File No. 810.74/58b

The Acting Secretary of State to Ambassador Stimson 5

Sir: Referring to the Department’s circular instruction of October 13, 1915,6 regarding radio communication in the American Hemisphere, and in accordance with an informal understanding reached in the conference of representatives of the American Republics held at the Department of State on January 7, 1916,7 there is herewith enclosed, in triplicate, a compilation of the recommendations of the Departments of State and the Navy on this subject, which is being also communicated to the representatives of the American Republics at this capital.

In transmitting to the Foreign Office one copy of the enclosed memorandum, you will request the Government to which you are accredited to inform its diplomatic representative in Washington, to whom a copy of the circular has also been sent, of its opinions and suggestions, in order that the next conference referred to in the memorandum, which will comprise the respective diplomatic representatives, may be in possession of the opinions of all the interested Governments.

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To such report, which should be in triplicate, as you may make regarding the attitude of the Government in this connection, you will add in full such recommendations and suggestions as you may deem properly supplemental to your previous reports.

I am [etc.]

For the Acting Secretary of State:
John E. Osborne


Pursuant to an informal understanding reached in the conference of representatives of the American Republics on the subject of radio communication between the countries of the Western Hemisphere, held at the Department of State, Washington, on January 7, 1916,7 recommendations and observations have been submitted by the Navy Department for the consideration of the interested Governments. As indicated by the Counselor of the Department of State in opening the conference, the object of the Government of the United States in calling this informal meeting was:

The interest that it has taken in the development of this science.
The knowledge that it has obtained from various sources that radio stations erected by European capital, or operated and controlled by European countries, have been installed in certain countries in Central and South America, as well as in the United States.
Its conviction that such a situation is replete with possible complications by reason of the fact that unwarranted use of such stations by belligerents in time of war might seriously jeopardize the neutrality of the countries in which the stations are operated.
Its belief that the ownership and control of this vitally important means of communication between the American continents should rest in sympathetic hands and should riot pass beyond this hemisphere and fall under non-American jurisdiction.

The recommendations of the Navy Department are submitted with a view to outline a plan by which methods of radio organization, control, operation, and administration in the American Republics may be made uniform and coordinated.

For the economic and military requirements of each individual State;
For the economic and military requirements of the American nations acting in concert.

1. Government ownership and control of radio stations.—The economic development and prosperity of a country in times of peace may perhaps best be promoted by a system of communication and intercourse both at home and abroad which is reasonable in cost and rapid in operation. It is believed that these advantages may be most surely secured under Government ownership or control. One of the most serious menaces to a country’s safety in time of hostilities is that of having its communications under any other management than that of the national Government, and especially is this the case at the outbreak of hostilities, when the necessity for rapid and reliable telegraphic communication is paramount.

In advocating government ownership and control of all radio stations, it is desired to point out that the extended experience of the Navy Department in the management of both commercial and military radio organization and the more recent experience gained through controlling and directing the censorship of radio communication in this country during the European War, has shown most emphatically the need that radio stations be owned, operated, and administered by the Governments themselves, rather than that such ownership, operation, and control be vested in commercial corporations. The difficulties attending non-Government ownership have been brought to the attention of the Navy Department recently and with such force as to compel it to present to the Governments interested the grave importance of having all radio stations under strict national ownership, administration, and operation and prompts it to urge upon the other Governments the consideration thereof before any extensive private system of stations is established within their territorial jurisdiction.

No communication system, however efficient it may be individually, is capable of rendering completely satisfactory service if suddenly required to change from [Page 7] control by one management to that of another. Such change of control is accompanied necessarily by the loss of efficiency attendant on all administrative changes, and consequently there can be but one satisfactory solution to the problem, which is that the Governments shall administer, operate, and control the system at all times. There is then no change necessary in time of national danger, attended as it would inevitably be with loss of efficiency.

While, for reasons adduced above, it is believed that governmental ownership and operation of radio stations is preferable, these recommendations should not be construed as militating against the granting of concessions to reputable American concerns for the erection and operation thereof, provided all such concessions contain the specific provision that in case of national or Pan American international exigency their operation and control shall, upon demand and during such time of governmental necessity, pass to the Government in whose territory the station is located.

2. Uniform organization and facilities for communication.—If some organization can be formulated and effected by the nations of North, Central, and South America, having for its objective the provision of uniform means of rapid communication for military, naval, and commercial needs, not only in each individual country, but also between all such countries, the resultant advantages of having ready at all times, with special reference to time of national danger, such organized facilities for the rapid transmission of information can not be overestimated.

No doubt each country has an organization for its radio service which is adapted to the peculiar needs of the country so far as relates to its military and naval establishments and while there are undoubtedly many regulations necessary to the individual nation, it is believed that the main features of all such organizations are similar, since the problems to be solved in any military organization are naturally very much alike.

