S/SNSC Files, Lot 63 D 351, NSC 42/1 Series


Report by the National Security Council to the President 2

top secret

NSC 42/1

U.S. Objectives With Respect to Greece and Turkey To Counter Soviet Threats to U.S. Security

the problem

1. To assess and appraise the threat to our national security manifested in Greece and Turkey and our efforts to counter this threat; and to formulate our objectives and aims as a guide to future security efforts in Greece and Turkey.

analysis of the threats

2. The USSR is endeavoring to dominate Greece through the use of Greek guerrilla forces and propaganda. The guerrilla forces, [Page 270]which are supported by three satellite states as Well as the USSR, constitute a direct and serious threat to Greece by virtue of their military and political operations on Greek territory. These operations also are designed to have disruptive effects, direct and indirect, upon the economic life of Greece.

3. The USSR has endeavored to dominate Turkey by the following means: (a) efforts to obtain joint USSR-Turkish control of the Straits; (b) attempts to secure bases on Turkish territory in conjunction with joint control of the Straits or otherwise; (c) demands for territory in northeastern Turkey, including the provinces of Kars and Ardahan; (d) political and propaganda efforts to isolate Turkey from the west; (e) propaganda for the purpose of undermining the Turkish Government; (f) an unsympathetic and at times a threatening attitude toward Turkey.

4. Due to (a) the length of the Greco-satellite frontier, (b) the mountainous character of the frontier and most of the Greek interior which favors guerrilla operations, (c) the substantial assistance which the guerrillas have received from the USSR and satellites, (d) exhaustion, discouragement and bitterness in Greece arising from the long period of hostilities, the Greek civil war and the conditions of the German occupation, and (e) economic weakness resulting from overpopulation, meagre natural resources, wartime destruction and continuing insecurity of the frontiers and interior, it became impossible for Greece to oppose unassisted the threat to her existence as a free, democratic nation. Moreover, Greece was unable to make progress in administrative, economic and social rehabilitation and reform. Accordingly, when the British announced in the spring of 1947 that they could no longer furnish assistance, Greece appealed to the United States and the United Nations as the two principal sources of available aid.

5. Turkey has been obliged to maintain her defense establishment close to a war footing, with consequent severe strain on the Turkish economy. In the absence of outside assistance, this strain would soon result in weakening Turkish morale and ability to withstand Soviet pressure. When it became known, therefore, that projected British assistance would not be received, Turkey requested U.S. aid and support.3

6. Both Greece and Turkey have endeavored to safeguard their position by seeking a defensive alliance or alliances with other nations. The success of these efforts, which are in an exploratory stage, depends primarily upon the willingness of the United States to participate [Page 271]either directly or as a guarantor.4 (Turkey, which already has a limited alliance with Great Britain signed in 1939, has requested membership in the projected North Atlantic Pact, a request which has been denied.)5

7. In his message to Congress of March 12, 1947, the President stated:6

“It is necessary only to glance at a map to realize that the survival and integrity of the Greek nation are of grave importance in a much wider situation. If Greece should fall under the control of an armed minority, the effect upon its neighbor, Turkey, would be immediate and serious. Confusion and disorder might well spread throughout the entire Middle East.

Moreover, the disappearance of Greece as an independent state would have a profound effect upon those countries in Europe whose peoples are struggling against great difficulties to maintain their freedom and their independence while they repair the damages of war.

7 Collapse of free institutions and loss of independence would be disastrous not only for [Greece and Turkey]8 but for the world. Discouragement and possible failure would quickly be the lot of neighboring peoples striving to maintain their freedom and independence.

Should we fail to aid Greece and Turkey in this fateful hour, the effect will be far-reaching to the West as well as to the East.”

In the preamble to Public Law 75 approved May 22, 1947, authorizing assistance to Greece and Turkey, the Congress declared: “… the national integrity and survival of [Greece and Turkey] are of importance to the security of the United States and of all freedom-loving peoples …”.

