Memorandum of Conversation, by the Acting Chief of the Aviation Division ( Garter )1

Participants: EUR—Mr. Thompson, Deputy Director2
BC—Mr. Satterthwaite, Chief3
SE—Mr. Barbour, Chief4
NOE—Mr. Hulley, Chief5
EE—Mr. Bernhardt, Chief6
SWE—Mr. Unger, Acting Chief7
GA—Mr. Kidd, Foreign Affairs Specialist8
EUR/TEC—Mr. Hill9
NEA/TRC—Mr. Thayer10
ARA/TRC—Mr. Nolan11
ARA/S—Mr. Oakley12
AV—Mr. Carter, Acting Chief13
[Page 199]

The purpose of this meeting, Mr. Thompson explained, was to consider ways and means of getting NSC 15/114 back on the track following its recent derailment by the British.

At Mr. Thompson’s suggestion, Mr. Carter reviewed the course of events which led to the adoption of our present policy by the National Security Council last July, summarized its objectives, and outlined the implementation difficulties which have culminated in the present impasse with the British. The Department has been convinced from the outset, and has had no reason to change its belief, Mr. Carter said, that full U.K. cooperation is essential to the effectiveness of the “common front” course of action recommended by the NSC. Accordingly, our initial effort to secure the “all for one and one for all” agreement of non-curtain states to establish a counter-curtain of the air was directed to lining up the British. This first hurdle has proved difficult to clear.

We presented our views to the British on July 19, 1948.15 Their reply, which was not forthcoming until October 1, 1948,16 reflected deep-seated disagreement with the U.S. proposed policy:

They did not share the U.S. assessment of the relative importance of the political and security factors involved;
They were unwilling to give up their service to Praha and to Warsaw, to the continuance of which they attached considerable political importance;
They believed that lines of communication between Western Europe and the satellite countries should not only be maintained but, wherever possible, improved;
They did not think any great improvement in general security would result from the prohibition of Soviet controlled flights outside the iron curtain; from a purely military point of view, the advantages to be gained would be of secondary importance;
They thought the policy might be extremely difficult to coordinate with the other countries whose cooperation would be required.

Since it appeared that the British dissent was focussed primarily upon the applicability of the policy in Western Europe and that the U.K. was apparently less opposed to restrictive action against air transport operations of satellite carriers to the Middle East and were in agreement with our proposed embargo on sales of aviation equipment, the Department, following the “half-loaf philosophy,” decided to attempt to nail down those aspects of the policy with which the British were apparently in accord and argue the obviously contentious question of Western Europe later. Protracted bickering ensued before the British finally agreed in January of this [Page 200] year to join with us in a modified course of action. The U.S.–U.K. agreed policy called for outright prohibition of sales of all aviation equipment, but a somewhat diluted containment of satellite air transport operations in both Western Europe and the Middle East which looked toward restriction of, but did not demand the complete blocking of, Soviet/satellite egress as envisaged in NSC 15/1.

Our joint approaches were launched more or less simultaneously and for the most part jointly. In general, the reaction of third countries was favorable. However, in recent weeks we began to detect signs of British reluctance to push hard for speedy and full cooperation of other non-curtain states and our misgivings were accentuated when (1) the British, despite our strong protests, cleared a Hungarian special flight to Amsterdam via the British zone in Germany17 and (2) refused to join with us in persuading the Belgians to turn down a LOT (Polish) request for a reciprocal Warsaw-Brussels scheduled air service. Embasssy London’s strong Representations to the Foreign Office succeeded only in confirming our increasing suspicions that the British are now unwilling, if indeed they ever were, to pay more than lip service to even the modified policy agreed upon in January and that a wide chasm separates our respective interpretations of the terms of our agreed course of action, particularly with respect to Western Europe.

Mr. Carter concluded by saying that we now appear to be faced with the necessity of deciding whether to exert considerably stronger pressure upon the British at a higher level to attempt to bring them into line with our thinking, or to modify our own position; that since NSC 15/1 is based so predominantly upon political and security considerations a reassessment of the relative importance of these factors in the light of overall developments since July 1948 might well be undertaken before such a decision is made.

