The Secretary of State to the Secretary of the Navy (Forrestal)

My Dear Mr. Secretary: Some time ago our Ambassador at Rio de Janeiro, Mr. Berle, took up with this Department the question of the Naval Operating Base in that city, and suggested that if the current strength of the Base was no longer necessary, as seemed likely, it would be reassuring to Brazil if the personnel were reduced to the minimum required for carrying on essential operations.

Officials of your Department, when approached in the matter, stated that the Naval Operating Base was being maintained at its current level primarily because of surplus property disposal problems, and added that the Base was also active in the Naval Air Transport Service and in the routing of shipping still under the Maritime Commission. It was further stated that it was the intention of the Navy Department to close the Naval Operating Base completely as soon as conditions permitted, but no estimate was given of the approximate time when this could take place.

I am now in receipt of a telegram from Ambassador Berle in which he states that Admiral Greer,18 while in Rio de Janeiro for the inauguration of President Dutra, looked into the situation of the Naval [Page 436] Operating Base and was kind enough to discuss his conclusions with the Embassy. Admiral Greer is understood to be reporting directly to the Navy Department, but his views, with which the Ambassador is in full accord, are believed to be as follows:

First: The Naval Operating Base is an anomaly in time of peace; it continues to exist chiefly because there is no other unit to which it could turn over some items of property and equipment in its possession.

Secondly: The Base’s functions could and should be transferred in part to the Senior Naval Member of the Joint Brazilian-United States Commission on his arrival about March 1, and in part to a unit which could be set up at any time in the Naval Attachés Office.

Thirdly: Announcement should be made as soon as reasonably possible that the Navy intended to close the Base at a stated future date, at which time all matters not disposed of to the Brazilian Government would be distributed as indicated above; the fixing of a definite date would considerably speed up the process of liquidation of current business.

It is believed that if this program were carried out existing commitments could be handled by about one-fourth of the present strength of the Naval Operating Base, when properly distributed to the Office of the Naval Attaché and the Senior Naval Member of the Commission.

I attach great importance to the reduction of our armed forces in Brazil as rapidly as conditions permit, it being understood, of course, that we should not sacrifice any legitimate interest of ours by so doing. The continued presence in Brazil of forces not seriously needed will inevitably lead to misunderstanding and will be exploited by those elements who are only too ready to accuse the United States of designs “to occupy Brazil indefinitely.” For this reason, the early announcement of our intention to terminate the Naval Operating Base at Rio de Janeiro on a fixed future date would have a wholesome effect on our general relations with Brazil.19

Sincerely yours,

James F. Byrnes
  1. Rear Adm. Marshall R. Greer, Pan American Division, Navy Department.
  2. In telegram 268, February 25, 1946, 6 p.m., to Rio de Janeiro, the Secretary of State indicated the impossibility of decommissioning this base by April 1, and the expectation that this would be effected by the end of the month (811.34532/2–2046). On March 22 the Navy Department ordered the disestablishment of the base on April 25, according to telegram 421, March 26, 1946, 8 p.m., to Rio de Janeiro (811.34532/3–2646).