S/PNSC Files, Lot 62 D 1, NSC 19 Series1

Memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (Forrestal)

top secret

NSC 19/3

In accordance with the memorandum from your office dated 4 August 1948,2 the Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the report entitled “Disposition of the Former Italian Colonies in Africa”, NSC 19/2,3 dated 4 August 1948, and have determined the requirements of the United States with regard to the former Italian colonies.

In the formulation of this statement of strategic requirements, the Joint Chiefs of Staff found it necessary to appraise the position and security interests of the United States, not only with respect to the former Italian colonies, but also of the entire area of the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean. Their appraisal of the United States security interests in the entire area indicates the following strategic requirements:

Denial to any potentially hostile power of any foothold in this area.
Maintenance of friendly relationships which can be promoted by social and economic assistance, together with such military assistance as may be practicable, to insure collaboration by the indigenous peoples in the common defense of the area.
Development of the oil resources in this area by the United States and such other countries as have and can be expected to have a friendly attitude toward the United States.
Assurance of the right of military forces of the United States to enter militarily essential areas upon a threat of war.
Assurance of the right to develop and maintain those facilities which are required to implement d above.

The above requirements take into consideration our over-all requirements within the framework of our global strategy. Moreover, these requirements have not been determined from the standpoint of United States security interests alone but also include consideration of the security interests of our potential allies, particularly Great Britain. [Page 934] The Joint Chiefs of Staff would emphasize that the interests of the United States and Great Britain in this entire area are so interrelated that they must be considered as a whole.

In accordance with the strategic requirements listed above and in consonance with current planning, operational availability of the following bases in the former Italian colonies under “joint”* or “participating” rights is essential:

Tripoli, Libya, as an air base facility,
Asmara, Eritrea, as a telecommunications base facility, and
In the event of an emergency, Massawa, Eritrea as an air and naval base facility.

As to the nature of the rights in Eritrea, the Joint Chiefs of Staff would state categorically that the benefits now resulting from operation of our telecommunications center at Asmara—benefits common and of high military importance to both the United States and Great Britain—can be obtained from no other location in the entire Middle East-Eastern Mediterranean area. Therefore, United States rights in Eritrea should not be compromised.

In view of the fact that this statement of strategic requirements of the United States has been prepared for guidance to the Department of State in negotiations now in progress, the Joint Chiefs of Staff renew their request that they be given opportunity to review the decisions reached in these negotiations before they are finalized.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
William D. Leahy

Fleet Admiral, U.S. Navy, Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces
  1. Serial and subject master file of National Security Council documents and correspondence for the years 1948–1961, as maintained by the Policy Planning Staff.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed; it contained a summary of the British position on Eritrea.
  4. “Joint” right is the right to use for military purposes, in common with the nation exercising sovereignty, mandate or trusteeship, an area, installation, or facility, and to debar any other nation from such use unless it is mutually agreed between the United States and the nation exercising sovereignty, mandate or trusteeship, that another nation or nations may share use. [Footnote in the source text.]
  5. “Participating” right is the right to share, on the most favored nation principle, with the nation exercising sovereignty, mandate or trusteeship, and with any other nation which that nation may accord the right to participate, in the use for military purposes of an area, installation, or facility. [Footnote in the source text.]