Mr. Thompson referred to several points in Embassy London’s recent cable (1644, April 2818). London’s comment that “NSC 15/1 appears to place considerable emphasis on commercial civil aviation objectives with particular reference to the inability of the US to obtain access for its airlines to the USSR” and that “it appears highly unlikely the US can expect the British, Dutch, Belgians and others who are willing to exchange flights with satellite air carriers to modify their positions in order to promote commercial interests of US carriers” reflected a lack of understanding somewhere along the line, he thought, since we do not anticipate being able to obtain access to USSR territory and in fact would have serious doubts as to the commercial advantages of such operations even if we were successful in [Page 201] obtaining such access. Mr. Bernhardt concurred and pointed out that even satellite air carriers are not permitted by the Soviet to operate into USSR territory. Mr. Carter said he was puzzled by this comment of the Embassy since, although the restrictive action recommended in NSC 15/1 is related to the objective of opening up Soviet air space to non-curtain states desiring such ingress, the policy document makes clear that the U.S. believes there is no likelihood in the foreseeable future of attaining this objective. Mr. Satterthwaite thought that the misconception reflected in London’s comment was traceable to the skepticism of the French and other W.E. countries concerning the disinterest of the U.S. in the commercial aspects of penetration which arose when we failed to do anything to jeopardize PanAm’s operations into Praha. He said that if we had stopped the Czechs from operating over our zone in Germany and thus risked the counter-blocking of PAA’s flights into Czechoslovakia, our contention that we thought little or nothing of the commercial possibilities of flights into Soviet controlled states would have been more convincing.

Mr. Thompson thought a second point contained in London’s referenced cable also called for clarification: The contention that “it is at least as important to have Western airlines gain access to satellite countries as to “‘contain’ satellite aircraft is based on the British view that air communications between the East and the West are needed in order to fully promote economic recovery in Europe.” He thought that since the East and the West were doing very little business requiring air travel, there was little, if any, substance to the British contention. There was general concurrence with Mr. Thompson’s view.

Mr. Thompson said he thought we ought to consider several possibilities before going to the mat more heavily with the British:

Request the views of the JCS as to the importance of the security considerations underlying our policy. He thought that while there were advantages and disadvantages in pursuing this line, we probably ought to re-check the U.S. military views, particularly since we have had no expressions of interest from NME in this problem since Mr. Forrestal’s letter to the Secretary last fall which emphasized NME’s serious regard of the dangers inherent in the continued expansion of Communist controlled air services.19 Another reason for securing a fresh quotation from our Armed Services, he thought, was the possibility that the U.S. military may have concurred in NSC 15/1 last July under the mistaken impression that the objective of the policy was to secure access to the USSR.
Throw the whole problem into the Atlantic Pact arena. The [Page 202] trouble with this thought was that the Pact machinery is not yet ready and probably will not be for sometime.20
Attempt to have our policy considered in connection with Brussels Pact objectives. Here again, the difficulty was that the necessary machinery to ensure consideration of our problem without long delay has not been established.

Mr. Thompson said he was inclined to favor the first course of action: the JCS approach. If we adopt this procedure we could (a) secure the U.S. military views and then go back to the British with heavier pressure (assuming the U.S. military still endorse NSC 15/1), or (b) we could ask the U.S. military to communicate their views to the British. Mr. Thompson thought that the timing of our next moves was particularly important. We probably would not want to take any drastic action one way or the other until the results of the approaching CFM meeting can be seen. It might be six weeks or longer, he thought, before we could see where CFM leads us. He therefore thought we ought to avoid pressurizing the British at this time, but to seek the views of the JCS, preferably as indicated in (a) above.

In the meantime he thought we ought to tell London that:

We are checking the security aspects of the policy with the JCS;
They should attempt, in their discretion, to straighten the British out on the several rebuttable points mentioned in London’s recent cable;
We don’t want to jeopardize the measure of success we have had with our policy in the Middle East and in blocking sales of aviation equipment;
They should avoid giving the British the impression, in debating further the points mentioned in 2 above, that we have embarked on all-out effort to bring them into line.21

Mr. Thompson requested general discussion on the question of whether we should continue to pursue our general objectives in Western Europe. Mr. Reinhardt said he liked the Atlantic Pact idea; that there was some question in his mind as to how far we should go in telling Western European countries what is good for their own security; that while NSC 15/1 attempts to bring out the idea of collective security, our policy would be more salable if it were adopted by Pact military people. Mr. Hulley thought that if the Western European countries, like the British, were not fully convinced in their own hearts of the necessity of NSC 15/1, or even its modified version, there was not much hope of winning them over no matter how forceful our representations.

