The Under Secretary of State ( Webb ) to the Deputy Secretary of Defense ( Early )1


Dear Mr. Early: Reference is made to your letter to Mr. Acheson dated January 18, 1950, and handed to Mr. Battle, Special Assistant to the Secretary, on March 1, 1950, by Admiral Richard E. Byrd.2 You state that the Department of Defense has under consideration the advisability of undertaking in the future some such Antarctic operations as those which were undertaken in 1947 and request comment on this subject.

The Department of State favors United States exploration and also scientific studies in the Antarctic and will cooperate if the Department of Defense decides to carry out a project similar to that undertaken in 1947. It is thought, however, that consideration of the project is primarily a matter for the Department of Defense.

The Antarctic territorial problem is the subject of an informal exchange of views between the interested countries. Specific arrangements for a United States expedition would naturally be made in the light of the status of that exchange of views at the time. It is not now anticipated that this would materially affect operational aspects of such a project. Your letter does not, of course, state the prospective timing of the operation which the Department of Defense has under study and, therefore, the views of the Department of State at present must be tentative and subject to review in the light of political developments.

Your letter raises the question of the possible advisability, from the standpoint of foreign policy, of undertaking operations in Greenland rather than in Antarctica. Considerations of foreign policy make it appear undesirable to undertake such operations in Greenland.

The Department of State will be glad to be kept informed of the [Page 911] progress of any plans made by the Department of Defense for an Antarctic operation.

Sincerely yours,

James E. Webb
  1. This letter was drafted by Caspar D. Green, of the Office of Northern European Affairs and was cleared with that office as well as with the Office of North and West Coast Affairs (Bureau of Inter-American Affairs), the Assistant Legal Adviser for Political Affairs, the Special Adviser on Geography, the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, and the Bureau of European Affairs.
  2. In his letter of January 18, not printed, Deputy Secretary Early explained that the Department of Defense was considering the advisability of undertaking cold weather military training operations in the Antarctic such as were previously undertaken in 1947. The letter also asked whether it would be diplomatically desirable to undertake such operations in Greenland rather than in Antarctica (711.5/1–1850). Attached to the source text of the letter printed here is a brief memorandum of March 1 by Special Assistant Lucius D. Battle, not printed, indicating that Rear Admiral Byrd had for some time been trying to see the Secretary of State, but it had not been possible to work out a time and “… it did not seem to be an essential appointment.”