The Ambassador in Canada (Atherton) to the Secretary of State

No. 5519

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s Restricted telegram No. 161 of September 22, 1947, 5 p.m., and to the Embassy’s reply No. 141 of September 24, 2 p.m.,1 both on the subject of the Newfoundland Air Bases Agreement.

In accordance with the promise made by the Department of External Affairs, as mentioned in the Embassy’s telegram, there is enclosed herewith copy of an Aide-Mémoire dated September 25, 1947, which is entitled “Newfoundland-United States Base Fields Agreement”, which the Department of External Affairs has transmitted to the Canadian High Commissioner in St. John’s, Newfoundland, for delivery to the Newfoundland Commission of Government. The Embassy believes that this Aide-Mémoire goes as far as it is possible for the Canadian Government to go, particularly in view of the present very delicate relationships which exist between the Dominion and Newfoundland over confederation.

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador
Julian F. Harrington

American Minister

The Canadian Department of External Affairs to the Newfoundland Commission of Government


newfoundland—united states base fields agreement

The use of Kindley Field, Bermuda which is essential to the operation of any Canadian commercial air service to the West Indies is at present contingent on the exchange of notes between the United States and the United Kingdom in relation to the United States-United Kingdom Agreement on Leased Air Bases. A wording acceptable to both the Canadian and the United States Governments has been reached in respect to this exchange of notes, but the United States as they had previously made clear at Bermuda in 1946, would only approve this Agreement conditional to a satisfactory agreement being [Page 98]reached with Newfoundland regarding the use by the United States Civil Aircraft of Newfoundland air fields.

In June of this year negotiations appeared to be progressing favourably on the United States–Newfoundland Agreement when the Commission of Government of the latter announced that they had reconsidered the wording of Article 1 (d) to the draft agreement, which provided that, “in the event of Gander Air Field being closed temporarily or permanently, or otherwise unavailable as a regular civil international airport, the Government of Newfoundland will designate (subject in the case of Argentia and Stephenville to the concurrence of the United States Military Authorities) another suitable airport in Newfoundland, either temporarily or permanently, as the case may be, as a regular civil international airport;” The Commission of Government said they preferred to amend the Article to read “the Government of Newfoundland may designate etc. etc.,” insofar as they feel, in view of the nature of the present Government, that they should not bind their successors to the automatic designation of an alternative air field in the event of Gander being closed. It is understood that this week the United States agreed to accept the latter wording, provided that in the event of Gander being closed, the United States should be allowed to automatically use Argentia and Stephenville as temporary fields (subject to the concurrence of the military officials) during the interim period whilst Newfoundland considered the designation of a new airport.

The delay in the signing of this agreement affects the future civil aviation programme of both Canada and the United Kingdom. It is understood that the latter Government have already forwarded a memorandum to the Newfoundland Commission of Government explaining their own position and their urgent desire to discover a way out of the present impasse.

In this respect the position of Canada is similar to that of the United Kingdom. Failure of the United States and Newfoundland to reach an agreement has resulted in the denial to Canadian aircraft to the only air field in Bermuda suitable for commercial operations. Such a result would be out of keeping with the discussions at Bermuda in December 1945 in which Newfoundland participated.

The Canadian Government appreciates the spirit of co-operation which has at all times been evidenced by Newfoundland in respect to the development of civil aviation and it is hoped that a satisfactory agreement can be reached in the near future between the Government of Newfoundland and the United States which will allow the implementation of the decisions reached at Bermuda in 1945.

  1. Neither printed.