The Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary of Defense (Johnson)

top secret

My Dear Mr. Secretary: In a letter to the Secretary of Defense, dated January 3, 1949,1 this Department concurred in a proposal for an aerial mapping survey of Turkey to be carried out under an arrangement by which the British would proceed with the photographic program, and the United States would undertake the radar control, subject to the approval of the Turkish Government.

In a memorandum from General Loper,2 dated April 12, 1949,1 this Department was informed that the British Chiefs of Staff have proposed that the USAF provide both control and photography of a section or sections of Turkey. They also pointed out that it would not be possible for the RAF to begin work over Turkey until the late spring of 1950, but that, meanwhile, RAF facilities at Cyprus could [Page 1672]be placed at USAF disposal at an earlier date. General Loper’s memorandum stated that this change was not considered as a substantial modification of the original proposal of the Secretary of Defense, and suggested that a proposal be presented to the Turkish Government with a view to the USAF beginning operations during the calendar year 1949.

It appears to the Department of State that the proposal of the British Chiefs of Staff does, in fact, constitute a substantial modification of the original proposal, since it would presumably involve extended flights by USAF planes in survey flights over Turkey. Mr. Forrestal’s letter,3 upon which the agreement of this Department was based, was not understood to mean that the use of United States aircraft was involved in that proposal. From the point of view of this Department, the use of both American and British air force planes in this project is more disadvantageous than a survey by only one of the two air forces.

Since the agreement by this Department to the original proposal was given in January, the National Security Council has considered the strategic requirements of the United States in Turkey. NSC 36/14 concluded that it would be unwise at this time to seek an arrangement with Turkey for the construction of airfields and the stockpiling of aviation gasoline and gave the reasons therefor. In the opinion of this Department, the policy set forth in NSC 36/1 is applicable to this project.

In addition, the Department believes that such action at this time would provide Soviet propaganda with a dangerous weapon and might enable them to convince a considerable section of world opinion that this country was planning aggressive action against the Soviet Union. The possible effect of this step upon the Soviet estimate of our intentions can also not be ignored.

For the above reasons, but without prejudice to future consideration at a more opportune time, this department does not believe that it would be advisable to proceed at present with the project for an aerial mapping survey of Turkey.5

Sincerely yours,

James E. Webb
  1. Not printed.
  2. Brig. Gen. Herbert B. Loper, Photographic and Survey Section, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  3. Not printed.
  4. The letter of December 18, 1948, from then Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal to the Secretary of State, not printed.
  5. Dated April 15, p. 1654.
  6. In a letter of October 25, 1949, to the Secretary of State, not printed, Secretary of Defense Johnson expressed concurrence in the Department of State’s view that the proposed photographic mapping project for Turkey to be carried out by the United States and British aircraft be held in abeyance for the time being (867.014/10–2549).