Athens Embassy Files: 420 Greek Army

The Chief of the American Mission for Aid to Greece (Grady) to the Greek Minister of Foreign Affair’s (Tsaldaris)1

Excellency: I have been instructed by my Government to convey to Your Excellency as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece the following communication from the Secretary of State of the United States.

“I have been greatly disturbed at the reports I have received of the announcement read by General Papagos at the session of the War Council held Saturday February 5, in Athens.2

The position of the U.S. Government with respect to any further substantial increase in the Greek armed forces was made abundantly clear in Ambassador Grady’s letter of November 2, 1948 to the Prime Minister.3 It has been reiterated on several occasions. It was also made clear to His Majesty King Paul and to the Greek Government that the United States saw ‘no objection to the appointment of General Papagos (as Commander-in-Chief), if that was desire of the Greek Government, but that two of the General’s conditions, namely limiting the authority of the Allied Military Missions and increasing the Greek [Page 249]Army to at least 250,000 men, were not acceptable.’ These important reservations, set forth in Ambassador Grady’s letter of December 6, 1948 to the Prime Minister,4 must have been known to General Papagos when he accepted the position of Commander-in-Chief January 10.

Under these circumstances you will appreciate the unfortunate impression that has been created here by reports that the Greek Government is proceeding to call up conscripts without reference to the authorized ceiling or the availability of funds and by the fact that General Papagos has again raised the question of a substantial increase in Greek Army and has implied that the granting of such an increase was a condition of his acceptance of his present post.

It remains the opinion of the United States Government that the Greek National Forces now have sufficient manpower and equipment, given adequate leadership, training and offensive spirit, to reduce the guerrilla menace to police proportions. It remains our opinion that any increase in the Greek National Army of scale proposed by General Papagos, even if it appeared to be warranted militarily, would impose an intolerable burden on the Greek economy, and would involve expenditures of money and material by the United States which would be incompatible with a balanced program of foreign military aid.

It is the firm policy of the United States to assist the Greek people by all reasonable means in their resistance to Communist aggression. I propose to exert my best efforts to ensure the successful continuation and implementation of that policy. In this, however, I must ask you for your cooperation and for the cooperation of the Greek Government and of General Papagos, in whose military qualities and capacity for leadership we have great confidence. The essential basis for such cooperation must be the understanding that the United States Government cannot be coerced into extending aid to Greece in an amount contrary to its own best judgment and beyond its capacity.

I have recently been considerably heartened by the new spirit which has apparently taken hold in the Greek Army since General Papagos assumed command, by progress being made in the Peloponnesus, by the valiant exploits of your Commando units, and by the signs of dissension within the enemy camp. It is my earnest hope that this promising outlook will not be compromised by the perpetuation of a fruitless debate between the Greek Government and its foreign friends or by lack of confidence on the part of Greek leadership in its ability to win through to victory with the means at hand.”

I wish to request Your Excellency to provide copies of this communication to His Majesty King Paul, to the Prime Minister, and to the Deputy Prime Minister.

Please accept [etc.]

Henry F. Grady
  1. Instructions regarding the delivery of this letter were contained in telegram 182, February 11, to Athens, not printed (868.20/2–849). In despatch 25, March 12, from the American Mission for Aid to Greece, not printed, Ambassador Grady explained that in view of certain local considerations, particularly the necessity of maintaining the authority and prestige of General Papagos, a few minor changes had been made in the draft text of the letter transmitted in telegram 182, but no alteration was effected in the meaning or general tone of the communication. Ambassador Grady further explained that no formal response to the communication had been received. The Ambassador was certain, however, that the communication had been most beneficial in making clear to the Greek Government the firm policy of the United States in regard to the size of the Greek Army (868.20/3–1249).

    Ambassador Grady addressed this letter to Foreign Minister Tsaldaris in his concurrent capacity as Chief of the American Mission for Aid to Greece. The American Mission administered, in cooperation with the Greek Government, the economic, technical, and material assistance given to Greece by the United States.

  2. Regarding the War Council meeting referred to here, see telegram 228, supra.
  3. Regarding the letter under reference here, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. iv, p. 179, footnote 6.
  4. Not printed.