Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Holden Furber of the Division of British Commonwealth Affairs

top secret

Subject: US–UK Preliminary Discussions on Base Rights: Meeting of small Sub-Committee on Problems of Jurisdiction and Ancillary Questions of Interest to the Colonial Office.

Participants: Mr. Middleton, British Embassy
Mr. Rogers } of the British Colonial Office
Mr. Maude
Mr. Furber, BC
Lt. Commander Farnum
Colonel Warren

During the course of this meeting Mr. Rogers outlined the various points in which the Colonial Office was particularly interested in regard to the proposed Bases Agreement. It was agreed that this discussion should be concerned only with problems with reference to bases where joint rights were to be exercised. He pointed out that the Colonial Office people felt that it was quite necessary that the American service people should provide them with a rather exact geographical definition of the areas in which joint rights would be exercised and Colonel Warren, for his part, felt that there wasn’t any real problem in this regard and that any requirements the Army and Navy might have would be very unlikely to involve extensive movement of native villages or farms in the islands concerned. It was nevertheless the consensus of opinion of the group that, if such exact definitions as the Colonial Office wanted were to be made, it would be necessary for a small Anglo-American party to visit the islands and report on the exact things desired. It was the opinion that merely requesting the respective American Commanders and British Colonial officials on the spot to work out such details might result in a differing procedure with respect to each island. The group agreed that this suggestion should be referred back to a higher level since it was obvious that the carrying out of such a survey would entail much delay. It was felt that probably such detail did not need to be at hand in order to enable an agreement to be drafted with a considerable degree of finality.

Mr. Rogers next turned his attention to the clause in the American draft with reference to rights to use harbor and communication facilities. It was his feeling that this matter should be worked out on the basis that the relationship between the military and civil authorities having control over port and communications facilities should be the same as was the case with respect to the use of such facilities by United [Page 25]Kingdom ships and forces. Colonel Warren and Lt. Commander Farnum were of the opinion that there would be little difficulty under this head and it was suggested that the Colonial Office representatives should supply detailed information as to what the position was with respect to the use of these facilities in Pacific islands by United Kingdom military and naval forces. Mr. Rogers also made the point, and Mr. Maude was perhaps more emphatic about it, that the Colonial Office wanted to be sure that since the normal functioning of the economy of most of the small islands depended upon the free use of the very limited wharfage and anchorage facilities available, there should be some guarantee that in exercising the rights accorded to it the United States would not in effect have the power to upset arbitrarily the economy of the area by monopolizing such facilities. In that connection Mr. Maude wanted it borne in mind that the use of anchorage and wharfage in a particular island affected not only that island but, some times, the whole group of surrounding islands for which the island in question might be the administrative and trading center in which all economic activity with the outside world was concentrated.

Mr. Rogers next re-emphasized the desire of the Fiji authorities that under any arrangements the full use of the Nandi Airfield for the purpose of civil aviation would not be impaired by the according of joint rights to the United States. Colonel Warren felt that there would be no difficulty whatever on this point, since both the American and British military authorities were proceeding on the assumption that this field would be extensively used for civil purposes. Colonel Warren also said that it would probably be necessary to maintain a very small number of personnel regularly at Nandi Airfield.

Mr. Rogers pointed out that Ascension had not come within the terms of reference of the Colonial Office representatives when they left London and that they were asking for instructions as to whether to include Ascension in these discussions.

The group then proceeded to discuss the problems of exception from import duties and ancillary questions. It was the general opinion that the Anglo-American convention29 on double taxation took care of any possible income tax problems. In the field of direct taxation there would be naturally other small problems that might cause difficulty and should be ironed out, namely, such things as automobile license fees, dog licenses, and small charges. There was a general feeling that such problems could be easily worked out. In the customs field generally, the Colonial Office representatives stated that their position was that the solution which would most suit them [Page 26]would be the provision that there should be no distinction between the way in which United Kingdom and United States personnel, civilian and military, were treated as regards these matters by the Colonial governments concerned. For example, if the British Admiralty could import a certain type of supply without its being subject to any duty or other charge by the Colonial Government, then the United States Navy would have the same privilege. If an individual British sailor could import any article for his personal use without any duty charge by the Colonial Government, the United States sailor would have the same privilege. If articles issued as part of compensation to British sailors ashore in Colonial territory were exempt from local duty, then articles similarly issued by United States authorities would be similarly exempt. Mr. Rogers and Mr. Maude said they would supply the American service representatives with more detail on the British Admiralty and War Office practices with respect to these matters. The group then passed to the much more difficult question of jurisdiction.

The British representatives made it clear that, naturally, their desire was full jurisdiction with respect to civil cases and criminal offenses, it being understood that United States military and naval forces were under United States military and naval discipline. On this point as well they will work out a little more detail and let the American representatives know what is in their minds.

There was some discussion of the complicated legal issues involved and of the natural desire that some of the imperfections of the Caribbean arrangements on this score should be corrected. Mr. Maude asked whether it had been realized on the American side how much more difficult these and other similar problems would become in the case of Espiritu Santo. Mr. Furber said that he felt there were various aspects of the Espiritu Santo problem that would have to be considered at higher levels since it was obvious that not much could be done in that regard until the French were informed and brought into the discussions.

The meeting adjourned with the understanding that the British representatives would supply the information they had had in mind with reference to customs, jurisdiction and wharfage questions, and that the American military representatives would supply as much detail as possible with reference to the exact limits of the sites desired by the Army and Navy.

  1. Convention dated April 16, 1945; for text, see Department of State, TIAS, No. 1546 or 60 Stat. (pt. 2), 1377.