740.00119 Council/7–646: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in France (Caffery)

us urgent

3280. Secdel 415. For the Secretary50 from Acheson. Secretary Patterson51 is strongly urging upon me Army’s feeling necessity of early action or decision on Azores question raised in Secdel 342, June 25.52 In memorandum received yesterday52 Patterson says implementation of May 30 agreement, as now interpreted by the Portuguese, places Army in a militarily unacceptable position. Reports received from commanding general Santa Maria indicate Portuguese are in fact giving strictest possible interpretation to May 30 agreement, which if carried through may well result in making the transit privileges through the Azores practically useless. Patterson concludes his memorandum by suggesting that (1) a State Dept officer proceed to Paris carrying a proposed form of political assurance to the Portuguese which if approved by you could then form the basis for renewed negotiations in Lisbon (2) such renewed negotiations would have as their first objective suspension of May 30 agreement and (3) in so far as our bargaining position permits the new agreement should follow the requirements of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and should seek to obtain the continued use of Santa Maria on terms no less favorable than the 1944 agreement.

At the time we accepted the May 30 agreement we realized it was a far cry from what we wanted. Our negotiators did feel, however, on the basis of their talks with Portuguese officials that practical interpretations would be given to the agreement and that workable arrangements could be reached whereby, at least at Lagens, American technical and other personnel would in fact carry the major share of the operation of the field. The Portuguese are quite incapable of doing it themselves.

I appreciate the impracticability of even trying to formulate political assurances which would have any real meaning. Salazar’s position is that by giving us military base rights he automatically puts himself on our side in any future conflict, and wants to know what guarantees we have for Portugal in the event of such conflict. It is possible that very general language might be sufficient. Our people are, however, convinced that in the absence of some formula we are not going to get any better rights than we now have.

It might meet Salazar’s contentions for U.S. to agree to a public [Page 1003]statement reaffirming our obligation under UN to use force if necessary to assist in restoring international peace if Portugal were a victim of aggression. It probably would satisfy Salazar if we did that and continued with a statement that if the, Security Council were unable for some reason to take action, U.S. and Portuguese Governments would consult with one another in regard to the situation. There are other forms of words that might do but they amount to variations of the foregoing. I recognize fully the political importance, domestic and international, of any such statement but the action described is only what we would probably do anyway.

The War Dept has recommended that we reopen now negotiations with Portugal on the basis of our trying to find some political assurance that will satisfy Salazar. War Dept would like to obtain military rights with provision for maintenance in the Azores U.S. military personnel to service our planes; they would prefer to have such rights for a long term but would doubtless agree if you urged them to limit agreement to our occupation period of Germany or Japan or 10 years whichever is the longer.

The second alternative, if you feel that the international situation makes an approach along the foregoing lines inadvisable at this time, would be to do what we can right away to try to get the Portuguese to agree to a workable interpretation of the May 30 agreement. This would mean endeavoring to obtain Portuguese agreement to the maximum possible participation by American military personnel in the operation of the field and auxiliary services at Lagens and some participation at Santa Maria. Since we have nothing to offer to the Portuguese their agreement will probably be difficult to get.

The third alternative would be to do nothing now; let the Portuguese work out their plans; completely take over both fields; withdraw all U.S. forces and such equipment as we do not sell to the Portuguese; retain our military transit rights at Lagens for 18 months; and await developments. The War Dept say that the fields would be unsafe for operations and that they probably wouldn’t send any military planes through the Azores. For that reason the War Dept would be strongly opposed to alternative 3.

In connection with alternative 3, we could, of course, in an emergency, ask the British to demand military rights under the alliance and let us in under the alliance umbrella. incoln,53 Bonesteel54 and Matthews have a considerable amount of background on the subject.

I know how busy you are and I dislike adding to your worries but Patterson is pushing me very hard on this matter.

  1. Secretary Byrnes was in Paris attending the Council of Foreign Ministers meeting.
  2. Robert P. Patterson, Secretary of War.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Brig. Gen. George A. Lincoln of the Operations Division, War Department.
  6. Col. C. H. Bonesteel, III, of the War Department.