The Portuguese Embassy to the Department of State


The position of Portugal regarding the war with Japan and the reconquest or re-occupation of Portuguese Timor being a matter of frequent reference, it may be of interest to summarize its phases and implications.

As far back as June 23rd, 1943, when the Portuguese Government communicated to the British Ambassador in Lisbon their assent in principle to the British request for facilities in the Azores, they made [Page 456] clear their resolve to participate in any operations for the reconquest or re-occupation of Portuguese Timor.

On October 4th of the same year, just before the Azores agreement with Great Britain was put into effect, the British Embassy in Lisbon was handed a memorandum in which the Portuguese Government repeated their desire and intention of participating in operations to liberate Timor and requested information regarding the best way of handling the matter and settling in detail the practical execution of whatever agreement might be reached.

The answer of the United States and British Governments was not forthcoming until July 7th, 1944.41 In it, Portuguese participation in eventual operations connected with the reconquest or re-occupation of Portuguese Timor was accepted in principle, and the conditions governing it were to be defined in subsequent conversations between the General Staffs.

As was informally communicated to the Portuguese Government at the time, the Combined Chiefs of Staff, when they met at Cairo, were of the opinion that Portugal’s most important and immediate contribution to the war against Japan would be the granting of certain further facilities in the Azores, among them the concession of a major air base to the United States.

The way was thus paved for the Staff Conferences which began in Lisbon on September 18th, 1944, and wound up with the drafting of a document containing the Portuguese proposals regarding the cooperation of Portuguese military forces.42

Meanwhile negotiations were being conducted in Lisbon for the grant to the United States of facilities in the Azores connected with the war in the Pacific; they resulted in the agreements of November 28th, 1944, with the United States and Great Britain in which: (1) both these Governments formally accepted and agreed to the participation of Portugal in whatever operations might eventually be undertaken to expel the Japanese from Portuguese Timor; (2) it was recognized that this participation would be in two forms: “direct” by the use of Portuguese forces, and “indirect” by granting to the United States an air base in Santa Maria for the purpose, expressly mentioned in the agreements, of facilitating the transfer of American forces to and from the Pacific theatre.

Simultaneously, an agreement was signed between Portugal and the United States giving effect to the concession of facilities on Santa Maria.

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This “indirect” form of participation was, and is being, scrupulously and faithfully carried out. Its great value was repeatedly emphasized during the negotiations leading up to it. For instance, Ambassador Norweb told the Secretary General of the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on February 25th, 1944, that the greatest, and indeed invaluable, assistance which Portugal could render in the war against Japan would be to facilitate the passage of airplanes to the Far East; and on May 23rd, 1944, the Ambassador, in conversation with Dr. Salazar, again emphasized that the “indirect” collaboration Portugal would provide through the airfield at Santa Maria would be of precious value in the Allies’ struggle against Japan. On the latter occasion Ambassador Norweb referred to the desire of the United States that Portugal be represented at the peace conference dealing with the settlement in the Far East, where her interests of Macao and Timor should be defended and her position upheld, and he mentioned the mutual advantages of such representation. Similar statements were made at the State Department to the Portuguese Ambassador in Washington.

The Portuguese Government, thus, long since made clear their intention of collaborating in operations for the reconquest of Timor, and, since the Santa Maria agreement, their participation in the struggle against Japan was an effective one: “indirectly”, by virtue of concessions in the Azores; “directly”, by virtue of the preparation and concentration of an expeditionary force, in accord with the plans drawn up by the Chiefs of Staff, which had only been awaiting the opportune moment and order to place itself under the Allied Command.

Consequently, in the war operations against Japan, Portugal’s role was integrated with the United Nations through the agreements concluded with the United States and Great Britain and her right to participate, as she has traditionally and consistently done, in conferences or acts regarding the settlement of Pacific problems is once more fully established.

  1. See telegram 2109, July 7, 1944, 7 p.m., from Lisbon, Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. iv, p. 44.
  2. See telegram 3043, October 2, 1944, 7 p.m., from Lisbon, and following documents, ibid., pp. 7384.