6-198 Statement to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, March 3, 1948

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: March 3, 1948

Subject: Postwar

March 3, 1948
Washington, DC

On March 12, 1947, Congress was requested to authorize assistance to Greece and Turkey in the amount of 400 million dollars for the period ending June 30, 1948. The President then stated that such action was made necessary by the gravity of a situation which involved the foreign policy and national security of the United States.

Congress authorized the requested aid by act of May 22, 1947, and appropriated the necessary funds by act of July 30, 1947. There has been presented to the Congress a request for additional military assistance to Greece and Turkey in the amount of 275 million dollars, covering the period through the fiscal year 1949.

In Turkey the supply of equipment destined for the strengthening of the Turkish defense forces is under the general supervision of Ambassador Edwin C. Wilson, who also served as Chief of the American Mission for Aid to Turkey.1 In Greece the work of supporting and rehabilitating the Greek economy and of strengthening the Greek armed forces is being carried on by the American Mission for Aid to Greece under the leadership of Dwight P. Griswold.

The program of American aid to Greece has had the important substantial result that Greece continues to exist as a free nation. Economic recovery has been seriously impeded, in spite of American aid, because guerrilla warfare, supported from neighboring countries, has been intensified and continues to disrupt Greek economy.

172 million dollars, or about 57 percent of the total funds provided for the Greek-aid program, is being expended for the strengthening of the Greek armed forces and the creation of local national-guard units to take over from the mobile army the protection of towns, villages, and lines of communications threatened by the guerrilla forces.

When the President addressed Congress on this subject in March 1947, a Commission of the Security Council of the United Nations was in the Balkans to investigate alleged border violations along Greece’s northern frontier. The majority report of this Commission, submitted on June 27, 1947, concluded that Yugoslavia, Albania, and Bulgaria had supported the guerrilla warfare in Greece.2 Action on the basis of this report by the Security Council was blocked by a Soviet veto. The matter was accordingly referred, on American initiative, to the General Assembly which, on October 21, 1947, adopted a resolution calling upon Albania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia “to do nothing which could furnish aid or assistance” to the guerrillas. It also called upon these powers and Greece “to cooperate in the settlement of their disputes by peaceful means,” making certain specific recommendations to this effect. It established a special committee to observe the compliance by the four Governments with these recommendations and to be available to assist in their implementation.

The Government of Greece reiterated its willingness to cooperate with the special committee. It has in fact done so. On the other hand, the Government of Yugoslavia informed the Secretary General of the United Nations that it—will not extend any cooperation to the Commission or its observation groups and will not permit their entry into Yugoslav territory.

Similar announcements were made by the Governments of Albania and Bulgaria. The delegates of the Soviet Union and Poland in the General Assembly had already made it clear that their Governments would take no part in the activities of the special committee, though membership on the committee was, and still is, reserved for them.

This attitude on the part of the USSR, Poland, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Albania led the committee in its first interim report to comment on its inability—to report any evidence of bilateral compliance with any of the recommendations of the General Assembly.

In its second interim report, the committee called attention to the large-scale guerrilla attack of Christmas Day against the Greek town of Konitsa on the Albanian border and declared, on the basis of the report of its observation group in the region—that aid in the form of logistic support is being furnished from Albania to guerrillas operating on Greek territory.

There was an announcement on December 24, 1947, over the Belgrade radio, of the establishment of a Greek junta under the guerrilla leader Markos. Propaganda against the United States and in favor of the Greek guerrillas has been carried on by the government-controlled press and radio in the Communist-dominated countries of eastern Europe, and, like the support extended to the Greek guerrillas, has been intensified since the inception of the American-aid program.

The President, in transmitting to the Congress the second report on assistance to Greece and Turkey, stated:

It is significant that the guerrilla warfare is directed not against the Greek Army but against the people of Greece. The deliberate and wanton destruction of Greek villages does not result from military engagements. It is determined and ruthless destruction intended to render people homeless and drive them from the soil; to force them into overcrowded urban centers where they become charges of an already overburdened state; and to create for them conditions of misery and hardship in the hope that this will make them susceptible to political agitation.

The accuracy of this statement is confirmed by the fact that over 400,000 of the Greek people have left their homes in the villages of the districts where the guerrillas operate and have sought refuge in the cities of northern Greece. They have fled from the guerrillas. They have not joined them.

