The Secretary of State to the Cuban Ambassador (Belt)

Excellency: Reference is made to the note of February 6, 1946 from Your Excellency’s Minister of State to Ambassador Norweb11 concerning military bases constructed at San Antonio de los Baños and San Julián, Cuba, by the United States Government under the 1942 agreements for military and naval cooperation12 and setting [Page 705] forth the principles by which the Government of Cuba proposes to be guided in the future administration of these bases. Reference is also made to the Department’s note of February 13, 1946 to Your Excellency and to discussions which have taken place here and in Habana concerning the transfer of the bases to the Cuban Government.

As your Excellency is aware, a commission was despatched to Cuba last February to make an inventory of the installations and equipment at the bases. The removal, in accordance with the agreements, of non-fixed installations and equipment is now being effected, and I am pleased to inform Your Excellency that this Government proposes to transfer the bases, together with fixed installations and constructions, to the Cuban Government on May 20, 1946.

Your Excellency will readily understand that this action with respect to the base at San Antonio de los Baños is being taken notwithstanding Article XIII of the Agreement for Military Cooperation, which provides that “the authorizations contained in this Agreement for military wartime cooperation shall cover the period of the present war plus six months after the establishment of peace between the United States and the Axis powers.”

I am instructing Ambassador Norweb to discuss with appropriate representatives of Your Excellency’s Government details for arranging the formal transfer of the bases. In this connection, it is hoped that Your Excellency’s Government will understand that while normal progress in making arrangements for the transfer of the bases will be maintained by representatives of this Government’s Army and Navy, there may be some unavoidable delay in removing all of the non-fixed installations and equipment by May 20. Such a delay, however, would not interfere with the plans of this Government formally to transfer the bases to Your Excellency’s Government on that date.

These bases constitute important links in the hemisphere defense system. The dangers that would result from permitting that system to disintegrate are obvious. Speed is one of the principal characteristics of new methods of warfare and it appears unlikely that in the event of another emergency, time will be available to prepare or repair our defenses. I desire therefore to express the satisfaction with which this Government has taken cognizance of the declaration made by Your Excellency’s Minister of State in his note of February 6 to Ambassador Norweb,13 to the effect that Cuba proposes to maintain the bases at their maximum degree of efficiency in order that they may always be in first-class condition and available for use in the common endeavor of our two countries to assure the defense of the American Continent.

Accept [etc.]

James F. Byrnes
  1. Not printed.
  2. Dated June 19 and September 7, 1942; Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. vi, pp. 267 and 283, respectively.
  3. Not printed.