3. Coordination of means of communication.—Each nation will wish to preserve its entire independent jurisdiction in all matters concerning its own radio system, but in any understanding in which all American nations might wish to act in concert there is no one consideration more vital to its success than that of having a common understanding as to the most rapid and effective way by which information may be transmitted in the shortest time. The communications of each country may by themselves be organized efficiently, but unless there is some plan understood and adhered to by all, there will be lacking that coordination so necessary to successful accomplishment of the common objective. An interlocking system could be established which, through use during times of peace for the exchange of official and commercial radiograms, would insure smooth operation in time of national peril.

4. Advisability of mutual understanding and cooperation.—The basic principles governing this essential military and economic cooperation are as follows:

Efficient radio communication for military and other Government purposes is a necessity;
Efficient radio communication requires effective control; effective control of radio requires a monopoly; and the Government should exercise such control;
Military necessity demands not only efficient and rapid communication, including effective control, but protection of the radio establishments from destruction;
During periods of strained relations, as well as during war, direct Government control and operation would be the only safe and effective control and operation—the personnel to be composed exclusively of citizens of the country operating the stations, or of other countries in the Pan-American Union;
Concessions to one private company would be followed by demands from other private companies for similar concessions, on the basis of equity, and a multiplicity of stations thus develop, which, if not carefully guarded against, would result in serious confusion from interference;
National economy, as well as national security, would be promoted if the national Governments own, administer, and operate radio stations for both commercial and military communication;
Inter-American Government and private communication will be greatly expedited, resulting in improved official, economic, and social understanding among the several nations and the safety and security of the American nations;
The discussion, formulation, promulgation, and execution of plans for the mutual defense of those nations could thus be carried out effectively.

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5. Development of a suitable organization,—The development of an organization for Pan American radio communication based on the above considerations can, in the opinion of the Navy Department, be carried out through the agency of an inter-American committee composed of specially qualified representatives from each country. This committee should be charged with the duty of preparing the regulations necessary to combine the radio services of all American Republics into one homogeneous system for the transaction of Government and private (or commercial) business, to arrange traffic regulations, to designate regular and alternate routes of transmission, to assign wave lengths to the various stations with a view to eliminating interference, to establish rates for the service rendered, and in general to standardize and systematize the administration, operation, matériel, and personnel features of radio communication in the entire Western Hemisphere.

6. Proposed plan and information for delegates to conference.—The plan suggested below is dependent for its establishment and operation on the preconcerted understanding that all of the Republics in this hemisphere are agreed as to its necessity, and, concurrently, that the radio service of each country shall be administered and operated by direct governmental authority and personnel. It is therefore recommended that each of the American Republics designate one or more representatives to confer at the earliest practicable date in Washington with other representatives similarly designated, with a view to effecting an organization and understanding in regard to radio communication in this hemisphere.

In order that the delegates may be informed of the general nature of the operation of the system that the Navy Department has in mind, the following is submitted as embodying the essential features thereof.

It is proposed to divide the territory embraced in the American Republics into zones of radio communication, with one control radio station for each zone, which latter will receive and relay radiograms to destination as may be necessary and in accordance with specific regulations drawn up by the committee. There will be one main station for the entire hemisphere, located in as nearly a central position, geographically, with reference to all the American Republics, as may be practicable. Such main station shall be capable of direct communication with central stations in each of five proposed zones, covering the territory of the interested Governments. The main station might well be that already established in the Panama Canal Zone. The zone central stations should be at the following places, tentatively: Buenos Aires, Para, Guatemala, Guantanamo, Washington. Each of these zone center stations would serve as receiving and distributing stations for the stations in their respective zones, and would be capable of direct communication with the main station. In each country, preferably at the capital, there would be a central controlling and distributing station, which would be capable of direct communication with the appropriate zone center station. This same system of zones and distributing stations would be used in each country, so that uniformity would be observed in the operation and traffic features throughout the hemisphere.

It may be said that an organization similar to that proposed has been tried out in this country with highly satisfactory results.

The following diagram represents graphically the ideas advanced: [Page 9]

X Main Station (1).

Y Zone Center Stations (5).

Z Government Center Stations (distributing stations).

V Local stations necessary for each country.

In order to render the proposed plan of operation adaptable to increasing needs (especially commercial), regulations to govern the operation of special long distance transmission between stations used primarily for commercial messages might be drawn up which would include provisions:

For the independent operation of such commercial stations;
For their amalgamation with the main system at such time as the interested Governments may designate;
For acceptance of official messages of the various Governments at all times at reduced rates, such official messages to have precedence over commercial messages;
For the employment exclusively of operators who are citizens of the American Republics.

7. Information desired to perfect plan.—In order to develop a completed plan for submission to the suggested conference, the following information concerning the equipment of the radio stations now in operation in the respective countries is desired:

Normal reliable daylight range expressed in miles or kilometers.

Power of station, input in watts.

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Character of transmitter, viz., undamped or damped waves.

Normal radiated current, amperes in antenna.

Height of antenna.

General character of antenna.

Most efficient wave length for transmission.

Range of wave lengths it is possible to obtain.

  1. Mutatis mutandis to the American diplomatic representatives in Latin American countries, except Mexico and Panama.
  2. For. Rel. 1915, p. 24.
  3. See International Conferences and Congresses, p. 976.
  4. See International Conferences and Congresses, p. 976.