Records of the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee, Lot 52–M45

Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State to President Truman 13

SWNCC 19/22

Subject: Continuation of Construction of Airfield at Dhahran.

It will be recalled that Mr. Grew on June 26, 1945 submitted to the White House a memorandum asking if you would approve the construction of a United States military airfield at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The substance of that memorandum was forwarded to you, and the State Department was informed on June 28 by Admiral Leahy14 that you had given your approval to the project.

[Page 957]

Following the receipt of your approval, negotiations with regard to the airfield were undertaken direct with King Ibn Saud by General Giles and Mr. Eddy, our Minister to Saudi Arabia, and an agreement was reached on August 6.15

On August 23, however, the War Department in a memorandum submitted to the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee16 suggested that the matter be re-examined in view of “rapid developments in the war against Japan”. Now that Japan has capitulated, the War Department feels that by the time the construction is completed, the military usefulness of the airfield in connection with the present war will be doubtful. It is, therefore, of the opinion that any decision to continue the construction should be based not upon the possible usefulness of the airfield in connection with the present war, but upon the broader considerations involving the national interests of the United States.

In addition, the War Department has stated that in its opinion any expenditure of War Department funds now appropriated by Congress without specific authorization by the President and without specific authorization or sanction by the Congress for the construction of the airfield at Dhahran could not be considered a purpose for which War Department funds are currently available.

The Secretaries of State, War and Navy, after considering the various factors involved, have reached the conclusion that construction of the airfield and auxiliary facilities at Dhahran should be completed by this Government in the national interest, provided that United States air rights are adequately guaranteed along the lines suggested in the next paragraph. The Secretary of State is of the opinion that such construction should be completed by the War Department at its own expense as implementation of United States national policy.

They feel that if the United States military and civil air rights are to be adequately guaranteed the Government of Saudi Arabia should agree (a) that the United States Army will have title to the airfield and auxiliary facilities until completed, and control thereof so long thereafter as needed by the United States Army up to a maximum of three years after the date of completion, (b) that it will enter into a contract with an approved American company which will enable the latter to operate the airfield for the Saudi Arabian Government from the date on which the United States Army control ends to January 1, 1956, or until such time as the Saudi Arabian Government has available the trained technicians competent to operate the field, and (c) that it will sign the standard United States Air Transport Agreement.

[Page 958]

Since shipping and materials have been allocated and United States Army engineers and civilian laborers have already reached Dhahran and have started construction of the airfield, and since this work will continue unless halted by instructions from Washington, it is important that a decision be made as to whether the airfield is to be completed, and if so, under what conditions, and that this decision be brought at once to the attention of the Government of Saudi Arabia.

The Department of State would therefore appreciate being informed if you authorize the completion of the construction by the War Department at its own expense of this airfield and its auxiliary facilities on the conditions outlined above provided that Congressional approval or sanction for the use of War Department funds already appropriated be obtained, or, if it should prove impracticable to secure such approval or sanction, that appropriation by Congress for the specific purpose be obtained.

If you approve of the completion of the construction of the field on the foregoing basis, Congressional sanction or authorization as aforesaid will be applied for by the War Department.

Dean Acheson
  1. Sent to the Secretary of State by the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee on September 22, 1945, for signature and transmittal to President Truman.
  2. See footnote 43, p. 917.
  3. See despatch 162, August 8, from Jidda, p. 943.
  4. Memorandum of August 21, 1945, by the Assistant Secretary of War (McCloy) not printed; circulated as SWNCC 19/18/D by the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee on August 23.