The Minister in Portugal (Norweb) to the Secretary of State
[Received 4:51 p.m.]
553. For the Secretary, the Under Secretary and Matthews. Although I regret that Colonel Payne39 was called upon to return to [Page 13] the U.S. within a few days of his arrival in Lisbon, his visit was helpful. In particular, I shall draw upon the following information vouchsafed me by Colonel Payne when I next see Dr. Salazar.
- That, with the extensions, Lagens will be sufficient to take care of our European operations;
- That it would likewise be sufficient to take care of our Far Eastern operations as long as the European war has not passed its zenith;
- That, accordingly, we are prepared to take into consideration the problem of maintenance of Portuguese neutrality by undertaking after the completion of the survey to proceed to build the base but on the understanding that not only would it not be operated until after the crisis in the European war is passed, but if necessary, to limit the stage of construction with this in view;
- That the base must be under American command during the war since the traffic will be of American origin and that, in view of the considerations mentioned in 3 above, the objections on the score of prejudicing Portuguese neutrality are untenable;
- That in point of practice the availability of such a base will be the most important contribution Portugal can make to the war in the Far East.
With regard to this latter point, I shall go on to express my personal opinion that the difficulties inherent in answering Dr. Salazar’s question regarding the liberation of Timor, such as making known to a neutral the plans of a belligerent, have, I believe, been augmented by reason of the difficulties we have experienced in forwarding such an important project as the proposed base and navigation aids on which the liberation of Timor will be found so importantly to depend.
- Lt. Col. Robert G. Payne, designated to succeed Col. Grant C. Mason as technical representative of U.S. Army in Portugal to assist in the negotiations regarding the Azores.↩