364. Editorial Note

On May 21, cadets from the Ankara War College joined a number of officers in an anti-government demonstration. The demonstration by members of the armed forces broke up only after an appeal by the War College commander to the cadets to return to their barracks. A subsequent civilian demonstration was broken up with tear gas and the Turkish [Page 843] Government imposed strict new curfews in Ankara. In telegram 2673 from Ankara, May 23, Warren reported that he had been in daily contact with the Chief of the Turkish Army Staff who insisted that the army was non-political and would continue to support the Government of Turkey. (Department of State, Central Files, 782.00/5–2360)

Turkey’s continuing political unrest was discussed at the May 24 meeting of the National Security Council. In a survey of significant world developments affecting U.S. national security, Allen Dulles summarized the situation in Turkey:

“Turning to Turkey, Mr. Dulles reported that tension between the government and the opposition was a continuing danger. The personal feud between Inonu and Premier Menderes had now become a constitutional crisis. Student demonstrations had increased and non-students were now joining in the rioting. Even some military personnel is participating in the demonstrations. There appears to be considerable antagonism between the Turkish police and Turkish military forces. The Turkish Army is divided, with senior officers inclined to remain loyal to the government and lower level officers divided between the government and the opposition. Premier Menderes apparently does not realize the extent of discontent. Mr. Dulles believed that the Turkish situation would deteriorate further and that it was even possible that the army would eventually take over.” (Memorandum of discussion; Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records)

Dulles again brought up the political crisis in Turkey on May 25 during an OCB discussion of a proposed Operations Plan for Turkey:

“Mr. Dulles (CIA) stated that, in view of the ‘really disturbing’ political situation in Turkey, he desired the Board be on record as having discussed the implications of current events. He requested an evaluation from Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones gave an assessment of developments as reported by Embassy Ankara, which was supplemented by Mr. Merchant who said the question really is whether there is more than meets the eye. Mr. Merchant thought Ambassador Warren had shown ‘admirable initiative’ and taken effective influencing action on the spot. Mr. Gray said he judged it was State’s position that the employment of the ‘assets represented on the OCB’ did not appear to be required at this time.

“There followed a brief discussion of Mr. Riddleberger’s observation that he and Mr. Dillon would soon have to make a decision on the Turkish request for additional defense support for 1960 and cited the political problems which could result. He also noted the substantial reduction in the illustrative figures proposed for fiscal 1961. Mr. Merchant wondered whether the sharp decline for FY 61 might be cushioned by having an increase for FY 60 appear to Turkey as within the FY 61 sum.

“Mr. Dulles then requested another assessment by Embassy Ankara of short and long-term political and economic developments. He believed it important to have an assessment of the attitude of the Turkish army. Mr. Merchant suggested that as the Embassy had already been asked for assessment on several subjects, it would be preferable to wait before the Board addressed itself to this question. It was decided [Page 844] the Board would again discuss Turkey in about three weeks and ask Mr. Jones to summarize the assessments from the field.”

Informal notes on the discussion at the May 25 meeting are in Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 61 D 385, M/OP Informal Notes 1960. A copy of the Operations Plan discussed and approved at the May 25 meeting is ibid.: Lot 62 D 430, Turkey.

The Government of Turkey was overthrown by a military coup on May 27. Most of the members of the government, together with the leadership of the Democratic Party and President Bayar, were arrested in Ankara. Prime Minister Menderes and Finance Minister Polatkan, who were away from the capital on a tour, were arrested later in the day while attempting to escape from Turkey by car. In telegram 2743 from Ankara, May 27, Ambassador Warren reported:

“In unusually well organized coup Turkish military forces took over government 0400 May 27 apparently without serious opposition and loss only about 50 lives Ankara. President Bayar, President GNA Koraltan, members Cabinet, Chief Staff Erdulhun taken into protective custody. Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir quiet; no discernible organized opposition. At this juncture, Embassy believes revolt motivated by purely internal considerations; no evidence any anti-Americanism. On contrary, member Military Council assured Embassy this morning of Turkish Armed Forces friendship for USA and desire fulfill all Turkey’s international commitments, especially NATO and CENTO.” (Ibid., Central Files, 782.00/5–2760)

A provisional government was announced on May 28. General Cemal Gursel, former Commander in Chief of Turkish Ground Forces, assumed the positions of Prime Minister, President of the Republic, and Chairman of the National Unity Committee of military officers who had planned the coup and would supervise the operations of the new government. Gursel pledged the new government to work for a quick return to democracy and announced that the leaders of the former government would be placed on trial for corruption.

On May 28, Melih Esenbel, Turkish Ambassador in the United States, informed Under Secretary of State Dillon that the new government intended to honor all Turkey’s existing commitments. Dillon indicated to the Ambassador that the United States might prefer, as in other similar cases, to continue relations as usual without a formal announcement. A memorandum of Dillon’s conversation with Esenbel is Ibid., 782.00/5–2860.

The United States granted recognition to the new Government of Turkey on May 30.