The Acting Secretary of State (Welles) to the Ambassador in France (Bullitt)


Dear Bill: Fakavari [Fakarava?] Island in the Tuamotu Archipelago, which as you know is under French sovereignty, is we understand uninhabited. It has a narrow strip of beach forming an almost complete circle except for one entrance to the open sea which surrounds an unimpeded harbor approximately six miles in diameter. The Navy Department desires to obtain a lease from the French Government for about two acres of land with the right to construct hangars thereon and with the further right to the unrestricted use of the harbor and of adjacent beaches for airplane landings.

You will recognize the important factors underlying this desire and you know the situation so well that I need hardly emphasize the need to keep the matter absolutely confidential. I have been unwilling because of my fear of a leak to mention the matter to the French Ambassador here since he has to deal through the Foreign Office. I have explained my reluctance in this regard to the President and the President has told me this afternoon that he desires you to take the matter up personally with M. Daladier,64 and only with him.

The President’s further desire is that the lease be concluded, when the time comes, as a routine matter between some appropriate official [Page 531] of the Navy Department, presumably your Naval Attaché, who would of course have to be duly authorized for that purpose, and some appropriate representative of the French Government who would likewise at such time—and not until such time—be designated. The purpose of the lease would be to enable the Navy Department to rent these facilities for utilization in connection with aviation maneuvers. The amount of rental which would be stipulated would, we presume, be more or less nominal.

After you have taken this matter up with M. Daladier and his assent has been given, as I assume it will be, my thought would be that you get his further assent to some form of lease which you yourself might draw up so that this lease could be concluded the minute you get direct word from us to that effect.

In order to avoid any leak in the telegrams, may I suggest that after you have had an opportunity of taking this up with M. Daladier you send me a personal telegram referring to my present letter to you and merely say “Favorable reply given”, or “Unfavorable reply given”, as the case may be. Upon receipt of that message from you I will inform the President and I will then await such further details as you may give me, such as the form of the lease, amount of rental, et cetera, which you can send me in the first pouch.

On account of the time element I am sending you this letter by air mail. I think it would be highly desirable to get the matter settled as soon as possible.

Every good wish [etc.]

[File copy not signed]
  1. President of the French Council of Ministers.