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


My Dear Mr. Secretary: Reference is made to negotiations which have been conducted with the Government of Cuba for the postwar use of the air base at San Julián.

A draft agreement for the reciprocal use by Cuban and United States military forces of air bases at San Antonio de los Banõs and San Julián was delivered to the Cuban Ambassador on November 8, 1945.6 Ambassador Norweb discussed the matter on several occasions with President Grau, and discussions were also held here between the Cuban Ambassador and representatives of this Department. While President Grau assured Ambassador Norweb of Cuba’s desire to cooperate fully with the United States in the post-war use of the bases, he has refused to consider any agreement until after the return of the bases to the Cuban Government.

It is, therefore, recommended that the Navy Department take steps to remove from the base at San Julián such non-fixed installations, equipment, and material as it deems appropriate in order that the base may be turned over to the Cuban Government in conformity with the provisions set forth in an exchange of notes between Ambassador Braden and the Cuban Minister of State in July, 1942.7

The question whether any of this removable equipment should be declared surplus in Cuba was discussed at a meeting attended by representatives of the War, State, and Navy Departments on March 18. The view was expressed that it would not be desirable to inform the Cubans at this time that any equipment may be declared surplus, but that recommendations should be formulated by the Navy Department as soon as possible so that should it be considered desirable, later but prior to the transfer of the base, to make available to the Cubans such items, for example, as vehicles and equipment the removal of which [Page 704] in terms of probable surplus value in the United States would not appear economical, steps to make such equipment available could then be taken. Because of the possible negotiating value of such equipment it should be emphasized, however, that no statement of possible surplus should be made to the Cubans until agreement has been reached between the State and Navy Departments. Should it be decided to declare surplus and offer for sale in Cuba any of the movable equipment, the opinion was expressed that cash transactions exclusively should be undertaken.

The fixed installations, title to which will be vested under the agreement in the Cuban Government as of the date of transfer, are of course not involved and will be transferred in accordance with the procedure referred to in my letter of March 8, 1946.8 An inventory of such installations should be made and signed by the Cuban Government on the date of transfer.

I suggest May 20, which is the Cuban national holiday, as the appropriate date for the formal transfer of the base.9

A similar communication, together with a copy of this letter, is being sent to the Secretary of War recommending the same procedure and simultaneous action with respect to the air base at San Antonio de los Banõs.10 Copies are likewise being sent to the Foreign Liquidation Commissioner for his information.

Sincerely yours,

James F. Byrnes
  1. Not printed.
  2. See footnote 5, above.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Secretary Forrestal replied in his letter of April 4, 1946, that Naval commands had been instructed to remove all equipment and materials from San Julián, with the exception of the fixed installations and equipment necessary to leave the base in a minimum operating condition; formal transfer of that base to the Cuban Government on May 20, 1946 was completely satisfactory to the Navy Department (811.24537/4-446).
  5. Secretary of War Patterson replied on March 30, 1946, that instructions had been given to make preparations to turn over all fixed installations at Batista Field to the Cuban Government, and estimated that all property and equipment not covered by the 1942 agreement might be removed from Batista Field within 90 days (811.24537/3-3046).