39. Memorandum for the Record of the State–Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting, Pentagon, Washington, May 16, 1958, 11:30 a.m.1


  • Executive Session of the JCS with the State Department on 16 May 1958
Jordan and Iraq are willing to move in support of Lebanon if the U.S. and U.K. actively intervene militarily.
Mr. Murphy says the same dangers inherent in U.S. and U.K. moving into Lebanon, from the point of view of the Arab world that existed when the British and French moved into Egypt. This could be [Page 59] made even worse if the French insisted on military support of the operation. Two difficult points are how would we get out of Lebanon and would the Russians support the UAR by technicians slipped in to both Syria and Egypt.
There is very clear indication that the UAR is arming partisans in Lebanon especially since the defeat of the Druzes by the Lebanese Army.
Embassy Cairo was told by SecState to tell Nasser that the U.S. is aware that the UAR is openly intervening in Lebanon and that the U.S. will support Lebanon militarily if necessary. The U.S. assumes that this support by the Syrians and Egyptians is not sponsored by the Government and must be stopped by Nasser. Gen. Twining suggested to Mr. Murphy that Nasser should consider that in case the U.S. has to move into Lebanon that in view of the difficulty of defining the borders of the UAR, especially those of Syria and hostilities might inadvertently extend outside of Lebanon.
Turkey has not been cut in in any way because they are very leaky in security matters but the State Department feels that they will help the Lebanese if fighting begins. Israel has told Lebanon not to worry about their contiguous borders.
Mr. Murphy was told that the two Marine BLT’s were currently afloat off Naples proceeding eastward. The first element could reach the Levant Coast by noon local time on the 21st of May. The second slower Marine element could be in position 24 to 48 hours later.
Mr. Murphy was informed of CINCSPECOMME’s talks with the U.K. and given an outline on the availability of British forces in Cyprus and Malta and the possible closing times, which could be about 24 hours after the word to go from Cyprus. General Picher informed Mr. Murphy that it was the U.K. governmental position that for both political and military reasons the United States units should be first on the beach, and that therefore the controlling time was when the U.S. could reach the area.
General Twining explained to Mr. Murphy that we would need base rights and overflight rights in several countries and was in agreement with the State Department position that this was no time to ask any country for them. In case of U.S. action we would ignore the requirements. Mr. Murphy agreed with this position but cautioned against the use of Wheelus field in Libya, because of the uncertainty of the reaction of the Libyans. He further stated that Israeli bases would probably not be available, but was informed that overflight rights only were needed.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 218, JCS Files. Top Secret. Prepared by Major General O. S. Picher, USAF, Director of The Joint Staff. A memorandum summarizing the first part of this discussion, prepared by Richard B. Finn of the Department of State, indicates that the discussion opened with a general briefing on developments in Lebanon by the Director of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs, Stuart W. Rockwell. (Department of State, State–JCS Meetings: Lot 61 D 417; included in the microfiche supplement)