The Ambassador in Argentina (Messersmith) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Transport and Communications Affairs (Norton)


Dear Norton: I have your confidential letter of April 17 in reply to mine of February 28 to Mr. Clayton49 in which I covered my conversations with Mr. Braniff50 during his visit to Buenos Aires. I have noted with interest your statements.

In the meantime a good deal of water has run under the bridge, and you have taken note of the despatches and telegrams which I have sent. As a result of the later conversations here, the way seemed to be more propitious for conversations for an agreement on civil aviation and Mr. Landis and his associates arrived last Saturday evening. On Sunday [Page 244] morning we had a long session at the Embassy residence together with officials of the Embassy, and the conversations started on the following Monday afternoon.

It is too early to state what the result of the conversations will be, but it is my hope that a satisfactory agreement will be arrived at. I will not go into detail in this letter as Mr. Landis will be in touch with you by telegraph.

After having so carefully arranged the atmosphere for the negotiation of an agreement, we had two unhappy occurrences which I brought to your attention. The one had reference to the shipments of linseed oil but this has, in the meantime, been taken care of satisfactorily through the conversations which we have had with the Commodity Credit Corporation.

The other was the unhappy refusal, in my opinion, of the Maritime Commission to sell three converted C–3s by the Newport News Shipbuilding Company to the Dodero Company.51 I have exchanged several telegrams with you and am preparing another this afternoon or tomorrow. The refusal of the Maritime Commission has definitely created the feeling among high officials of the Argentine Government that while we are standing for freedom of the air, we are through the refusal of the sale of these vessels endeavoring to restrict the development of the Argentine merchant marine. No matter what may be the real basis of the action of the Maritime Commission, it will be impossible to overcome this feeling. I will not enter into the reasons why this Embassy believes these vessels should be sold to the Dodero interests because I shall cover this in another letter. I believe, however, very definitely, as I conveyed to you over the telephone and in my telegrams to the Department, that if we do not get an air agreement on a satisfactory basis during the present conversations, it will be due basically to the situation created among high officials of the Argentine Government that in one form of navigation we take one position and in another form, we take another position.

I am, in spite of this situation, going to do everything I can to make these conversations a success, because I think it is of the utmost importance not only that we arrive at such an agreement with the Argentine now, and before Montreal, but that it is in the interest of our air service in all of the Americas that such an agreement should be arrived at now.

Believe me, with all good wishes,

Cordially and sincerely yours,

George S. Messersmith
  1. William L. Clayton, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs; neither letter printed.
  2. Thomas E. Braniff, founder and president of Braniff International Airways.
  3. For documentation on snip sales, see pp. 251 ff.