The Secretary of State to the British Ambassador (Halifax)

top secret

My Dear Mr. Ambassador: It will be of great assistance in pending legislation32 if the United States and the United Kingdom could sign and publish in the next two or three weeks an agreement on military bases. Such an agreement would, of course, make no reference to any pending legislation in either country. I recognize fully that the question of bases is an independent one which must be considered on its merits. I have no doubt that our governments will, in due course, reach a satisfactory agreement on bases, but it will assist me if such an agreement in general terms could be announced very promptly.

We might sign in the next few weeks an exchange of notes describing an agreement in principle on bases and stating that the necessary formal agreement or agreements would be concluded in accordance [Page 29]with the constitutional requirements of the two countries. Publication in the next few weeks of a satisfactory exchange of notes of this kind will contribute to the good will without which success of our efforts becomes questionable.

My thought is that the opening paragraphs of the note would be carefully worked out from the public relations standpoint of both nations and would make appropriate reference to our joint war effort, the high degree of cooperation between our countries during the war and the considerable expenditures of the United States on military installations in British territory. Reference could be made to the conversations which have been going on between our two governments for some months in an effort to strengthen and reinforce the collective system of security provided for under the United Nations and to enable our two countries to make provision for the joint military use of certain installations constructed by the United States on British territory.

The notes would then state that in pursuance of these conversations it has been agreed that the United States and his Majesty’s forces would have joint rights in the military installations which had been erected in Ascension, Tarawa, Guadalcanal–Tulagi, and the Fiji Islands, unless his Majesty’s Government should perceive some reason for ceding Tarawa. It would be stated that the British Government would agree, provided the French Government agreed, to the United States having joint military rights in the installations in Espiritu Santo. The notes would stipulate that in ordinary times the United States would not maintain military garrisons in these places, but that we would have joint military rights to use the facilities which would be maintained and operated by the British Government (a special provision would be necessary for Espiritu Santo) in accordance with recommendations agreed to by the military authorities of our two countries, based on the requirements of international peace and security.

There would be an appropriate provision in the notes to the effect that the British Government could make these facilities available to the armed forces of the United Nations on the call of the Security Council and that arrangements for their joint use by the United States and Great Britain should be wholly consistent with any security provisions which might be worked out in the future by the Security Council.

With the foregoing provision for subsequent complete integration of our bilateral arrangements with the United Nations, I think that we might well be able to agree on a long-term arrangement. I would [Page 30]be prepared, however, to give sympathetic consideration to an interim arrangement along the lines set forth above if you cannot agree now to a long-term treaty.

I think that the notes, or perhaps a separate exchange of notes, should deal on a fair and equitable basis with our conflicting claims to the disputed Pacific islands. There are various formulae which might be used. One which I believe we could accept would be for you to recognize unconditionally United States sovereignty over Canton, Christmas and Funafuti Islands, the places where our Chiefs of Staff want bases, and to split fifty-fifty between us the other islands claimed by our two governments.

An agreement along these lines would, I believe, contribute materially to genuine good relationship at this critical period and would dispose of a long-standing difference between our two governments.

I should be grateful if you would let me know your government’s reactions to my thoughts set forth above.33 We are facing a difficult situation in Congress, particularly in the House of Representatives, and I am troubling you about this matter of an early exchange of notes only after having given full consideration to our previous correspondence on the subject.

I am [etc.]

James F. Byrnes
  1. Presumably reference is to legislation relating to extension of loans to the United Kingdom. For documentation relating to extension by United States of credit to the United Kingdom, see Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. vi, pp. 1 ff.
  2. No reply from British Embassy has been found in the Department’s files.