[Page 203]

Mr. Carter mentioned that whereas our previous attempts to secure the cooperation of non-curtain states have been based in part upon our expressed willingness to exert zonal control over satellite air operations, and that therefore the entire burden of blocking Soviet controlled aircraft did not rest upon the Western European and Middle East countries exclusively, the plan the Department is currently considering for a federalized Germany, with elimination of zonal boundaries for political purposes, would eliminate the possibility of any further zonal control and that therefore the full weight of stopping the satellites would presumably then rest upon our friends. He expressed the fear that if this materialized our difficulties of implementation might be increased.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Mr. Thayer observed that NEA was in full support of our satellite aviation policy as it applied to the Middle East. The success of the policy in that area demonstrates that the Middle East states are convinced of the desirability of restricting satellite air operations, perhaps for different reasons in the case of specific countries, and the United States and United Kingdom representations to the various countries had undoubtedly lent support to the conclusions which those countries had reached, in some cases on their own initiative. The problem of the Czech Airline operations to Israel was mentioned as one which might require special treatment. Mr. Thayer said that NEA would not want to see the policy or the implementation process modified without thorough consideration of the possible adverse consequences of such modification on the process of implementation in the Middle East which has been so successful to date. If the proposed military review of the security implications of satellite aviation operations should result in a de-emphasis of the security factor in so far as Western Europe is concerned, the somewhat different conditions existing in the Middle East should be borne in mind since our representations to the Middle Eastern states in support of our policy have been based primarily upon our great interest in the security of the Middle East area.22

[Page 204]

Mr. Thompson summarized the conclusions set forth in the proposed telegram to London (above), and the meeting adjourned.

  1. The source text was included as the enclosure to a circular instruction of June 6, 1949, sent to 68 missions. The instruction itself, not printed, merely explained that the memorandum was being transmitted for the information of the mission officers in connection with the policy set forth in the instruction of January 5 (see editorial note, p. 184). With the exception of the difference indicated in footnote 22, p. 203, the source text is identical with the memorandum originally drafted by Carter on May 5.
  2. Llewellyn E. Thompson, Deputy Director of the Office of European Affairs.
  3. Livingston L. Satterthwaite, Chief of the Division of British Commonwealth Affairs.
  4. Walworth Barbour, Chief of the Division of Southeast European Affairs.
  5. Benjamin M. Hulley, Chief of the Division of Northern European Affairs.
  6. George Frederick Reinhardt, Chief of the Division of Eastern European Affairs.
  7. Leonard Unger, Acting Chief of the Division of Southwest European Affairs.
  8. Coburn B. Kidd of the Division of German and Austrian Affairs.
  9. John L. Hill of the Aviation Division of the Office of Transport and Communication.
  10. Robert A. Thayer of the Aviation Division of the Office of Transport and Communication.
  11. Charles P. Nolan, Assistant Chief of the Aviation Division.
  12. Raymond K. Oakley.
  13. Thomas T. Carter, Acting Chief of the Aviation Division.
  14. Regarding the document under reference, see editorial note, p. 184.
  15. The views under reference here were presented in an aide-mémoire of July 19, 1948, from the United States Embassy in the United Kingdom to the British Foreign Office; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. iv, p. 457.
  16. The reply under reference here was transmitted in telegram 4340, October 1, 1948, from London, ibid., p. 467.
  17. Regarding the proposed Hungarian cargo flight to Amsterdam under reference here, see footnote 1 to telegram 1644 from London, p. 196.
  18. Supra.
  19. The reference here is presumably to a letter of September 8, 1948, from then Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal to the Secretary of State, not printed. The letter called attention to intelligence reports regarding recent activities by Communist-controlled air services. Secretary Forrestal emphasized the National Military Establishment’s serious regard for the dangers inherent in such activities (711.4027/9–848).
  20. For documentation on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, see vol. iv, pp. 1 ff.
  21. A telegram along the lines described here was sent to London as 1593, May 10 not printed, repeated to Bern, Paris, The Hague, Brussels, Frankfurt, Warsaw, and Copenhagen (711.4027/4–2849).
  22. The paragraph printed here was included in the source text as a result of a request contained in a memorandum from Thayer to Carter, May 27, not printed (711.4027/6–649). In the original version of this memorandum drafted by Carter on May 5 (see footnote 1, p. 198), this paragraph read as follows:

    “Mr. Thayer said that NEA is in favor of what has been done so far in the Middle East and would be opposed to any relaxation of our efforts to block satellite air operations to Western Europe if our accomplishments to date in the Middle East areas were thereby jeopardized. If the U.S. military review results in the conclusion that we do not have the security threat we thought we had, we should be very careful, in NEA’s opinion, not to let the Greeks and the Turks, et al know of this swerve lest we lose the ground won in the NEA area.”