By such means the independence and territorial integrity of Greece are being threatened and all efforts of the Greeks and their friends to promote the economic rehabilitation of the country are being systematically undermined. The Greek Government has been obliged to divert to military purposes and for refugee relief increasing amounts of money and supplies needed for economic rehabilitation. The American Aid Mission also has been obliged to divert some 23 million dollars of the American funds originally intended for economic purposes in order to build up the Greek armed forces.

The situation is serious, but it is not without hope. The Greek Govermnent, in its efforts to meet its many critical problems, has shown a commendable resistance to the pressure to depart from democratic principles and to apply totalitarian methods to meet the situation. A coalition government headed by the chief of the Liberal Party and supported by a large majority of the freely elected Greek parliament still is in power. An intensification of the Greek military effort against the guerrillas, with the forces and equipment presently authorized and now proposed, and with the help of the American military officers now reaching the field, gives promise of greater success. With such success in the elimination of guerrilla warfare, the economic part of the American aid program which already has begun to show results will have a greatly increased effectiveness in the strengthening of Greek economy.

Extension of further American military aid to Greece and Turkey which is now before the Congress, as well as early and favorable action on the European recovery program, will be of tremendous importance in discouraging more overt aggression against Greece. Conversely, nothing could be more calculated to encourage the enemies of Greece in their designs than a show of weakness or hesitation on the part of the United States.

When request for appropriation for aid to Greece and Turkey was made last year the Department of State expressed the hope that with funds provided under the initial year’s program, recovery in Greece would have progressed to such a point that further financing of Greek rehabilitation could be obtained from the international fiscal institutions. The intensification of guerrilla warfare brought about by increased support of Greece’s northern neighbors has unfortunately not only made this impossible, but has in fact increased the need for both economic and military assistance to Greece.

As a member of the Paris Conference of the Committee of European Economic Cooperation, Greece participated in the development of it a program for European recovery which it was calculated would require 4 years for realization. Funds provided under the ERP will not, of course, be available for military assistance to the Greek armed forces in their fight against the guerrillas. Although there is expectation that the guerrilla menace can be brought under control during the period for which additional military funds are now requested, ultimate success in the guerrilla war and termination of military assistance to Greece depends in large part upon the degree to which Greece’s northern neighbors give assistance to the guerrillas, in their efforts to secure Communist domination of Greece against the wishes of the Greek people.

I call your attention to the following passage from the recent Report on Greece of the subcommittee of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Foreign Aid:

Should the United States now withdraw its support from Greece, which would almost certainly result in the establishment of a Communist government, the Communist Parties throughout Europe would undoubtedly utilize the opportunity to point out to those who are now valiantly resisting Communist infiltration in other countries the uncertainty of relying on United States help. The effects of such withdrawal would greatly weaken the determination of the constitutional forces resisting communism elsewhere.

The continuation of military assistance to Turkey, which has since the war been under such constant foreign pressure that she has had to maintain a large and burdensome military establishment, is equally important. Intensification of Communist pressure against Turkey during the past year, coupled with clear evidence in Greece and Czechoslovakia of Communist intentions against all independent nations who stand in the way of their plans for expansion, have foreclosed the expectation that the military assistance we are furnishing Turkey in this year’s aid program will be sufficient. While the proposed program involves no commitment, moral or otherwise, as to continuation of assistance to Turkey beyond the fiscal year 1949, no assurance can be given that additional aid will not be required as long as there exists the active threat to Turkey of Communist domination.

Greece and Turkey occupy a strategic position in the eastern Mediterranean area. They are confronted by the same menace of the loss of their independence and the imposition by an aggressive minority of a system which is contrary to that desired by the great majority of their peoples. Their loss of independence would have serious effects far beyond the frontiers of the two countries. It would greatly weaken the position of those European countries which the United States is seeking to aid through the proposed European recovery program. It is in the national interest of the United States that the principles of the United Nations shall be maintained and that the right of “free peoples to work out their own destiny in their own way” shall not be violated.

US Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs, United States Foreign Policy for a Post-War Recovery Program: Hearings . . . , 80th Cong., 1st and 2d sess. (Washington: GPO, 1948), pp. 2011–14.

1. Prior to Edwin C. Wilson’s appointment as ambassador to Turkey in January 1945, he had served as ambassador to Panama (1941–43) and as US minister to Uruguay (1939–41).

2. Regarding the UN Commission of Investigation (the Ethridge Committee) report, see note 1, Marshall Memorandum for the President, July 16, 1947, p. 182.

Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Mark A. Stoler, Sharon Ritenour Stevens and Daniel D. Holt (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 2013- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 6, “The Whole World Hangs in the Balance,” January 8, 1947-September 30, 1949 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), pp. 391-95.