The Secretary of Defense ( Forrestal ) to the Secretary of State


Dear Mr. Secretary: For some time the military establishment has believed it desirable to obtain international agreement to certain general principles concerning the development and use of an Inter-American system of military bases for the collective defense of the Hemisphere. These principles include the right of transit and technical stop, by any government-owned aircraft or vessel, on a universally reciprocal basis during peacetime, and availability of bases and facilities during time of emergency to forces of the American states in the defense of the Hemisphere, in accordance with the principles of the Rio Treaty.1

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This matter was the subject of studies made in 1945 and 1946 by the Joint Chiefs of Staff who recommended, in May 1946, that international agreement on the above-mentioned principles be secured. At that time the Department of State concurred in principle to this proposal but recommended that negotiations be deferred until after the conclusion of the Rio Treaty.

It would appear that the way is now clear to go ahead with an attempt to obtain agreement on these principles. In view of the nature of the forthcoming Ninth International Conference of American States at Bogotá,2 which I understand will create a permanent Inter-American Defense Council and consider topics concerning collective defense, it seems appropriate that consideration be given to the conclusion of a general agreement concerning Hemispheric bases at that conference.

The desirability, from a military point of view, of obtaining early agreement on this subject, is reaffirmed. Consequently, it is urged that the Department of State take action to place the subject of base agreements on the agenda for the Bogotá Conference.


James Forrestal
  1. For the Inter-American treaty of reciprocal assistance, opened for signature at Rio de Janeiro September 2, 1947, see Department of State Treaties and Other International Acts Series No. 1838, or 21 UNTS 77.
  2. For documentation on this subject, see pp. 1 ff.