The Consul at St. John’s, Newfoundland (Millet) to the Assistant Chief of the Division of British Commonwealth Affairs (Foster)


Dear Mr. Foster: Here is a copy for you of my despatch No. 459 of yesterday’s date.1 You will note that we get no further as to mandatory rather than permissive coverage on Newfoundland’s designating a substitute base for Gander. I found it impossible to get anything helpful out of Mr. Neill,2 although he seemed well disposed and received me very pleasantly.

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It seems to me that the Commissioners’ insistence on “may” arises out of their wish to avoid yielding to us in something that they fear might be used by political opponents in the accusation that the Commissioners had again failed in their duty of guarding the interests of the country in having further extended what many people consider the lamentably foolish generosity of concessions granted to the United States without any quid pro quo. This is probably the important reason for the stubbornness of the Government on this point, while the fear of running into the costly maintenance of an uneconomic airport is surely not the whole reason for their stubbornness.

Note also that Neill couldn’t or wouldn’t give me any idea of the effect of London’s pressure on the Government here.

I should like to know what you think of all this, and what suggestions you may have for me in the premises.

Do you think we could undertake to back strongly any request that Newfoundland might make for ICAO aid to maintain Gander? If so, could we promise to enlist similar support of the other several nations whose civil aircraft operate through Gander?

Possibly Neill will attempt to work out some other wording which might be accepted as a compromise. You can be sure that I shall report promptly on anything of the sort.

One more possibility, but rather a dim one: are there no earlier commitments obliging this Government to maintain Gander or some other airfield? If so, it might be possible to fall back on such an undertaking by Newfoundland, perhaps even insert reference to it in Article I(d). By this I mean such things as treaties covering American and other civil aircraft flying through the Island, commitments in the American civil airlines’ franchises (if any) with Newfoundland, or even the undertakings embodied in the ICAO and Chicago Conference. You will appreciate that I have not sufficient time to go deeply into this. Could the Department’s Aviation Division and Treaty Division people be asked to use their own files to work out a swift answer to this question?

Please send what comments you can on the whole thing. I seem to have run into an impasse at present, but hope that something will work out as time goes on.3

Yours sincerely,

Charles S. Millet
  1. Not printed.
  2. James Neill, Newfoundland Commissioner for Public Utilities.
  3. In answer to the questions raised in this letter, Foster wrote to Millett on October 16 saying: “We consider very reasonable your suggestion that strong backing be given Newfoundland in any request she might make for ICAO aid for the maintenance of Gander and feel reasonably sure that the other nations whose civil aircraft operate through Gander would support such a move. Since your negotiations with Newfoundland are now at a standstill, it seems unnecessary and unwise at this time to promise to enlist the support of other nations. According to the Aviation Division, there seems to be no earlier commitment on which the maintenance of Gander or other airfields might be based. The only such agreement along those lines is that embodied in general ICAO principles.” (843.7962/9–647)