Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)
Sir Ronald47 came in to see me at his request.
He raised again the problem of landing rights for BOAC planes in Liberia. With some hesitation he said the dispute had now obviously got to a difficult and acute phase. The British Government was embarrassed because inability to stop at Liberia had forced suspension of operations between Takoradi and Freetown. His cable of instructions said his Government considered this “unjustifiable in face of the recent agreement of the British Government to permit American Airways and Transcontinental Western Airways to set up headquarters in Gambia, having a scheduled service between Accra and Bathurst”. The instruction further said that while the British wanted to be sympathetic with the American air services traversing British territory, the Liberian incident was making trouble. For instance, it made it difficult to agree to our request for an agreement that the Army Transport Command might carry mail to the Middle East. Sir Ronald said he was unhappy that an incident which appeared to turn on the local dispute in Liberia should lead to this kind of thing.
I avoided the use of the obvious word “reprisal” and said that it seemed to me in the highest degree unhappy. I felt that, quite irrespective of antagonisms, we ought to reach an agreement on arrangements necessary for the war effort without prejudice to any post-war arrangements, and get on with matters in hand.
Later:—I telephoned the substance of this to Assistant Secretary of War for Air, Mr. Lovett. He suggested that we try to get hold of General Fitzgerald who is in this country, through the Chief of Air Staff. He also felt that this seemingly stiff line from the British Government was probably due to parliamentary reaction which followed Juan Trippe’s48 statement,49 and the insistence of BOAC that a strong stand be taken.