The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant)
304. As you know, the United States Army Air Corps Ferrying Command is operating delivery service across the South Atlantic, both with its own personnel and through the medium of a contract with Pan American Airways. These activities are carried out under a directive from the President, dated November 19, last.
In view of the impending delivery to the Middle East of large quantities of short-range bombers, which cannot safely cross the South Atlantic in one hop, and the need for an alternative or secondary route across the South Atlantic from Brazil to West Africa, the Government of the United States feels that it is necessary to construct an intermediate airport on Ascension Island. It feels that the [Page 558] delivery service of all aircraft will be expedited and that of shorter range aircraft made possible over this alternative route, and it is therefore desired that the necessary permission from the British Government be obtained to build an airport and establish all the necessary operating facilities on what is known as the southwest plain of Ascension Island.
The United States proposes to construct a complete airdrome having a surfaced runway of approximately 6,000 feet by 1000 feet on Ascension Island. The United States will require, therefore, the necessary consent and cooperation of the British Government in the matter of importing machinery, personnel and equipment, the establishment of a water supply with the necessary tankage, gas storage and handling facilities, and the construction of the necessary buildings, power plants and other equipment. The United States will desire to load and unload this equipment at whatever point is most advantageous and to use the most convenient means of transport over any available route to or from Ascension Island. The United States will, of course, take the necessary steps to prevent damage to existing cable lines.
The proposed installations on Ascension Island are in the opinion of this Government necessary, even though the expense and construction problems will be considerable. The United States is prepared to undertake the necessary construction at once and to provide all of the funds necessary for that purpose. Since the facilities and installations will be of a permanent character, the Government of the United States feels that American commercial aircraft should have the right to utilize these facilities on Ascension Island in the postwar period on such terms as the American Government might prescribe. We are confident that the British Government will agree to this at once in view of our willingness to construct this airport at the expense of the United States Government. Details in connection with the use of this airport by commercial planes in the post-war period can be discussed between the two governments at their convenience and settled in an exchange of notes. Arrangements for the local defense of the airport during the present emergency will be made by the combined chiefs of Staff (British-United States).
Please take up this question with the British Government at the earliest possible moment and endeavor to obtain a favorable reply. You are authorized to take up the matter in the first instance with the Prime Minister59 if you consider it desirable.
- Winston Churchill.↩