811.34537/386 suppl.: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Cuba ( Braden )

286. Department’s telegram no. 246 of May 9, 6 p.m., etc. You are requested to present to the Cuban Government a confidential memorandum setting forth along the following lines the proposal of the War Department discussed with you recently by General Ryan:

The United States War Department desires to establish with the least delay possible a heavy bombardment operational training unit under United States Army officers in the neighborhood of San Antonio de los Baños to perfect trained British Royal Air Force personnel in combat techniques preparatory to assignment to more active theaters of war. This unit would complete the chain of such training bases already being set up in southern sea-coast states and at Nassau. The combat teams completing their training in these bases will at the same time be available for effective anti-submarine and other war operations.

In the knowledge of the eagerness of the Cuban Government to contribute more actively in the prosecution of the war and its anxiety to expedite measures for protection of its coasts and shipping between Cuba and the United States, the United States Government desires urgently to know whether the Cuban Government agrees in principle to the establishment of the facilities in question under the military jurisdiction of United States officers. Details concerning the base would be worked out through negotiation between the Cuban Government and the United States Ambassador, assisted by Army technical officers of Cuba and the United States. In case of approval in principle by the Cuban Government the United States War Department would initiate surveys at once in order to indicate the specific areas it has in mind and would enter into arrangements with local contractors, wherever possible, for the preliminary work. It is contemplated that the Cuban Government would condemn the necessary lands, which it would make available for the War Department’s use, and that the Cuban Government’s reasonable expenses in this connection would be fully reimbursed. The agreement should be for the period of the war plus, say, 6 months after the termination of hostilities, and all fixed installations erected at the expense of this Government would of course revert to the Cuban Government.

As now envisaged by the War Department, there would be stationed at the base a maximum of 3,600 officers and enlisted men, including about 1,400 personnel of the British Royal Air Force preparing for active combat duty in war zones. Entire responsibility for administration, discipline, etc., would of course remain in the hands of the United States Commandant.

The establishment of such an operational training unit will result in very considerable movements of matériel and supplies for construction operation, maintenance, and subsistence, and of personnel, through Habana, and between Habana and San Antonio de los Baños, mostly by highway. The United States Government is confident that the Cuban Government will be agreeable to cooperative arrangements for the expeditious handling in Cuban ports of ships and official cargo [Page 266] in connection with the construction, maintenance and supply of the base and for the overland transit of matériel and supplies between the port and the base. The United States Government will be prepared to defray the costs of any necessary improvements and maintenance of, and repairs to, the highways it uses. The United States Government requests exemption from import duties, excise taxes and other fees on the official matériel and supplies imported solely for use at the base, and on the Government transports arriving at Cuban ports with official cargoes and personnel. Furthermore, the United States Government will hold itself responsible for the conduct and repatriation of the personnel, both military or civilian, which it will send to the base.

Because of the urgent demands of the war fronts for ever-increasing numbers of trained air combat crews and the intensification of warfare on numerous fronts, and in view of the added protection the base will give to Cuba, the United States Government earnestly hopes that the Cuban Government will give this proposal, which will so materially aid in the war effort of the United Nations, immediate and sympathetic consideration. End of substance of memorandum.

If the above is acceptable in principle to the Cuban Government, you are requested to ascertain and report the form which the agreement should take. The Department is of the opinion that an executive agreement as between co-belligerents, in an exchange of notes, would be most expeditious and convenient. Further details of the proposal will be transmitted to you within a day or two in a War Department memorandum.

As soon as the Cuban Government notifies you of its acceptance in principle of the proposal, the War Department will send a representative (possibly Colonel Barber) to assist you in the ensuing negotiations, and will also send personnel to conduct the survey in the vicinity of San Antonio de los Baños.

Confidential for the Ambassador: While the establishments envisaged at San Antonio de los Baños and the other similar bases have no facilities for training individual aviation officers or men, the Department will if you deem it desirable explore the possibility of affording primary and advanced army training for selected Cuban members of the armed forces at suitable training centers.