882.796/34: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Liberia (Hibbard)

20. Your 20, February 6, 4 p.m. There has been no change in policy with regard to Fisherman’s Lake airfield. War Department has reached a strictly military agreement with the British for the installations mentioned in your telegram for the purpose of facilitating anti-submarine air patrol by Catalinas of a vital area in the Atlantic, which at present they are better able to patrol than we. You may explain to the Liberian Government that this arrangement is made as part of the general defense and for their protection.

There is a change in policy with regard to Roberts Field. It is desired that BOAC planes shall have permission to land at Roberts Field for servicing and refueling by American personnel. It is not contemplated that the British shall be given the right to station personnel or set up installations.

You are requested to approach the Liberian Government at once and to request their assent to the use of Roberts Field for this purpose, and to secure their agreement that this will not be considered a breach of the underlying agreement granting use of the field to the United States, or of the Panair concession. You may point out that the proposed permission to be given to BOAC is strictly temporary, and that it arises from the fact that BOAC is principally engaged in essential war work of interest in the common war effort. The permission, if granted, is therefore not to be considered as giving to BOAC any privilege which might ripen into a permanent right.

For your confidential information, this matter was taken up at the Casablanca conference. Department is concerned lest a relatively minor dispute create friction which may endanger air relations in a number of other areas and have consequences disproportionate to the importance of the subject. It has been made clear to the British Government that Department is not convinced of the technical necessity of it, but prefers to yield the point rather than unduly complicate relations elsewhere in Africa.