8. The National Security Council considers that “the security of the Eastern Mediterranean and of the Middle East is vital to the security of the United States.” The Joint Chiefs of Staff on November 24, 1948, developed this view with particular reference to Greece and Turkey, as follows:9

“From the military point of view … as long as the USSR pursues its expansionist policies, the security of the Eastern Mediterranean [Page 272]and the Middle East is of critical importance to the future security of the United States. Greece and Turkey stand in the way of Soviet expansion in this area and thus it is highly important to our national security interest that neither falls under the control or domination of the USSR.

Both countries offer bases from which the USSR could launch operations against the islands of Crete, Rhodes, and Cyprus and against communications in the Eastern Mediterranean and to the Middle East. Turkey is strategically more important than Greece since in addition it dominates major air, land, and sea routes from the USSR to the Cairo–Suez area and to the Middle East oil fields.”

The following definition of U.S. long-range strategic interests, in existing circumstances, in the military establishments of Greece and Turkey has been prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and concurred in by the State–Army–Navy–Air Force Coordinating Committee:

  • a. Greece: A Greek military establishment capable of maintaining internal security in order to avoid the communist domination of Greece.
  • b. Turkey: A Turkish military establishment of sufficient size and effectiveness to insure Turkey’s continued resistance to Soviet pressure; the development of combat effectiveness to the extent that any overt Soviet aggression can be delayed long enough to permit the commitment of U.S. and allied forces in Turkey in order to deny certain portions of Turkey to the USSR.”

9. Turkey is an important source of certain strategic raw materials, chief of which is metallurgical chromite ore.

countermeasures taken and in progress

10. Congress, by Public Law 75 of the 80th Congress, authorized U.S. assistance to Greece and Turkey to the amount of $400 million, which amount was appropriated for fiscal 1948 by Public Law 271 approved July 30, 1947. $300 million of this amount was allocated to Greece, $100 million to Turkey. 57.5% of the funds allocated to Greece were expended for military aid, 41% for economic aid. The entire amount allocated to Turkey was expended for military procurement and construction of military importance. This program, notably in the case of highway construction, has been of economic as well as military benefit to Turkey.

11. The Greek-Turkish Assistance Act of 1948, approved April 3, 1948, authorized continued military aid during fiscal 1949. By Public Law 793 approved June 28, 1948, $225 million was appropriated for military assistance to Greece and Turkey combined, of which, subject to reallocation in case of emergencies, $150 million has been allocated to Greece and $75 million to Turkey. Since July 1, 1948, economic aid to Greece has been handled by ECA. The ECA allocation to Greece [Page 273]up to April 1, 1949, will probably amount to $146 million. In addition, Greece’s intra-European drawing rights amount to an additional $66.8 million.

12. U.S. armed service personnel totaled, as of June 30, 1948, 410 in Greece, 349 in Turkey.

13. Direct British assistance to Greece since the liberation in 1944, excluding UNRRA and civil affairs expenditures and the expenditure of over $138 million for the maintenance of British troops in Greece, is estimated at $250 million.

14. In December 1944, British troops in and near Athens became involved in the suppression of a communist-inspired uprising. At that time and in 1945 the very presence of British troops in other areas of Greece was of assistance to the Greek gendarmerie and police in the maintenance of order. Otherwise British troops have not engaged in military operations.

15. U.S. military assistance to Greece consists of furnishing advice, training, equipment and supplies, including food and clothing, to the Greek military establishment. Despite this assistance, the Greek national forces have been unable to establish a satisfactory security situation on the frontier or in the interior. U.S. economic aid to Greece includes reconstruction of transportation and communication facilities; restoration of irrigation and reclamation works; supply of housing materials; assistance in increasing industrial and mineral production; supply of deficit foodstuffs and increasing local grain production by distribution of seed, fertilizer, pesticides and agricultural machinery, reforestation; improvement of food processing, livestock, fisheries, public health, labor legislation, and governmental administration in general. Improvements in the Greek financial situation and system and the restoration of Greek foreign trade are slowly being effected with U.S. advice and assistance.

