Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)
Sir Ronald Campbell came in, at my request.
I referred to the question of the British request for landing rights at Roberts Field, Liberia. I said that I understood this had been taken up at Casablanca and that orders had been given by General Arnold to permit BOAC planes to land for refueling and servicing. I said that prior to the Casablanca conference we had obtained substantial assent from the Army to that end and had prepared a memorandum on the subject. However, since the matter had been taken up directly at the Casablanca conference, I would not hand him the memorandum until I knew what had been decided at Casablanca.
I said I hoped Sir Ronald would realize that the Army technical people were not at all convinced of the technical necessity for this; and that their continued resistance had been due to that fact. As far as they can see, all British interests are fully covered by the landing field at Freetown, only a short distance away. Air Commodore Thornton had not come down to present any technical data on the matter.
But, I said, both the State Department and the War Department were very clear that landing rights at Roberts Field were not important enough to complicate general relationships in that area. In view of the singularly slashing intimations in Sir Ronald’s instructions, it seemed plain that this thoroughly unimportant controversy was spreading, which it ought not to be allowed to do. It was purely in the spirit of minimizing this kind of thing that, despite lack of technical conviction, we had arranged the matter here, and I gathered the same view had prevailed at Casablanca. I agreed that I would give him a memorandum covering the situation as soon as we had the full details of the Casablanca order.