811.2365/12–347

The Secretary of the Air Force ( Symington ) to the Secretary of State

top secret

Dear Mr. Secretary: Pursuant to request from War Department, the State Department has been negotiating with the Italian Government during the past several months for military transit and landing rights in that country which will permit continuance of necessary military air operations in support of our occupation forces and other foreign commitments.1 It has been brought to our attention that considerable difficulty is being encountered in securing a workable agreement. It is felt in this connection that a clarification of Air Force minimum requirements and the reasons therefore might be useful to those responsible for the negotiations.

The Air Transport Command is charged with providing air lift: to and between the zones of occupation. It is anticipated that scheduled service linking the two zones (Germany and Japan) of occupation will be reestablished in the near future. Experience has proved that such service is necessary for administrative reasons. In addition the Air Force is committed to the maintenance and operation of Dhahran Air Base until April 1949, and this base must be supported almost entirely by air. In addition the Air Transport Command has been directed to furnish air transportation necessary to the Greece and Turkey aid missions. For the safe and efficient operation of these services, the aircraft must continue to be routed through Rome, or a suitable alternate.

As you know, the United States Government is committed for an [Page 733] indefinite period to the maintenance of a military force in Trieste. Not only must air lift be provided these troops by theater aircraft, but in view of the delicacy of the political situation in that area, provision must be made for any further support that might be required in the event of an emergency. The use of Udine or a suitable alternate without prior clearance is essential.

To support our occupation forces in Germany and Austria and to insure the maintenance of order, it is necessary that we furnish combat aircraft on a replacement or rotation basis. At the present time the theater requirements for VHB aircraft are met by training flights, thus eliminating costly maintenance depots overseas and increasing the proficiency of the crews. To carry out these functions, it may be necessary from time to time for these aircraft to overfly Italy and to make use of the VHB base at Foggia or a suitable alternate. In this connection reference is made to NSC 1/1, paragraph 12c dated November 14, 1947.

The number of landings per month cannot be accurately predicted in view of the changing situation and unforeseeable requirements which may result from the European aid program presently under consideration by Congress. However, scheduled landings presently average approximately fifty per month.

The Department of the Air Force would concur in conclusion of an agreement in principle for reciprocal overflight and landing privileges. It is felt that such an arrangement would protect the Italian Government from the embarrassment of similar requests from other powers. It would be necessary, however, that this agreement be supplemented by an accord between appropriate United States and Italian military authorities which would provide for standard requirements, previously informally communicated to the State Department, and other technical aspects of the operations.

In view of the imminence of military withdrawal from Italy in accordance with the terms of the peace treaty, it is requested that the State Department continue the negotiations now in progress as a matter of urgency. When advised by the State Department that an agreement in principle has been concluded, instructions wall be issued by the Department of the Air Force to its representative for negotiation of the supplemental accord under supervision of the Ambassador.

A copy of this letter has been furnished the Secretary of the Navy.

Sincerely yours,

For the Secretary of the Air Force:
C. V. Whitney
  1. In despatch 1922, November 24, 1947, from Rome, not printed, Ambassador Dunn forwarded copies of Notes Verbales exchanged between the Embassy and the Italian Foreign Ministry between September 13 and November 20 indicating procedures to be followed by U.S. military personnel from Germany, Austria, and the Free Territory of Trieste proceeding on leave to Italy. The Foreign Ministry hoped to propose a simplified procedure by December 15. (811.2365/11–2447)