War Department Memorandum of Trans-Atlantic Teletype Conference

top secret

Addressees are: To Asst Chief Staff OPD (Colonel Robert Tate) and State Dept Mr. John D. Hickerson.

Present at Santa Maria for conference will be Mr. Paul T. Culbertson, Maj Gen L. S. Kuter, Brig Gen A. W. Kissner.

Subject: United States Portuguese Agreement Concerning Santa Maria Air Base.

Initial material for presentation from Santa Maria being lengthy, it is organized in parts A, B, and C. Part A consists of two papers delivered to us in Lisbon in Portuguese about 0000Z May 27, second portion of which entitled “Proposed Note” is principal subject of this conference. Part B contains background, our views, comments and conclusions on Part A. Part C is our recommended action.

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Part A. Section 1. Memorandum of transmittal of proposed note from Portuguese Government to us follows:

“Lisbon 26 May 1946

“My Dear Mr. Ambassador:

“I enclose herewith the proposed agreement which the Portuguese Government, in the broad spirit of friendship and comprehension which joins Portugal, the United States of America, and England, proposes for the satisfaction of the interests of the United States and of Great Britain, which were recently set forth by the American negotiators now in Lisbon, in view on one hand of the termination of the Azores agreements and, on the other, of certain requirements of the American and British Occupation Forces in Germany and Japan

“The draft project referred to was drawn up with equal attention to the desires of the Portuguese Government as to the future use of the two fields of the Azores.

“It is intended that the airdrome of Santa Maria shall be used for commercial aviation while that of Lagens will be for military purposes. In connection with this latter objective, the Portuguese authorities will proceed, beginning 2 June next, to the progressive integration of the airdrome of Lagens into the plan of national military airbases.

“The circumstances which I have just outlined will aid in the comprehension of the terms of the Portuguese proposal which I am greatly pleased to transmit to Your Excellency by virtue not only of its practical advantage for the American and British interests, but also by the significance it expresses as to the friendly sentiments of the Portuguese Government for the great American nation and for our ally. With the compliments of my highest consideration, etc., etc. Marcello Mathias.”

Part A. Section 2. “Proposed note:

“Mr. Ambassador,

“Pursuant to the conversations recently held in virtue of the termination of the Azores agreements and of the request presented by the Governments of the United States of America and of Great Britain as to certain necessities of the Occupation Forces in Germany and Japan, I have the honor to communicate to Your Excellency the formula found to satisfy the several interests in cause:

  • “A. The American and British Governments will solemnly deliver, on the second day of June next, to the Portuguese authorities designated for that purpose, the respective fields of Santa Maria and Lagens with their installations;
  • “B. The Portuguese Government will authorize, for a period of 18 months counting from that date, that American and English aircraft in the service of the Occupation Forces in Germany and Japan may pass in transit through the field of Lagens, the special character of such aircraft being taken into consideration insofar as customs and other facilities are concerned;
  • “C. Temporarily, however, and until the installation in Lagens of a Portuguese military airforce unit, the Portuguese Government will permit the transit of the aircraft referred to in the foregoing paragraph to be effected either through the airdrome of Santa Maria or through the airdrome of Lagens;
  • “D. Until the Portuguese authorities have organized the services relative to the utilization of the airdromes of Santa Maria and Lagens, the American and English authorities agree to maintain, in collaboration with and under the supervision of the Portuguese authorities, the services presently existent which are necessary to the use of the field;
  • “E. During a transition period of ninety days the American and English authorities will order withdrawn from the airdromes referred to all material and personnel there existent which the Portuguese authorities do not consider indispensable to the maintenance and utilization of the fields and which they do not wish to acquire or to contract for. In case the American and British Governments accept the terms set forth above, an affirmative answer from Your Excellency and from His British Majesty’s Ambassador, to whom an identical note is sent on this date, will constitute, with this (project), the agreement of the three governments on the matter. I take this opportunity to renew to Your Excellency the protests of my highest consideration.”

Part B.

