Memorandum of Conversation, by the Politico-Military Adviser, Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian and African Affairs (Robertson)1

Subject: Military Aid Legislation for NEA Countries

Participants: NEA—Mr. George C. McGhee
NEA—Mr. David A. Robertson
ANE—Mr. Burton Berry
ANE—Mr. Frazer Wilkins2
H—Mr. Ben H. Brown, Jr.3
S/MDA—Mr. John H. Ohly4
S/MDA—Mr. A. G. Vigderman5
Maj. Gen. Lyman Lemnitzer, OSD, Department of Defense


Consultation with Congressional leaders concerning:

Legislation other than MDA Act of 1949 under which aid may be extended to NEA countries; and
Need for expanding Section 408(e) under new legislation.6

Action Required:

Consultation with Congressional leaders.

Action Assigned to:

NEA—Mr. McGhee

H—Mr. Brown

[Page 148]

S/MDA—Mr. Ohly

Defense—General Lemnitzer


The meeting was arranged in Mr. McGhee’s office at 2:30 p. m., May 5, 1950, as an orientation discussion preliminary to conversations with Congressional leaders to ascertain their sentiment concerning:

The use of existing legislation other than the MDA Act of 1949 as the basis of providing equipment to certain NEA countries;
The modification of Section 408(e) so that military assistance might be provided on a reimbursable basis to certain NEA countries.

Mr. Ohly stated that legally sales from government excess stocks could be made under legislation other than the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949 to countries such as India and Pakistan. There was legislation providing for transfer of excess stocks to a manufacturer in return for other equipment, and the manufacturer would in turn sell the equipment to one of these countries. There was the President’s War Powers Act and other legislation. However, there might be some question of whether Congress intended that such other legislation be used as a result of its enactment of the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949 and the deletion from that legislation of the broad authority relating to reimbursable aid. Legally, transfers could be made under other legislation. However, it was felt that Congressional leaders should be consulted so as not to jeopardize our efforts to obtain an expansion of the terms of Section 408(e) and other provisions in the legislation which is to be presented on May 24 to the Congress covering the FY 1951. The other item regarding which we desire to consult the Congressional leaders deals with the possibility of expanding the terms of Section 408(e). Mr. Ohly stated it was planned to mention the situation with which we are confronted in Saudi Arabia and the Union of South Africa to demonstrate the need for expanding this section. Mr. McGhee observed that Liberia was a clear-cut case which could also be used because of the special relations we enjoyed with this country, their complete dependence on the U.S., the lack of any internal security forces in the country, the need for protecting Liberia against communist infiltration from adjoining countries and for the maintenance of order against such events as the recent violence in connection with a strike at the Firestone Plantation. On that occasion the President of Liberia made it clear he had no force with which order could be restored.

Mr. Ohly asked if Israel should be used as a case to justify the need for the expansion of Section 408 (e) because of the Congressional interest in this country. Mr. McGhee replied that if the case of Israel were used we would also have to include the Arab states, particularly Egypt, Lebanon and Syria, which had also requested military [Page 149] aid. Since no policy decision on military aid had been made as regards any of these countries it would be premature to use them as type cases. Mr. McGhee recognized that an interest might be shown in Israel as a result of discussing the Saudi Arabian case. However, he pointed out that we should follow the line set by the Secretary in his recent discussion with the 30 Congressmen, i.e., that Saudi Arabia is a special case and we propose to provide this country with military aid. Pie stated that the Congressmen accepted the position set forth by the Secretary. The justification of it being treated as a special case rests on the existence of the airbase, the large American investment in oil resources, the strategic location of Saudi Arabia, the special relations we have enjoyed with this country and the negligible participation of that country in the Palestine conflict.

