Memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of War (Patterson) and the Secretary of the Navy (Forrestal)1

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Subject: Military Assistance to Turkey.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, in furtherance of State Department reommendations regarding immediate and substantial aid to Greece and Turkey which were approved in principle by the President about [Page 111] 27 February 1947, review the Turkish situation in this paper. They recognize that, to date, the integrity of Turkey has been of primary concern to Great Britain and that the British military have in the past given much more detailed thought to the problem than have the United States military. It is believed the views in this paper are in substantial accord with British military thinking on the subject.

Further studies confirm the general point of view adopted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Enclosure to J.C.S. 1704/1.2 This enclosure, a memorandum dated 24 August 1946 to the Secretaries of War and the Navy for transmission to the Secretary of State, indicated the great importance which the United States must attach to the military strength and independence of Turkey.

The current circumstance which most sharply affects the continuing military security and independence of Turkey is the weakening, at least temporarily, of that stabilizing power which Great Britain has long exerted in the Mediterranean. The British withdrawal from Egypt and possible relinquishment of sole responsibility in Palestine affects Turkish security adversely. The projected discontinuance of British economic and financial aid to Greece strikes directly at vital Turkish security interests. An extension of Soviet power into Greece, which might well eventually result were all aid to the present Greek Government to be abandoned, would place that power on a flank particularly dangerous to the Turks in that it would strengthen Soviet ability to cut off allied supply and assistance in event of war.

Implications to Turkish security, if Greece is not made secure from the control of a Communist minority, will not be lost upon the Turks. Despite the vigor with which they uphold Turkish independence and the detestation in which they hold the USSR, fear of ultimate and unavoidable Soviet domination might induce the Turks to compromise with the Soviets. The amount and extent of assurances and assistance which would be required on the part of the United States and Britain to prevent such an occurrence would be far greater than if Greece were held secure from Communist domination. Accordingly, the continuing maintenance of Greek security is most desirable because of its consequent favorable effect upon the resolution and the strategic situation of the Turks.

It is believed that the Soviet Union currently possesses neither the desire nor the resources to conduct a major war. Further, the Soviet Union must now have a clear appreciation that open aggression, of [Page 112] the type which she undertook with something less than complete success against Finland in 1939, might inevitably result in war with the Western powers, which alone, for the present, possess atomic bombs. The Soviet Union will not hesitate to continue the political pressure and subversive tactics adapted to the situation prevailing in Greece. It appears most doubtful that she would attempt in the near future the direct military measures which would be required in order to impose her will on a Turkish nation whose political and psychological temper remains sufficiently strong to resist successfully Soviet aggressive measures short of war. The danger remains that Turkey, unless given positive assurances including concrete assistance, might so interpret the possibilities of the future as to yield the [to] Soviet pressure short of direct military measures. The probability of such an adverse occurrence will be materially increased in the event that aid to Greece is denied or, if undertaken, fails of its purpose.

In peace Turkey holds a key position with respect both to the Middle East and to the Arab world generally. Turkey’s determination to stand up to Russian pressure and the western democratic ability to support her will prove a test case to all Middle East countries. Should Russia dominate Turkey in peace time we consider it highly probable that all the Middle East countries would then come rapidly under similar Soviet domination. If Russia can absorb Turkey in peace our ability to defend the Middle East in war will be virtually destroyed.

In war Turkey presents a natural barrier to an advance by Russia to the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East countries, Palestine in particular.

It appears from the discussion thus far in this paper that the objectives of any assistance to the Turks are:

Primarily, to stiffen the Turkish will and ability to resist to the end that the Turks continue a firm national posture against Soviet pressure.
Secondarily, to improve the Turkish military potential so that in the unlikely event of war, either in the form of an attack on Turkey by the Soviets or development of hostilities in other areas, the Turks will resist with force any Soviet aggression and will have the maximum possible military capability to undertake a holding and delaying action in their own country.