The message quoted above was delivered to the residence very late last night. Mathias had come personally to the residence at about six thirty and orally outlined to us35 the proposals contained in these messages. As usual he did all the talking. He was quite pointed in that he considered that the Portuguese Government was being most generous, was in fact giving us what we have asked for and was playing a big role in American British Portuguese cooperation. He came back to … our inability to give political guarantee. On the longer term negotiations (as separate from reaching our understanding for June 2) he said that with our acceptance of his present proposals these negotiations could continue if we wish if we wish (he made this statement twice) this statement is generally in line with our request for a stop gap agreement and was not intended as a threat or indication at Portuguese desire to suspend the overall discussion. One could interpret Mathias oral presentation as indicating that if we will accept the Portuguese formula the actual mechanics of operation may go along somewhat as they are now. Our local Lisbon boys feel that it would work out that way.

O’Malley who had seen Mathias at five thirty came to the Embassy after dinner to discuss new proposals. He showed us his telegram to London, to Washington and referred to our Emtel May 26. He made it quite clear that he considered that the proposals adequately meet British interest; that the proposals should be equally acceptable to us and suggested strongly we recommend that you authorize us to accept. O’Malley seems to feel that if we accept forthwith the mechanics of operation will continue for some time as they are at present. [Page 993]He pointed out Portuguese were not asking financial or other support—a point of considerable interest to the British. O’Malley spoke in justification of Portuguese skepticism of what the U. S. might do in the event of another war and more particularly in the event of a threat to Portugal citing particularly the danger to Portugal of a Soviet dominated Spain. If O’Malley’s attitude as represented by what he had to say last night receives London support we won’t get much help from the British in objecting to these new proposals.
Deptel 526 May 25 indicates to us we have not made clear the vital importance Portuguese attach to a full and open recognition that the present Santa Maria agreement ends on June 2 and that any arrangement for operations after that date must have an entirely new basis. We agree that Mathias statement as reported by Crocker (Emtel 460 May 23) was misleading. Nevertheless they have insisted on this June 2 business from the very start. We have stated in our telegrams to you that we assume there is no intention of continuing our operations unless such action has the full approval of the Portuguese Government. We are now confronted with specific proposals which in fact come from Salazar. We are certain in our own minds that the proposed direct approach we were told in Deptel 526 May 25 to make to Salazar would not change Salazar’s fixed idea that present agreement must end June 2. Such an approach might well nourish the already existing suspicion about American power politics and about our interest to live up to the June 2 obligation. Proposed message from Secretary to Salazar had not arrived Lisbon prior to our take off for Santa Maria.
You are reminded that we left Washington with the mutual understanding among us that we were entering a fairly important game without any big chips. We have stated every advantage to Portugal that we have to offer in terms as strong as honesty tolerates. In reply the Portuguese repeat their indifference to tangible, material and aeronautical advantages and state politely but firmly that their interests are in the political field and our government comes to them with empty hands. We have made several unsuccessful attempts to get the Portuguese to extend the June 2 date, leaving operations, control etc just as they are now. We feel further efforts along this line will get us nowhere. The Portuguese have now come forward with a definite proposal, a proposal which apparently will have British support. We are more or less at a point of fishing or cutting bait. If we are not going to stay on unless the Portuguese agree we are confronted with a decision of getting out or accepting these proposals hoping that in practice the problems will work themselves out satisfactorily. [Page 994]Failure to arrive at an understanding on the June 2 question substantially along lines of Portuguese proposal might well jeopardize the long term discussion.

Part C. While we appreciate fully that the Portuguese proposals are far from being satisfactory, we feel

That the US for policy reasons cannot stay here by force.
The ATC operations can not be halted, war 89346 May 25.
The proposals now before us are the best we can get between now and 2 June, and therefore we recommend we be authorized to agree to these proposals subject to a proviso that our acceptance is without prejudice to the long term proposals we have made and that our negotiations will continue. We will try to influence Portuguese to accept our original concept that both airfields will be open to civil commercial aviation and that U. S. Government aircraft will not be excluded from either.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

  1. Mr. Culbertson and Generals Kuter and Kissner.