WASHINGTON (May. 16)
The Defense. Department confirmed today that a United States freighter was being loaded at Southport, North Carolina, with a cargo that “could include ammunition” for delivery to Saudi Arabia.
Asked about the cargo and destination of the vessel–the 6,700 ton Monterey–the Defense Department pointed out that Saudi Arabia had been buying military supplies from the U.S. since 1952 and that the freighter’s cargo was “bought some time ago.” “It could include ammunition,” the Department agreed. “We don’t keep track of what is on the ship. Once the export license and sale is made, we don’t keep on top of it that closely.”
At Southport, the commander of the Army Transport Corps installation where the cargo was being loaded, Col. William A. McAleer, refused to discuss the contents of the boxes being placed aboard the vessel. The boxes, painted red, white and blue, bore the legend: “From USA for Mutual Defense.” Col. McAleer refused to talk on the grounds that “it affects our national security. In New York, officers of T.J. Stevenson Inc., owners of the ship, would give out no details on the cargo.
The vessel appears to be ready for sailing today or tomorrow, but Col. McAleer refused to say when the vessel would leave for Saudi Arabia other than that “it will sail when we get finished.” A representative of the Saudi Arabian Government was present, apparently supervising the loading of the munitions. Newsmen were barred from the wharf.
Last February, the United States sent a cargo of Walker “Bull Dog” tanks to Saudi Arabia, in the face of numerous protests from all parts of the country. The outcry was so great that Secretary of State Dulles was forced to come before a Senate committee and explain the State Department’s approval of the tank shipment.