Mr. Robertson pointed out that the Secretary of Defense had authorized a token shipment to Saudi Arabia of 5000 rifles if this were essential to negotiating an extension of the Airbase Agreement and provided assurance were obtained from Congressional leaders as to the approval of legislation authorizing military aid for Saudi Arabia on a reimbursable basis. Mr. Brown doubted that this kind of assurance could be obtained in the proposed discussion with members of Congress. It was alternatively suggested that we might inform the Congressional leaders of our intention to provide the rifles to Saudi Arabia. It was the consensus that the President’s war powers could not be appropriately used for this case and it would be difficult to make the riflles available under other laws as excess equipment because of the great demand for Garand rifles.

Mr. McGhee then stated that he had recently returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia and Liberia, that he was well acquainted with the situation in both countries and their need for arms, and asked to be informed when it was planned that the Congressional leaders be contacted in order that he might accompany the group. Mr. Brown agreed to keep him posted.

Mr. Brown indicated that the Saudi Arabian aid problem should be raised with the EUR Senate Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee group as that would be the proper channel for handling military aid matters. Mr. McGhee concurred with, the advisability of consulting that group and stated in addition he would discuss the matter with the NEA Senate Sub-Committee. Mr. Brown stated that Senator Pepper was back in town and would continue to serve as Chairman of the NEA Sub-Committee until the end of the present session of Congress. Mr. Brown will make arrangements for the necessary contacts at the earliest possible date.

Mr. McGhee then turned to the subject of the 303 river patrol boat project for Burma, stating that our proposal had been under consideration for some six months, and inquired of the status of the program. [Page 150] Mr. Ohly stated that a Memorandum to the President requesting the allocation of funds had been initialled by him and presumably sent to NEA for concurrence. Mr. McGhee stated that there were strong political reasons for getting action on this case without any further delay and hoped that the funds would be made available in the next two or three days. He inquired if all necessary arrangements with the Navy could be made to provide the river boats promptly. General Lemnitzer stated that he could act promptly upon receipt of a directive from the State Department but there may be some delays occasioned by the conversion of the boats from gasoline to diesel motors as he understood the Burmese were interested in the latter. Mr. McGhee replied that the time element could only be met by offering the gasoline boats on an as-is basis and he felt confident that our offer would be accepted. General Lemnitzer stated that there was also the problem of training and indicated that the Navy preferred the training to take place in this country. Mr. McGhee suggested that a naval officer be sent to Burma for the purpose of looking into this and any other technical aspects of getting action on the program. He inquired as to who would have responsibility once the money is available and was informed that Mr. Ohly had this responsibility. In reply to an inquiry General Lemnitzer was informed that should the Burmese refuse to accept gasoline boats we could then discuss with them other types of aid which could be made available in a prompt fashion. Furthermore, in the absence of a naval attaché at Rangoon Mr. McGhee offered to iron out any difficulties that may arise through the communications channel between the Department and Embassy Rangoon.

  1. Copies to S/S, Coordinator of Programs, Frederick E. Nolting, Donald D. Kennedy, Deputy Director, Office of South Asian Affairs, Jidda, Rangoon, Monrovia, New Delhi, Karachi.
  2. Acting Deputy Director, Office of African and Near Eastern Affairs, March 30–August 9, 1950.
  3. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations.
  4. Deputy Director of Mutual Defense Assistance in the Department of State.
  5. Office of Mutual Defense Assistance in the Department of State.
  6. Reference is to Section 408(e) of the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949, as amended by Public Law 621, 81st Cong., 64 Stat. 373, approved July 26, 1950, which authorized the President to transfer, or enter into contracts for the procurement for transfer of, equipment, materials, or services to nations already eligible for assistance under Titles I, II, and III of the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949 or to other nations who had entered into collective defense or regional arrangements agreements with the United States or nations whose ability to defend themselves or their regions had been demonstrated, provided such nations offered sufficient proof that the equipment provided was to be used for internal security or national or regional defense and that in the case of such transfers, the President notify the appropriate Committees of Congress (82d Cong., 2d Sess., Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, Mutual Security Act of 1951 and Other Basic Legislation with Explanatory Notes, Washington, January 1952, pp. 78–94). For documentation on overall aspects of the U.S. Military Assistance Program, see vol. i, pp. 126 ff.