Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Acheson) to the Secretary of State 1

top secret

This morning the British Ambassador handed me two notes of the most vital importance. These notes inform us that, in view of the British economic and financial situation, they can no longer continue to carry the burden of the economic and military support of the Greek and Turkish Governments. Their estimate is that the foreign currency needs of Greece for the remainder of 1947 will be in the neighborhood of $250,000,000 and that more will be needed for next year. Smaller but equally important sums will be needed for Turkey.

The notes point out that, without this aid, the independence of Greece and Turkey will not survive. This of course means that they and the rest of the Middle East will fall under Russian control. Our own mission in Greece (MacVeagh, Ethridge, Porter) inform us that the crisis in Greece is only a few weeks off and that, without help, the Government and economy will collapse.

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I believe that the British are wholly sincere in this matter and that the situation is as critical as they state. This puts up the most major decision with which we have been faced since the war. I think that War, Navy, Treasury and State should give this immediate study, make recommendations to you, and that a decision in which the leaders in Congress should participate must be made within the week.

Dean Acheson
  1. A carbon copy of this memorandum, filed under 868.20/3–447, contains the following marginal notation by John D. Jernegan, Assistant Chief of the Division: of Near Eastern Affairs: “The substance of this was conveyed by the Secretary to the President on Feb. 24. The notes were handed to the Secretary, not Mr. Acheson. This memorandum was intended to be from the Secretary to the President.”

    President Truman’s Memoirs note that Secretary Marshall brought the official copy of the British note to him on February 24 (Memoirs by Harry S. Truman, vol. ii, p. 100). Mr. Forrestal’s account of his conversation on the matter with the Secretary of State prior to their lunch with the President is given in Walter Millis, (ed.), The Forrestal Diaries (New York, The Viking Press, 1951), p. 245.