853.014/7–2445

No. 1301
Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State
secret

Memorandum of Conversation

Subject: Expulsion of Japanese from Portuguese Timor

Participants: Portuguese Ambassador, Dr. João Antonio de Bianchi;
Acting Secretary, Mr. Grew

The Portuguese Ambassador called on me this afternoon and left with me the appended note with regard to the desire of the Portuguese Government to send an expeditionary force to expel the Japanese from Portuguese Timor following the tripartite agreement of November 28, 1944. The Ambassador talked at length regarding the importance of this step to the Portuguese Government, which found it very difficult to explain to the Portuguese people why their soldiers continued to be held at Lourenço Marques when no progress whatever appears to have been made in arranging for the expedition and why the repeated inquiries from the Portuguese Government had resulted in no constructive replies. The Ambassador added that the soldiers themselves were becoming decidedly restive. He said that the war with Japan might come to an end in the not distant future and Portugal would still find itself on the sidelines so far as the reoccupation of this Portuguese colony is concerned.

I said to the Ambassador that I was fully familiar with this problem and he need not for a moment think that it had been pigeonholed in the Department of State. On the contrary, we had the matter steadily before us and we had recently received from our Embassy at Lisbon a report of the conversation which Mr. Salazar had had with the retiring Military Attaché, Colonel Solborg, on this subject.1 I said that as the Ambassador knew, the problem had been given full consideration by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Combined Chiefs of Staff and that the whole question is one of timing and logistics. Our armed forces are now concentrating all their efforts on bringing the war with Japan to a victorious close at the earliest moment, and it is very difficult to persuade our military and naval authorities to deflect in any degree their efforts and the needed shipping from this essential purpose. I said, however, that in the light of Mr. Salazar’s talk with Colonel Solborg and the Ambassador’s talk today with me, I should be glad to make further efforts to follow the matter up and see what could be done in giving effect to the [Page 1358]desires of the Portuguese Government. I suggested that it would be unwise to approach the matter at this moment until the return of the American group from the meeting at Potsdam and while the President, the Secretary of State and our highest military and naval officers are absent from the country.

The Ambassador once again urged that steps be taken and he furthermore said that he had long ago urged his Government to send two Portuguese warships to an Australian port so that the Japanese might know that the Portuguese flag was flying in those areas. He hoped that arrangements could be made with Australia to bring this about.

J[oseph] C. G[rew]
[Attachment]
The Portuguese Ambassador (Bianchi) to the Acting Secretary of State
secret
Proc. 79
No.–170

Sir:—Following conversations in Lisbon, in the autumn of last year, a tripartite agreement—Portuguese, American and British—was arrived at and concluded in the form of an exchange of notes, which took place on November 28, accepting and agreeing to the participation of Portugal in such operations as might be conducted eventually to expel the Japanese from Portuguese Timor in order that that territory might be restored to full Portuguese sovereignty.

This was to be effected in two forms: direct participation by the use of Portuguese forces, and indirect, by the concession to the government of the United States of facilities for the construction, use and control of an air base on the Island of Santa Maria, Azores. To the latter, in which the United States Government had shown very special interest, was given immediate care and close cooperation by the Portuguese authorities concerned and a major transoceanic airfield is now in full and satisfactory operation.

As regards the former, the Portuguese expedition, staff talks were held in Lisbon at the time, between Portuguese, American and British officers including Australians, and a tentative plan was drawn up to be submitted to the Combined Chiefs of Staff as a basis for future discussion and final arrangements.

My Government have repeatedly asked for information regarding the action that may have been taken in considering the plan and requested that it be progressed with. So far no constructive reply has been received. In the meantime, in preparation for the said direct participation they have trained, equipped and transferred several [Page 1359]thousand troops to Lourenço Marques, the port of embarkation for the expedition.

Since the war in Europe has ended, the operations in the Far East having been intensified and their theatre being in process of expansion, The Portuguese Government have become all the more anxious to be advised and prepared in sufficient time for the campaign that may develop for the reoccupation of Timor, in order to ensure Portuguese armed participation in accordance with the agreements above referred to.

Unless and until such arrangements have reached a more advanced stage, it is not easy to explain to the Portuguese people what measures have or are being taken to redress a situation which has been and is disturbing the national mind.

I am, therefore, instructed to request Your Excellency’s good offices in endeavoring to obtain, from the military authorities concerned, the reply we have been expecting. Similar steps are being taken in London.

My Government further ask me to convey to the proper quarters their willingness to send here a small mission, including some of the officers who took part in the staff talks in Lisbon, should that be found necessary or helpful.

Thanking Your Excellency in anticipation for your kind and early attention in this matter, I avail myself [etc.]

J Bianchi