301. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, November 15, 1956, 11:30 a.m.–12:10 p.m.1


  • Greece: Military Aid


  • Constantine Karamanlis, Prime Minister of Greece
  • George V. Melas, Greek Ambassador
  • Phedon Cavalierato, Counselor, Greek Embassy
  • General Gerogianopoulos, NATO Standing Group
  • Robert Murphy, G
  • William M. Rountree, NEA
  • Mr. Gordon Gray, Defense
  • Mr. McGuire, Defense
  • Captain Wagner, Defense
  • Mr. Willis, Treasury
  • Mr. Barnes, U/MSA
  • Owen T. Jones, GTI
  • Murat W. Williams, GTI
  • Chalmers B. Wood, GTI

The Prime Minister’s theme was that within the overall problem of common defense, Greece’s importance was not adequately recognized. Its importance was based on two facts: first, that Greeks are good fighters, who faced total destruction in 1940 in preference to abandoning their allies, and, second, the country’s geographical position. Greece’s long northern frontier reaching to Turkey was as vulnerable to invasion from Bulgaria, the Prime Minister claimed, as [Page 574] it was when Greece joined NATO. If war occurred, the connection with Turkey could be severed, the Straits bypassed and Greece forced to fight deep within its own territory.

Greece needs a division of tanks and sufficient antitank equipment to correct this situation, the Prime Minister emphasized.

In reply to questions from Mr. Murphy, the Prime Minister stated 1) that Greece was poor in antitank weapons and had only obsolete light tanks; 2) that there had been some joint Greek-Turkish planning within the Balkan Pact (The Prime Minister played this down.); 3) that the Greek request was based on the findings of SHAPE and SACEUR.

As to the Greek Navy, the Prime Minister said that the Greeks, with their naval tradition, felt they were unprotected from the sea since they knew their Navy had only a few obsolete units. SHAPE found that modernization was needed.

If the above requests (tanks, antitank equipment and naval units) are fully met, the added cost of “training, maintenance and material” for such additional equipment would cost, the Prime Minister estimated, $13 million per year. The present Greek military budget cannot be increased. Greece now spends more than it can afford. If new equipment arrives, Greece will need additional military aid for “training, maintenance and material.”

Mr. Murphy acknowledged the heavy burden of the Greek defense effort, said that the United States had made a substantial contribution to this effort and that, subject to the views of Congress, it would appear to be in the American interest to continue this contribution.

Mr. Gordon Gray indicated that subject to Congressional approval and certain other factors, the defensive strength of Greece might well be considerably augmented. Some recoilless rifles had been provided in past programs. Ambassador Melas had made us aware of the Greek desires. However, Mr. Gray added, there were no plans for additional financial aid of the type requested.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 781.5–MSP/11–1556. Secret. Drafted by Wood on November 26. Karamanlis arrived in New York on November 10 to head the Greek Delegation to the Eleventh Session of the U.N. General Assembly.