786A. MAP/7–951

Memorandum by the Officer in Charge, Arabian Peninsula Affairs (Awalt), to the Director of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs (Jones)


Subject: Briefing Session with the Joint U.S. Military Group for Saudi Arabia.

The joint U.S. military planning group are now slated to leave Washington July 12. The earlier date1 is necessary in order that the group may avail themselves of a special MATS plane otherwise departing [Page 1060] empty that morning for Europe. It is the only alternative to MATS bucket-seat freight flights or commercial. The group is coming to State for a briefing session on Tuesday, July 10, at 2:30.2 The meeting will be in the NEA conference room. The group is made up of the following thirteen officers:

  • OMA—Col. V. H. Connor
  • Army—Col. Jean D. Scott
  • Lt. Col. David Firesel
  • Lt. Col. Ira W. Grande
  • Lt. Col. Lewis C. Williams, Jr.
  • Lt. Col. Jack Neal
  • Lt. Col. William A. Eadie
  • Navy—Cmdr. Frank L. Fulloway
  • Cmdr. Edward P. Laughan
  • AF—Col. Robert R. Stewart
  • Lt. Col. Bunn Hearn, Jr.
  • Lt. Col. C. O. Hopson
  • Lt. Col. James W. Parsons

It is suggested that it may be instructive to the group to have some background on our interests in Saudi Arabia. The selection of the United States as a country without imperialistic ambitions has been a voluntary choice on the part of the SAG whenever it has sought foreign assistance. American enterprise, both private and government, has (therefore been responsible for a large measure of the development that has taken place in Saudi Arabia. The discovery and exploitation of oil, of course, is the outstanding example of U.S. enterprise there. It has provided generous financial returns to the country and a multitude of other benefits such as sinking water wells, building roads, and providing employment, good housing, education, and medical care for thousands of workers and their families. Three modern harbors were American built; the railway to Riyadh, to be completed in October, is entirely US engineered; the Saudi Arabian Airlines was organized by TWA; the new wireless and broadcasting stations were established by American firms; several roads and all the airports were done by Americans; agricultural and irrigation assistance has been extended by us; and the financial, agricultural, and mining advisers to the SAG are American citizens. A much longer list of lesser activities could be cited in which US enterprise has been active. They have reflected much credit upon this country and have increased our interest and stake in Saudi Arabia.

Events leading to the mission of this joint military group began in June 1947 when the SAG sought a military alliance with us. This was before NATO and would have constituted a radical departure from traditional US policy. We could not do it and offered instead to conclude [Page 1061] a formal treaty of friendship and commerce. Lacking the alliance, the SAG then expressed its need to build up its own defense forces and asked to purchase arms from the U.S. At the same time the SAG made it clear that we should have to extend military assistance, including training, if we expected to obtain a long term renewal of the DAF agreement expiring on March 15 of the following year (1949). The subsequent outbreak of the Palestine war and the UN arms embargo delayed action on the request. After the close of hostilities, renewed requests prompted us to recommend to the SAG that a survey should be made of Saudi Arabia’s military requirements. This was not only for the purpose of ascertaining the needs of the country, but also to gain time in which to obtain Congressional approval of military sales to Saudi Arabia. This suggestion was accepted and Brig. Gen. Richard J. O’Keefe, CO, DAF, was appointed by the Joint Chiefs to make such a survey. He and his mission accomplished this in the fall of 1949 and his report was sent to the JCS in December.3 Meanwhile the military assistance bill as finally passed by Congress in 1949 excluded the Near Eastern countries. An amending bill was submitted again in 1950 and passed which enabled the President to designate any nation as eligible for cash reimbursable military assistance whose ability to defend itself or to participate in the defense of the area of which it is a part, is important to the security of the U.S.4 Saudi Arabia was so designated on October 26, 1950. The JCS had already completed their study of the O’Keefe report and made their recommendations in August calling for an Army of about 18,000 men, a small Navy and Air Force, and appropriate equipment.

On the basis of these recommendations and Saudi Arabian eligibility for military assistance, the US was able to initiate the negotiations in December 1950 for a new long term DAF agreement. These negotiations were successfully concluded with an exchange of signatures on June 18, 1951. Meanwhile certain additional requests of the SAG for a combat air force, broader training, repair facilities, and more generous ammunition stores were conceded by the JCS in April 1951.

From the first approach by the SAG on this project to the present, over four years have gone by. The Saudi Arabs have been impatient for results. All the prerequisites have now been met and there remains the US responsibility of transferring our commitments into fact. The speed with which Defense has prepared to move is most gratifying and will serve to impress the SAG very effectively with the sincerity of our intentions. No relaxation should be permitted in our efforts to fulfill our obligations as promptly as possible.

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It is suggested that the group should be admonished against being discouraged or depressed by what they see in Saudi Arabia. The wealth of the country and the benefits of western contacts have failed as yet to touch the lives of most of the population in any fundamental way. Saudi Arabia is still a primitive country served by a very harsh Providence. Illiteracy is the rule rather than the exception. Malnutrition and disease sap the strength and ambition of many of the people. The job to be done will have to start almost from scratch, and it may be difficult to coordinate the Government’s desire for rapid tangible results with our ability under the circumstances to produce. The phasing of deliveries of equipment and progress in training might best be conservatively scheduled in order to avoid possible criticism later for failing to achieve intended results on schedule.

The British have been training Saudi Arabian Army officers and NCOs at Taif since January 1947. A military cadet school has been established there for both basic and specialized training. British experience might be very useful as a guide in planning and in appraising Saudi capacity to absorb military instruction. Friendly coordination with the British training mission to avoid duplication of effort has been agreed upon by both State and Defense. The British Government has been so informed and it concurs. It is possible that the SAG may wish to terminate British training activities when the US mission becomes operative. The British are our principal allies, and the defense of the Near East generally is, in the first instance, their responsibility. Those relationships should not be disturbed. We accordingly prefer that the British mission should remain and possible Saudi Arabian suggestions to the contrary should be discouraged.

I believe the above represents the more substantive material which may be helpful in conducting the briefing session with the military group. Lesser points which may arise in open discussion can undoubtedly be handled on an ad hoc basis.

  1. Telegram 442 from Washington, June 27, not printed, had advised Jidda the military party planned to leave Washington around July 15 for Dhahran (711.56386A/6–2751).
  2. Memorandum of conversation, infra.
  3. For the text of the undated copy of the “JUSSGSA Field Report With Final Recommendations for the Saudi Arabian Army, Navy and Air Force”, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. v, p. 1112.
  4. Additional information on this topic is in the editorial note, ibid., p. 1182.