Military assistance to Turkey consists of training, highway construction, and the supplying of equipment, including naval vessels and aircraft. Force is not now being employed against Turkey. Turkey in the fiscal year 1949 was allocated funds on a loan basis under the ECA program to be utilized largely for agricultural machinery and coal mining equipment.

16. Greece, in a letter to the UN Secretary General dated December 3, 1946, charged that Greek guerrillas were receiving support from Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. On December 19, the Security Council voted unanimously to establish a Commission of Investigation, composed of representatives of all eleven members. The Commission conducted an on-the-spot investigation in all four countries. It reported to the Security Council on May 23, 1947, France abstaining [Page 274]and the USSR and Poland dissenting, “that Yugoslavia and to a lesser extent, Albania and Bulgaria, had supported the guerrilla warfare in Greece”, and made appropriate recommendations in which all members concurred except the USSR and Poland. In the ensuing consideration of the matter by the Security Council, the USSR by three successive vetoes prevented action based on the report and by a fourth veto blocked formal transfer of the question to the General Assembly. The USSR was unable to block a U.S. procedural resolution to drop the problem from the agenda of the Security Council On September 23 the General Assembly voted to discuss the Greek problem. On October 21, it voted to establish a UN Special Committee on the Balkans (UNSCOB) which established headquarters in Salonica. The USSR and Poland refused to be represented and Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia refused all cooperation with the Committee; consequently it was obliged to restrict its activities to Greek soil. UNSCOB has been active from November 21, 1947 to the present, having been specifically continued by the General Assembly resolution of November 27, 1948. This latter resolution found, on the basis of UNSCOB’s unanimous report, “that the continued aid given by Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia to the Greek guerrillas endangers peace in the Balkans, and is inconsistent with the purposes and principles of the UN.” The General Assembly called upon Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia “to cease forthwith rendering any assistance or support in any form to the guerrillas in fighting against the Greek Government, including the use of their territories as a base for the preparation or launching of armed action,” and recommended “to all members of the UN and to all other states that their governments refrain from any action designed to assist directly or through any other government any armed group fighting against the Greek Government”.10

17. Efforts of the USSR and satellites in the UN to place the blame on Greece and to bring about the withdrawal of British troops have been opposed by the United States and defeated. United Nations proceedings and actions with respect to Greece have resulted in informing the non-communist world of the problem and in mobilizing to an appreciable extent world opinion in support of Greece. It has not succeeded in terminating the communist threat to Greece.

18. Conciliation efforts by the President of the General Assembly during November and December, 1948, between Greece on the one hand and Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia on the other, broke down on [Page 275]the insistence of Albania that a clause be included in the Albano-Greek agreement stipulating, first, that Greece recognize not only that a state of war with Albania no longer exists but had never existed in the past, and second, that the present border between the two countries is irrevocable. Greece maintained that the only possible basis for agreement was to put off major issues for peaceful settlement at a later time. The Bulgarian and Yugoslav representatives took the position that they could not sign agreements with Greece until the Albanian terms had been met. However, it is possible that the talks will be resumed when the General Assembly meets again in April 1949.

results of countermeasures

19. U.S. military and economic aid to Greece has been successful to the extent that it has prevented communist domination and control of Greece. The presence of British armed forces in Greece, even in small numbers, acts as a deterrent to the invasion of Greece by regular satellite or USSR forces. On the other hand, the Greek forces have been unable to establish a satisfactory security situation in the Greek interior. As the result, although economic deterioration has been arrested, adequate progress cannot be made in the program of economic rehabilitation. In existing circumstances, if U.S. aid were to cease, the basic Greek economic situation would again deteriorate rapidly.

