327. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Rountree) to the Assistant Secretary of State (Allen)1


  • Commercial Transport Planes for Syria2

At luncheon today Mr. Murphy discussed with me the question of two C–54 passenger planes for Syrian Airways. He said that, following our meeting with the Secretary last Friday,3 he had talked again with Mr. Hoover and that the latter had left the decision to him.

After reviewing the various factors including (a) the possibility that Syria might, in the absence of US approval of the sale of the C–54 planes, react by acquiring Soviet aircraft for their commercial line, and (b) the need for the planes to transport Syrian pilgrims to [Page 574] Mecca (in line with the considerations set forth in the attached memorandum of June 12), Mr. Murphy said he thought that we should go ahead with the sale.

He suggested that in order to avoid coincidence of an affirmative decision with the presence in Syria of Shepilov,4 we should inform Ambassador Zeineddine at once that the sale was being approved. He thought we should prepare a draft press statement on the matter in case there should be publicity, which he agreed should be avoided if possible.


That you inform Ambassador Zeineddine that the approval will be forthcoming.5
That NE prepare a draft press release for possible use if there should be publicity regarding this matter.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 783.56/6–1956. Official Use Only.
  2. During May 1956, the Syrian Government submitted applications for the purchase of two second-hand, four-engine, C–54 passenger planes to be supplied from commercial sources for Syrian Airways. On June 4 in a memorandum to Murphy, Rountree stated that he was disposed to approve the sale as it “obviously is in our interest to keep as many American planes as possible in the local air lines”. In a memorandum to Hoover, forwarding Rountree’s memorandum, Murphy stated that he was against the proposed sale because the C–54 was capable of transporting troops. Murphy commented: “The only question for solution is whether we would serve an American interest in the sale to the Syrians. Commercially, it may be profitable for someone to sell the aircraft. Politically, I see no advantage in it.” Hoover, apparently upon Murphy’s recommendation, initialed his disapproval of Rountree’s memorandum. On June 13, Wilkins summarized these developments in a memorandum to Rountree and noted that the Office of Near Eastern Affairs was considering an appeal to Secretary Dulles. (Rountree’s and Murphy’s memoranda are attached to Wilkins’ memorandum of June 13; Ibid., 783.56/6–1356) On June 12, however, Rountree sent a memorandum to Murphy requesting that he reconsider his position in light of information recently received from the Syrian Embassy that the planes would be used to transport pilgrims to Mecca, and thus gain considerable good will in the Arab world. Murphy returned the memorandum to Rountree with a handwritten notation: “Please ask Rountree to discuss this with me.”
  3. No record of the conversation has been found.
  4. Soviet Foreign Minister Shepilov visited Syria June 22–25, 1956. Documentation concerning the visit is in Department of State, Central File 033.6183.
  5. Next to this recommendation Allen wrote in the margin: “Done through NE.”