270. Editorial Note

On June 13, 1963, in telegram 1222 to CINCSTRIKE and CINCNELM, DTG 131953Z Jun 63, the Joint Chiefs of Staff reported that the President had approved the deployment of an air unit to Saudi Arabia, using the codeword Hard Surface, to consist of eight F-100D tactical fighter aircraft and one transport-type command support aircraft. The telegram conveyed a description of the “Mission” and “Rules of Engagement” attached to Document 268. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Saudi Arabia, 6/1/63–6/14/63) The Department of State instructed the Embassy in Jidda to inform the Saudi Government of the deployment in telegram 827, June 14, 3:27 p.m. The Department also directed that the Saudi Government be reminded that the dispatch of the air unit was predicated on the complete cessation of all forms of Saudi assistance to the Yemeni Royalists. (Department of State, Central Files, DEF 6–3 US)

On June 14, Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Saqqaf summoned Hart to convey Prince Faysal’s demand that the U.S. Government publicly denounce Congressman Celler’s statement regarding the sending of Jewish servicemen to Saudi Arabia and his decision not to let any U.S. servicemen enter the Kingdom until he received a U.S. response to this demand. (Telegram 1080 from Jidda, June 15; ibid.)

At the Secretary of State’s staff meeting on June 14, Talbot reported:

“The projected Hard Surface air squadron to Saudi Arabia has been temporarily suspended. This is the result of the public controversy on the [Page 582] presence of US personnel of the Jewish faith in Saudi Arabia. The President will consider this matter this morning. The Secretary deplored the newspaper coverage of this delicate matter at this time and asked Mr. Manning to consider giving a background off-the-record to the press urging no further disclosures at this time for fear of preventing a settlement satisfactory to the US.” (Department of State, Secretary’s Staff Meetings: Lot 66 D 147)

On June 15, JCS telegram 1259, DTG 150537Z, directed that the movement of all U.S. forces going to Saudi Arabia be halted. (Memorandum for the record on White House stationery, June 28; Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Saudi Arabia, 6/15/63–6/30/63) Also on June 15, Talbot responded to Hart in telegram 838 to Jidda that “Discrimination issue of such over-riding importance here that would be totally out of question for USG capitulate to Faysal’s request we “denounce’ Celler statement.” (Department of State, Central Files, DEF 6–3 US)

Subsequently, Hart, acting under detailed Department of State instructions, sought to persuade Faysal either directly or through Saqqaf to withdraw the ultimatum. (Instructions and telegraphic reports are ibid.) When these entreaties failed to resolve the matter, the Joint Chiefs of Staff on June 17, in telegram 1277, DTG 172120Z, advised that operation Hard Surface would not be implemented prior to June 21 and ordered forces to return to their staging basis under CINCSTRIKE. (Memorandum for the record on White House stationery, June 28; Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Saudi Arabia, 6/15/63–6/30/63)

On June 16, the Department of State proposed that Faysal’s concerns be alleviated through a proposed statement by the Department’s Spokesman in response to a question at a press conference that would indicate that Saudi Arabia retained its visa policy respecting persons of the Jewish faith, but that this had not arisen in cases of U.S. servicemen serving in Saudi Arabia and that the United States upheld a nondiscrimination policy in this matter. (Telegram 843 to Jidda, June 16; Department of State, Central Files, DEF 6–3 US) Hart subsequently negotiated the content of the statement with Saqqaf, and Faysal’s agreement was finally obtained on June 27. (Instructions and reports are ibid.)

On June 29, in conjunction with the announcement that the United States was sending a training mission to Saudi Arabia (Operation Hard Surface), the Department of State Spokesman affirmed that Saudi Arabia had not altered its visa policy with respect to persons of the Jewish faith and still retained the sovereign right to screen applicants for visas on the basis of its own policies. The Spokesman then reconfirmed: “Our own policy of non-discrimination among American citizens on grounds of race, creed or color is firmly established. Our efforts have been directed [Page 583] to obtaining at home and abroad recognition and acceptance of this principle.” In response to a question, the Spokesman said “As regards United States air units which have undertaken or will undertake joint training exercises with Saudi forces no problem has arisen with respect to their entry into Saudi Arabia on a transient basis.” (Circular telegram 2253, June 29; ibid., DEF 19-2 SAUD-US)