Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)

Participants: The President; the Under Secretary of State,10 Mr. A. A. Berle, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State; Mr. Robert A. Lovett, Assistant Secretary of War for Air; Mr. L. Welch Pogue, Chairman, Civil Aeronautics Board; Mr. Harry Hopkins.

The President requested the five men above-named to meet him at 2:00 o’clock yesterday.

He stated that he had begun to discuss aviation policy with Prime Minister Churchill at Quebec and he expected to go on doing so at their coming meeting.11 He had considered the various problems of policy and wished to state the policy he wanted followed. Reading from a memorandum which he said he had himself prepared, though he took the points out of order, he gave us the following oral directives.

(1) Germany, Italy, and Japan were not to be permitted to have any aviation industry or any aviation lines, internal or external. This involved policing these countries.

Their external traffic would be handled by the lines of the other countries. Internal aviation could be handled by a company or companies to be formed by the United Nations. The participation of former enemy countries (Germany, Italy, and Japan) in aviation was to be limited to the maintenance of airfields, local servicing work, and detail of that kind.

As for flying, the President said that he did not want them to be in a position to “fly anything larger than one of these toy planes that you wind up with an elastic.”

(2) As to aviation in other countries: The President felt that each country should have ownership and control of its own internal aviation services. He recognized there might be exceptions in backward countries unable to organize aviation themselves. But Brazil, which he took as an illustration, was quite competent to run its own internal aviation. He did not wish Americans to own or control their internal aviation; nor did he wish them to hire American or other foreign companies as managers of their internal aviation. He had no objection, indeed he hoped that they would hire American individuals, and of course he hoped they would buy American equipment. But he wanted the internal aviation to be the development of the country itself.

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(3) Regarding the handling of American aviation, he stated that he had decided that American overseas aviation should not be handled by a single line. The scope of international aviation was too great to be trusted to any one company or pool. He said that certain companies—to speak frankly, Pan American—wanted all of the business, and he disagreed with Trippe.12 He was willing to agree that on their record, Pan American was entitled to the senior place, and perhaps the cream of the business; but he could not go along with the idea of their, or anyone’s, having all of it. This meant a multi-company operation.

He said he still felt—though he was open to argument on the subject—that the plan he had outlined to Mr. Pogue and to myself two years ago, of various companies having “zones”, still appealed to him; thus there might be a company for the western side of South America, another company having the eastern side, one company having the North Atlantic; another, the Mediterranean; and so forth. In answer to a question of Bob Lovett’s, he said that there might be a shift of equipment from one group to another as seasons required this. I said I thought that Mr. Pogue’s idea of competitive terminals by the competitors draining different fields of traffic probably could be harmonized with this general idea. The President said that he agreed that his idea would have to be applied flexibly.

(4) Regarding the possibility of Government participation in the lines, he said there remained open the question of ownership by the Government of an interest in the various lines contemplated under this policy. But he said he thought there was no need of such ownership under the proposed plan, except as the Government might have to own, initially, lines going to places in which the traffic could not support a company. This would be covered by his idea that the Government should run such lines until private enterprise was prepared to take over.

(5) The President then spoke of subsidies. He said in general he thought the traffic could be made to pay its own way except in connection with certain routes on which the traffic was not enough to make the line a paying proposition. Again using the illustration of the United States to South Africa, he said there would have to be a line to South Africa, but it probably would not be a paying proposition. He therefore wished that we would apply the same policy which he had worked out for shipping lines after the last war, namely: to have the United States Government use its planes and its men to run government lines—but always on the understanding that if ever a private line was prepared to bid for the route, the Government would promptly retire from the business.

(6) As to air and landing rights, the President said that he wanted a very free interchange. That is, he wanted arrangements by which planes of one country could enter any other country for the purpose of discharging traffic of foreign origin, and accepting foreign bound traffic. Thus, if Canada wanted a line from Canada to Jamaica, with [Page 362] stops in the United States at Buffalo and Miami, they should be able to discharge traffic of Canadian origin at Buffalo, and take on traffic at Buffalo for Jamaica; but they should not be allowed to carry from Buffalo to Miami.

He considered that each country would have a number—in the United States a quite large number—of airports available for such foreign traffic.

In addition to that, he thought planes should have general right of free transit and right of technical stop—that is, the right to land at any field and get fuel and service, without, however, taking on or discharging traffic.

This, he pointed out, would dispose of any need for a United Nations authority to manage airfields.

The President said that there might, however, remain airfields in respect of which the traffic itself would not pay the cost of upkeep. Liberia, for instance, might have to maintain a field for the purpose of a line between the United States and South Africa; but there would not be business enough to make it a paying proposition. There, there might have to be United Nations contributions, or arrangements might have to be made for the lines which used the field to pay a part of the cost.

(7) In answer to a question from Lovett, the President said that he thought there should be no general party [parley?] or conference about aviation until the time was right to call a United Nations conference. Talks with Britain and other countries could be handled quietly as a part of the preparatory discussion.

(8) The President considered that there would have to be a United Nations Conference on aviation and probably a United Nations organization to handle such matters as safety standards, signals, communication, weather reporting, and the incidental services which went with airports; and also to handle the problem of competitive subsidies or rates.

The impending return of Secretary Hull from the Moscow Conference was then announced, and we broke up.

A. A. B[erle], Jr.
  1. Edward R. Stettinius, Jr.
  2. Reference is to the Conferences at Cairo and Tehran, 1943; for documentation on these Conferences, see Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Cairo and Tehran, 1943.
  3. Juan T. Trippe, President of Pan American Airways.