The Secretary of State to the Secretary of War (Patterson)


My Dear Mr. Secretary: Confirming the conversation which I had with you and the Secretary of the Navy16 on February 6, 1946, with reference to the Galápagos Base, the State Department will be [Page 841] glad to put forth its best efforts to obtain the rights desired from Ecuador. In undertaking these negotiations, I am however of the opinion that in as much as neither the War nor the Navy Department is prepared at this time to set a figure for the proposed lease, such negotiations would have little chance of success unless the Army has first dismantled the Base and withdrawn from it. I believe that orders to that effect should accordingly be given at once, and further that we should carefully refrain from any further indication to the Ecuadoran Government that we desire future rights, or have any expectation of returning. We can then, at the appropriate and opportune moment, approach the Ecuadoran Government with a clean slate. (It is of course possible that upon being informed of our intention to withdraw, the Ecuadoran Government may approach us. Such an approach should find us in a better negotiating position than we have at present.)

The State Department is naturally not in a position to guarantee that its negotiations will be successful. We have no long-term rights in the Galápagos at the present time, and the Ecuadorans have made it clear on many occasions that they will not consider a sale or cession. We are limited therefore to the possibility of obtaining a lease, preferably for exclusive use according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, although it should be recognized that it may be necessary to accept a compromise arrangement providing for joint United States and Ecuadoran use.

It will be recalled that while we went into the Galápagos at the suggestion of the Ecuadoran Government, we are there now only on a wartime basis under no other agreement than the general cooperative one between Ecuador and the United States of February 2, 1942.17 The termination clause of this agreement states that it shall remain in force “for the period of the present emergency and may continue thereafter, if, in the opinion of the two Governments, there still exists the danger of aggression by a non-American power against an American power”. As you are aware, a draft agreement for long-term lease rights was negotiated with Ecuador during 1944–1945, along generally promising lines except that it lacked the all-important item of the amount to be paid for the lease. Efforts were made by the State Department to obtain a figure from the War and Navy Departments on the theory, with which I agree, that since our desire to have a Galápagos Base responds exclusively to considerations of national defense, those Departments are the ones to estimate the value of such a Base in terms of national defense. The War and Navy Departments [Page 842] have stated that they are unable to set a figure. The State Department, as indicated at the beginning of this letter, does not believe that any useful purpose would be served by attempting to resume negotiations without one.

There remains the possibility of negotiating after our departure from the Base, and this, as already stated, I shall be happy to undertake at the first opportune moment, bearing in mind that the views of the Ecuadoran Government in the premises may undergo a change upon the receipt of notification of our intention to depart.

A copy of my proposed note to the Ecuadoran Ambassador is enclosed for your information.18

I am sending a copy of this letter to the Secretary of the Navy.

Sincerely yours,

James F. Byrnes
  1. James Forrestal.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. vi, p. 365, footnote 13.
  3. Not printed.