our belief that the Government of Greece should rest on as broad a basis of representation as possible. Ideally, members of the government should be drawn from the political parties of the left, the center, and the right, but not so far to the left that they are disposed to make concessions to, or deals with, the Communists or so far to the right that they would refuse to cooperate with non-Communists for the good of Greece. The Government should thus be able to command the support and loyalty of all patriotic Greeks. It may be impossible to attain such an ideal in the immediate future. In any event, however, Greece should have a Government the basic aim of which is to oppose with determination the subversive forces seeking to undermine the Greek state and to destroy its liberty of action.

IV. We are aware of the fact that in its efforts to combat the subversive movement, there is a tendency on the part of certain elements in the Greek Government to employ strong measures and to make use of strong and determined personalities, such as Mr. Zervas, Chief of the Gendarmerie. We should realize that stern and determined measures, although of course not excesses, may be necessary to effect the termination of the activities of the guerrillas and their supporters as speedily as possible.

As the work of the American Mission makes itself felt, it may be feasible for us gradually to bring about the elimination of objectionable elements from Greek public life, whether they are extremists of [Page 222] the right or of the left. But we cannot afford to intervene in Greek political affairs to the extent of imposing a government of our own choice for the sake of satisfying a segment of public opinion in this country or elsewhere, since this would be certain to arouse antagonism on the part of the Greek people and impair their confidence in the objectives of the American Mission.

V. It is possible that during your stay in Greece you and the Ambassador will come to the conclusion that the effectiveness of your Mission would be enhanced if a reorganization of the Greek Government could be effected. If such a conclusion is reached, it is hoped that you and the Ambassador will be able to bring about such a reorganization indirectly through discreet suggestion and otherwise in such a manner that even the Greek political leaders will have a feeling that the reorganization has been effected largely by themselves and not by pressure from without. It should be borne in mind in this connection that there are elements in the United Nations (which is at present seized of the Greek problem) who will be observing with the utmost care our activities in Greece and who will not hesitate if opportunity is given them to charge before the United Nations that the United States is interfering in the internal affairs of Greece.

VI. We are fully cognizant of the need for reform in Greek economic as well as political life, and we believe that determined efforts should be made by the Mission to reconstruct the Greek economy on a basis that will do away as far as possible with corrupt practices and profiteering. We believe that the tax burden should be distributed equally, that labor and agriculture should be urged toward greater production, and that living standards should in general be raised. But judgment should not be passed against the existing regime because it fails to meet American economic or financial requirements. Rather should a comparison be made with the regimes of other Balkan countries, keeping in mind as well the disruption caused by the extreme hardships and handicaps suffered by Greece since its invasion by the enemy during the war. In bringing about needed economic reforms, just as in the case of political reforms, great care should be taken not to offend Greek susceptibilities. For unless we exercise tact and discretion in our handling of the various problems which will confront us, we shall not only arouse the resentment and suspicion of the people of Greece, thereby making our task doubly difficult, but we shall play directly into the hands of the subversive elements seeking by every possible means to discredit our activities.

VII. During the course of your work you and the members of your Mission will from time to time find that certain Greek officials are not, because of incompetence, disagreement with your policies, [Page 223] or for some other reason, extending the type of cooperation which is necessary if the objectives of your Mission are to be achieved. You will find it necessary to effect the removal of these officials. It is important that such a removal be effected quietly and in a manner which will create a minimum amount of resentment from fellow officials and the Greek people. You will probably find it desirable to establish regular channels through which you may present to the Greek Government your views regarding incompetent or uncooperative Greek officials.

VIII. You will appreciate the possibility that in line with the tactics which the Communists will undoubtedly follow of attempting to discredit, sabotage, and otherwise nullify the work of the American Mission, Communist influence may attempt to reach members of the staff of the Mission itself. It goes without saying, therefore, that you should constantly be on your guard to see that the personnel of the Mission not only continue completely loyal to our ideals and objectives in bringing aid to Greece but that they do not become prejudiced, through outside influence, against any Greek officials or Greek Government opposed to the Communists. It is particularly important that all members of your staff, including any Greek nationals, in conversations with persons other than American officials, refrain from criticism of the existing regime. Such a practice would directly serve the Communist purpose of discrediting the members of the present government in order to replace them with those who are less intent on maintaining the independence of Greece. In any case, all personnel of the Mission should be under strong discipline not to indulge in indiscriminate conversation regarding Greek political affairs and not to make charges except through established channels against Greek officials.

IX. It should also be kept in mind that the British have made a heavy contribution since the liberation of Greece to the maintenance of the Greek armed forces and to the efforts of the Greek Government to restore the economy of the country. These activities of the British, which have been directed toward the same common end of preserving the integrity and independence of Greece, are deserving of respect. The remarks made above with regard to indiscriminate conversations or criticisms concerning Greek officials or the Greek Government apply therefore with equal force in the case of the British. I hope you will caution your staff on this subject as well.

X. Careful attention should be given to the problem of the labor unions in Greece. A determined attempt is being made by Communist elements to obtain control of the unions which, if successful, would create a situation likely to negate completely the work and the objectives [Page 224] of the Mission. Our aim is to encourage in Greece the development of a free democratic labor movement concerned primarily with genuine trade union objectives. If the unions should fall under Communist domination, they would be in a position to paralyze reconstruction work and to thwart effectively our efforts to rehabilitate the Greek economy.

XI. You will have the benefit of the wisdom and practical experience of the American Ambassador in Athens. The external and internal political problems of Greece are of direct concern to the Embassy, and I am confident that the Ambassador, to whom I am sending a copy of this letter, will be ready to lend you every assistance in his power and to consult and advise with you regarding your plans and difficulties. The Ambassador should be kept closely informed of the progress of your Mission toward economic rehabilitation and reform in order that he may be able fully to discharge his duties in the political field. This cooperation between you and the Ambassador should extend also to the matter of your first appearance before His Majesty King Paul and other high officials of the Greek Government. The questions which you might touch upon at that time and the opinions which you should express can most appropriately be discussed beforehand with the Ambassador.

The responsibilities of the Ambassador, I may add, include in particular the problem of bringing about changes in the Greek Government, the question of holding new elections, and the matter of amnesty for political prisoners. Your views will of course be particularly welcomed and helpful as your familiarity with the situation grows, but the Ambassador’s judgment should be a principal determinant in the formulation of our policy in regard to these and related matters.

I rely on your own good judgment and tact in shaping that policy and wish you the greatest success in the arduous task you have undertaken.

Sincerely yours,

G. C. Marshall
  1. Drafted by Mr. Villard and transmitted to the Executive Secretariat by Mr. Henderson with his memorandum of July 10. The memorandum contains the concurrences of Messrs. Rusk and Armour and notes that the instruction to Governor Griswold was to be handed to him before his departure for Greece on July 10 or 11. (868.00/7–1047)