In general, means and measures contributing to the achievement of the one objective contribute to the other. Economic and direct military assistance, even if furnished in small quantities, indicates a will on the part of the western democracies to support Turkey in case of an emergency and gives hope to the Turks in a situation where otherwise they might reasonably estimate that they have no recourse but [Page 113] progressive acquiescence to the probable progression of Soviet demands.

An analysis of Turkish military capabilities in case of attack by the Soviets depends on so many imponderables that it is impracticable to reach any detailed conclusions concerning them or concerning the improvement which might be occasioned by provision of specific items of aid. The military history of recent years contains examples of major errors made by the best military analysts concerning the capabilities of specific nations to resist aggression. These examples include Finland’s resistance to Soviet attack, Greek resistance to Italian attack and, on the other hand, the collapse of Poland and the collapse of France. The course of events in case of Soviet attack on Turkey, as an isolated operation or as an incident in a global war, turns on such items of uncertainty as Soviet commitments on other fronts, the season of the year, the morale of Turkish forces and Turkish people at the time, and capabilities of allies to furnish military aid. The last item turns primarily on the period of warning and the extent of mobilization undertaken before hostilities occur.

Turkish armed forces consist of 41 ground divisions, 7 fortress commands, an air force having some 300 operating aircraft, and a negligible navy, with a total mobilized strength of over 600,000 men. Specific proposals for military assistance to the Turks can only be made on the basis of a detailed analysis of the present armed forces and an integration of this analysis with practical considerations, such as Turkish capabilities to provide the support for these forces from their own economy and availability of equipment and other aid from the U.S. and Great Britain. The preliminary view is that aid to Turkey should take account of the following:

The greatest emphasis should be placed on the ground army and on defense against air attack.
The organization and the equipment should be designed for effective defensive action in Turkish terrain. The equipment should in general be of types readily manned and operated by the Turks and, to the greatest degree practicable, be capable of manufacture in Turkey.
Most serious consideration should be given to a program by which the Turks are assisted to attain arms and equipment through operation and development of their own arsenals. In this connection, about 80 per cent of the present equipment in the Turkish army is of German design.
Economic aid for Turkey should be integrated with a program of military assistance, not only for the purpose of enabling the Turks to provide their own equipment but also for the purpose of improving selected communications and logistical facilities in the country. Such action should improve the mobility and logistical support of Turkish forces so that a particular force could be employed in any [Page 114] one of several areas in case of attack, thus making it unnecessary for the Turks to keep full strength garrisons mobilized in all such areas. With improved transportation equipment the Turks may then feel free to reduce the strength of their mobilized forces, thereby relieving some of the present strain on the economy of the country.
It appears that it will be some time before the Turks could hope to approach self-sufficiency in certain important items of equipment and maintenance, such as airplanes, for their armed forces. The only practicable sources for filling such deficiencies appear to be the United States and the British Empire. The continuation of the present political and psychological toughness of Turkey and the Turkish people may turn in considerable part on the receipt of tangible assurance, or at least tokens thereof, that items of this nature may be made available to Turkey.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that effective assistance to Turkey is important to the security of the United States, but that this assistance involves political, economic and psychological factors which are primary as compared to the military factor. All these factors are so intertwined that no one can be separated and viewed apart from the others. Hence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are unable to provide definitive views on the problem without benefit of considerations outside the province of the strictly military. They therefore request that their views be provided the Secretary of State with the suggestion that the matter be referred to the State–War–Navy Coordinating Committee for thorough analysis in the light of all the factors involved.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Chief of Staff
  1. Copy transmitted to Acting Secretary of State Acheson by the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy in a joint letter of March 13 which noted their concurrence in the views expressed in the memorandum.
  2. Not printed, but for J.C.S. 1704, August 23, 1946, see Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. vii, p. 857. J.C.S. 1704 and J.C.S. 1704/1 are the same, except that the latter contains a covering statement that on August 23, 1946, the Joint Chiefs considered No. 1704 and agreed to forward a copy to the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy (SWNCC files, SWNCC 091—Russia Miscellaneous).