20. Turkish defense capabilities and political stability have been strengthened by U.S. aid, but Turkish military capabilities are still insufficient, without additional assistance, to permit alteration in existing plans pertaining to the Middle East.

additional countermeasures contemplated or possible

21. On the consideration that the Greek Army needs greater efficiency rather than numbers, steps are being taken to re-train and rejuvenate it.

22. A comprehensive program to increase the administrative efficiency of the Greek Government is being pushed.

23. Our Ambassador is encouraging a political evolution in Greece which would result in curtailing petty political maneuvering and improper political interference in military affairs, and consequently in more efficient handling of Greek civil and military affairs. At the same time he is being careful to keep the responsibility for the conduct of Greek national life on Greek shoulders, and to discourage any step which would not be supported by the Greek people.

24. Consultations are taking place between U.S. and Greek officials with a view to enlarging and strengthening the Greek information service. The United States is constructing a broadcasting station at Salonica which will cover the Balkans. Nominally this station will be Greek-owned and operated.

[Page 276]

25. The Department of State is pursuing its study of the question of the applicability of Article 51 of the UN Charter, (right of individual or collective self-defense) to the Greek situation. This is a legal study without prejudice to the question of the desirability or feasibility of taking action under this article.

26. On the consideration that the Greek security situation would be comparatively simple and manageable if aid to the guerrillas from Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia could be terminated and the use of the territory of these countries denied to the guerrillas, the Department of State has under continuous review the question of what developments or action could bring about this result.

The possibility of widening the Tito-Cominform split by events which might follow a reduction or proposed reduction in U.S. aid to Greece has been examined. The conclusion was reached that on balance the overall results might well be adverse rather than beneficial.
Albania has become isolated territorially from the Cominform countries as the result of the Tito-Cominform divergence, but successive purges of the Albania Government have kept Albania firmly in the Cominform camp. The USSR has recently reduced Albania’s isolation by means of sea transportation. Other elements in the Albanian situation offering possibilities for bringing about cessation of aid to guerrillas are inherent economic weakness, claims of both Greece and Yugoslavia to portions of Albanian territory, maintenance by Greece of a legal state of war with Albania, and disaffected elements within Albania. However, the failure of the recent negotiations in Paris show that a Greco-Albanian arrangement on guerrillas is probably not now possible.
Immediately following the Tito-Cominform rift there were signs of a diminution in Yugoslav aid to guerrillas. But at the present time the amount of this aid appears to be on a par with that accorded prior to the break, although guerrilla freedom of action within Yugoslavia is probably more closely supervised. Tito, moreover, has taken pains to maintain the identity of his foreign policy with that of the USSR and satellites. He has recently made vague economic gestures toward the west. He has so far maintained, however, that he will not make political concessions to the west in order to further economic relations therewith. Nevertheless, the United States intends to enter into closer economic relations with Yugoslavia in an endeavor to keep Tito strong enough to continue his resistance to the Cominform as well as to employ U.S. economic bargaining power to the end that Tito will abandon his assistance to the Greek guerrillas.
The Bulgarian situation is unpromising, because of the complete Soviet domination of the country.
Mediation possibilities continue to exist in the General Assembly and the conciliation functions of UNSCOB, although in the absence of at least partial resolution of the basic issues it is improbable that such efforts can obtain any real results.

[Page 277]

27. a. SANACC 360/11 (Second Corrigendum, November 22, 194811) gave Priority 1 to U.S. military aid on an area basis to Europe, the Near and Middle East. On a country basis, Priority 1 was accorded to Benelux, Canada, France, and the United Kingdom, and the granting of substantial aid was considered permissible to those countries. Priority 2 was accorded to Greece, Italy and Turkey (order is alphabetical in both lists), and limited aid was considered permissible to them. The JCS have expressed the opinion (SANACC 360/1212) that SANACC 360/11 is generally sound and will form a basis for decision and action with respect to military aid priorities in peacetime. The JCS commented that substantial military aid for six countries, limited aid for sixteen others, and token aid for thirty-seven more, can result in tremendous commitments. Therefore, it is necessary, before decisions are made, to consider with the utmost care the over-all scope of such commitments in relation to our financial and industrial situation and our own military requirements. Aid programs should be reviewed periodically to ensure that they are continued only so long as our national security interests require.

