The Secretary of War ( Patterson ) and the Secretary of the Navy ( Forrestal ) to the Secretary of State
Dear Mr. Secretary: With reference to your two letters of 1 March 1946 relative to United States military bases in the Galápagos Islands, we agree that the precedent set with Ecuador will have a definite effect on the negotiations with other countries for the base rights recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Aside from the financial issue, withdrawal from the Galápagos may furnish likely excuse to other small nations such as Iceland, Portugal and Denmark to force the United States to withdraw its troops from Iceland, the Azores and Greenland. These three locations are on lines of communication required to support occupational forces and have been classified by the Joint Chiefs of Staff as essential to the military security of the United States.
Before implementing either of the two alternatives proposed in your letter, an overall examination of all the measures of military collaboration between the United States and Ecuador seems appropriate. Briefly, these are as follows:
- The Government of Ecuador, along with the United States and the other American Republics, signed the Act of Chapultepec35 providing for hemispheric solidarity and military collaboration to prevent [Page 850] or repel aggression against any American state. To implement this Act, conferences will be held at Rio and Bogotá.36
- The United States constructed air bases in the Galápagos Islands at a cost of $8,000,000 and at Salinas at a cost of $3,000,000. The Salinas base has been transferred to the Ecuadoran Government without reimbursement.
- The United States, in addition to the usual military and naval attaches, has established in Ecuador, Air, Ground and Naval Missions, totaling 38 military and naval personnel. These missions are for the purpose of training the Ecuadoran armed forces, standardizing them on United States equipment, and promoting military collaboration.
- The United States has held staff conversations with Ecuador on the question of reorganizing and reequipping the Ecuadoran armed forces according to United States standards. A certain amount of surplus United States military and naval equipment has been proposed for transfer to Ecuador.
- The United States has transferred to Ecuador $7,000,000 worth of ground and air force equipment and $1,300,000 worth of naval vessels and equipment under the provisions of the Lend-Lease Act.37
- The United States has trained several Ecuadoran students at United States service schools. Eleven Ecuadorans are now undergoing aviation training.
Of the above, hemispheric defense aspect, in which the Latin American Republics are also interested, appears to be the most important. You are aware of the statement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the effect that the strategic location of the Galápagos Islands with respect to the Panama Canal makes United States bases thereon essential to the defense of the United States and the Western Hemisphere. As Ecuador is unable to maintain a military air base in the Galápagos, it would seem that permitting the United States to utilize two small, relatively uninhibited islands would be a fitting contribution of Ecuador to hemispheric security.
We therefore feel that the question of base rights in the Galápagos is not one to be considered separately from other efforts to promote adequate means of hemispheric military collaboration. Accordingly, it is suggested that further discussions be conducted with Ecuador embracing all aspects of mutual military collaboration to determine the extent of all future military relations. These relations may involve any or all of the items mentioned in the second paragraph.
Robert P. Patterson