The Chargé in Portugal ( Crocker ) to the Secretary of State
[Received 4:40 p.m.]
596. ReDeptel 422, Match 15, 4 p.m.23 I called on Sampayo last evening and informed him that section 2 of the ATC draft agreement was not satisfactory. He stated that he had heard something to that effect from Ambassador Bianchi but that the telegram was not entirely clear. I explained to him that the American Government was unwilling to depend for its use of Santa Maria for ATC operations upon the assurances that a liberal interpretation would be given by the Portuguese Government to the “emergency” use of that field.
Sampayo stated the problem from a Portuguese point of view as follows: If the ATC were a military operation, he acknowledged our right to use Santa Maria but stated that in such event, permission to use the territory of metropolitan Portugal for such traffic would cut across Dr. Salazar’s conception of Portuguese neutrality. On the other hand, if it were a commercial airline, while the use of the Lisbon airfield would present no difficulties, we would be excluded by the Santa Maria agreement from using that field. I observed that I felt this was creating a dilemma where none in fact existed; that for purposes of reaching a solution, it would be perfectly simple to recognize that the proposed ATC operation was neither a military nor a commercial one and that by considering it as merely a government-operated service, it should not be difficult to grant the desired permission to operate both through Santa Maria and through metropolitan Portugal.
I said that we had at no time from the very outset concealed that both military materiel and personnel would be carried in ATC planes but that as the planes would not be armed, although the crews and personnel would be in uniform, the operation as a whole had been accepted by the Portuguese as non-military in character. On the other hand, there was no question of its being a commercial enterprise.
At this point Sampayo asked me whether in my private opinion the agreement might fail if we were unable to find a solution on the point under discussion, to which I replied frankly that I had no doubt of it. He then asked whether it would be considered that Portugal would be harming American interests and contributing to a prolongation of the war if the right to use Santa Maria were not granted and I replied in the affirmative. Thinking out loud he then wondered whether a formula might be devised for him to [Page 447] submit to the Prime Minister which would grant us the right to use Santa Maria for emergency landings on the basis that the ATC service constituted an exceptional case. To this I replied that if they were prepared to grant the use of Santa Maria, it would be necessary to do so without any qualifying phrase involving the use of the word “emergency”; that if an exception could be made it should be granted without any strings to it. I said that in seeking a solution of the character which he had suggested, it should be, however, clearly understood that no feature of the ATC agreement must be considered as establishing principles or precedents for guidance at a later time; that in making this observation I had in mind future conversations looking toward a civil air agreement.24 He agreed that the two matters were entirely separate.
Sampayo then stated that he would take the matter up immediately with Dr. Salazar and would let me know the result.
Colonel Payne has not yet returned.