b. The Foreign Assistance Correlation Committee is preparing papers on basic policies underlying military assistance programs, and on the application thereof to programming, and designation and grouping of recipients, for submission to the members of the Foreign Assistance Steering Committee.

c. The Greek Aid Program was recently reviewed as of November 23, 1948, and certain conclusions and recommendations were approved by the Secretary of State and the Economic Cooperation Administrator. Apart from and in addition to the periodical review arising from the obligation to submit quarterly reports on Greek-Turkish aid to the Congress and the necessity to obtain appropriations annually, the program is under continuous scrutiny and review in both policy and administrative aspects.

[Page 278]

28. NSC 5/4, confirmed by NSC Action No. 173,13 stipulates that U.S. aid to Greece and Turkey must be proportioned in the light of over-all demands against U.S. availabilities and resources and that the United States should not now send armed forces to Greece as token forces or for military operations.


29. It is in the interest of U.S. national security that neither Greece nor Turkey fall under communist domination. In existing circumstances U.S. aid and support are essential if this is to be prevented.

30. Because Turkey is strategically more important than Greece and because the present situation in Greece is precarious, whereas in Turkey it is relatively sound, the United States has greater long-range strategic interests in the military establishments of Turkey than in those of Greece. Nevertheless, highly adverse psychological and political results would occur at this time if the communist political warfare being conducted against Greece should be permitted to succeed. Should Turkey come under communist domination, U.S. security interests in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean areas would be critically affected.

31. The United States should continue by appropriate political, military and economic aid and support, determined on the basis of the consideration set forth in NSC 5/4, to assist Greece in its efforts to oppose communist pressure and aggression, so long as the Greek Government continues to evidence determination to oppose such pressure and aggression. A previous examination of alternatives has led to the conclusion that U.S. security interests require the continuation of our Greek program.14

32. Military decisions with respect to Greece and Turkey should be made in the light of the over-all world situation and the defense needs and potentialities of the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean areas as determined on the basis of U.S. strategic interests, and not primarily as a contribution to the solution of the problem in those countries.

[Page 279]

33. Owing to the precariousness of the Greek situation, the National Security Council should keep developments in Greece under continuing review.15

34. U.S. policy on military aid to Turkey, or other military programs with respect to Turkey, should be based on the necessity of supporting and strengthening Turkish efforts to oppose communist pressure, and on possible utilization of Turkey for US. strategic purposes in the event of conflict with the USSR.

  1. Lot 63 D 351 is a serial master file of the National Security Council documents and correspondence and related Department of State memoranda for the years 1947–1961, as maintained by the Executive Secretariat of the Department of State.
  2. This report was prepared by the staff of the National Security Council with the advice and assistance of representatives of the Departments of State, the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force and of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Resources Board. Its preparation was undertaken in accordance with a decision taken by the Council at its meeting on December 16, 1948 (NSC Action 157b: S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: NSC Records of Action). This report was originally circulated to the National Security Council as a draft report, NSC 42, March 4, 1949. A summary of NSC 42 was circulated to the Under Secretary of State’s Meeting as document UM D–15, March 10. (The principal officers of the Department of State met several times each week under the chairmanship of Under Secretary of State Webb as the Under Secretary of State’s Meeting. The purpose of these meetings was to provide a closer relationship between the Under Secretary and the other officers, to permit the exploration of problems at an early stage, to make certain that lines of responsibility were understood, and to reach agreement on policies under which each officer could effectively carry out his responsibilities.) At its meeting on March 11, the Under Secretary’s Meeting recommended the approval of NSC 42 subject to several revisions. These revisions, which were subsequently perfected by officers of the Department of State and were submitted to the National Security Council by the Secretary of State on March 22, involved the deletion of all paragraphs dealing with the question of the acquisition of airfields in Turkey, the deletion of the paragraph indicated in footnote 15, p. 279, and the additional language indicated in footnote 14, p. 278. At its 36th Meeting on March 22, the National Security Council adopted the text of the Report printed here, agreeing to the deletions and amendments proposed by the Department of State. The Department of State was requested to submit its views to the Council on the desirability of seeking arrangements which would permit the construction of airfields in Turkey adequate for the operations envisaged in United States strategic plans. On March 23 President Truman approved this report and directed its implementation under the coordination of the Secretary of State. Copies of the report were transmitted to the appropriate United States diplomatic missions abroad on May 11 (868.20/5–1149).

    Regarding the subsequent action on the question of the construction of airfields in Turkey, see the editorial note, p. 1644, and document NSC 36/1, April 15, p. 1654.

    Lot 66 D 95 is a collection of administrative and miscellaneous National Security Council documentation for the years 1947–1963, maintained by the Executive Secretariat of the Department of State.

  3. For additional documentation regarding United States military assistance to Turkey, see pp. 1638 ff.
  4. For additional documentation regarding the attitude of the United States toward a proposed Greek-Turkish Mediterranean Defense Pact, see pp. 1638 ff.
  5. For documentation on the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, see vol. iv, pp. 1 ff.
  6. For the full text of the Presidential message quoted here, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, 1947 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1963), pp. 176–180. For documentation on the origin of the “Truman Doctrine,” see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. v, pp. 1 ff.
  7. Omissions in this document appear in the source text.
  8. Brackets in this document appear in the source text.
  9. The Joint Chiefs of Staff memorandum quoted here was circulated as document SANACC 358/8, November 24, 1948; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. iv, p. 191.
  10. For documentation on the consideration of the Greek frontier question at the United Nations in 1947 and 1948, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. v, pp. 1 ff and ibid., 1948, vol. iv, pp. 222 ff.
  11. Document SANACC 360/11 was a Report by the State–Army–Navy–Air Force Coordinating Committee’s Subcommittee for Rearmament. The Report, which dealt with military aid priorities, was originally prepared August 18, 1948 and subsequently underwent a series of minor revisions. A later version of the Report, revised as of March 15, 1949, is included as an enclosure to a memorandum of March 16, 1949 from SANACC to the Secretary of State, document SANA–6333; for text, see vol. i, p. 257.
  12. The reference here is to memorandum of November 1, 1948, from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense commenting upon SANACC 360/11. See ibid.
  13. Document NSC 5/4, June 4, 1948, “The Position of the U.S. with Respect to the Use of U.S. Military Power in Greece”, not printed, was a revision of NSC 5/3, May 25, 1948, approved, by president Truman. The text of NSC 5/3, and the amendment constituting NSC 5/4 are printed in Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. iv, p. 93 and editorial note, p. 101.
  14. The final sentence of this paragraph was not included in NSC 42, but it was added at the request of the Department of State.
  15. In the earlier draft of this report, NSC 42, this paragraph was followed by an additional paragraph subsequently deleted at the suggestion of the Department of State. The deleted paragraph read as follows:

    “If the measures taken now or in the future fail to bring about a substantially more effective and successful effort on the part of Greece to overcome the guerrilla menace, alternative means of safeguarding U.S. security in the area should be examined.”

    Responsible officers in the Department of State feared that such a statement might lead some people to believe that the loss of Greece would not toe unduly serious, whereas in fact it appeared that such a loss would seriously weaken the American position in the Eastern Mediterranean and Near East despite any compensating steps that might be taken (memorandum from Joseph Satterthwaite to Under Secretary Webb, March 16, 1949: S/SNSC Files, Lot 63 D 351, NSC 42 Series).