Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (McGhee) to the Secretary of State


Subject: Proposal to reconstruct the road between Roberts Field and Monrovia, Liberia


To support the proposal now before the Department of the Air Force for the reconstruction of the road between Roberts Field and Monrovia in Liberia.1


The Air Force is currently financing the maintenance of Roberts Field, built by us during the war at a cost of $5,000,000. This air base, one of the most modern in Africa, is located about 50 miles from Monrovia, where we recently completed a modern seaport which remains under our ownership until fully amortized. Pan American World Airways, the operator of Roberts Field under contract to the Air Force, has requested that the Roberts-Monrovia road be macadamized. In addition to assisting their day to day work at the field, it will facilitate the gradual concentration of the PAA African operations at Roberts, which will be a great economic help to Liberia. NEA feels that from a military and business point of view valuable benefits would accrue to the United States. The Department has long regarded the maintenance of Roberts Field as being in the national interest, and an important factor in our political relations with Liberia. It does not appear practicable to have a modern air base and a modern seaport, both under U.S. control, separated by a dirt road, [Page 1711] pitted and rutted, and almost impassable during the heavy rainy season.


I recommend that you sign the attached letter to Mr. Symington.2

  1. During a call on Assistant Secretary of State McGhee on January 13, Juan Trippe, President of the Pan American Airways, Inc., mentioned that the 50-mile road from the port of Monrovia to Roberts Field was in very poor condition and would be particularly inadequate for use in a military emergency. Trippe, whose firm had contracted to operate Roberts Field, proposed that American military authorities undertake reconstruction of the road, and he asked for Department of State support for the proposal. Assistant Secretary McGhee informed Trippe that it was the policy of the U.S. Government to foster economic development in Liberia, and he indicated that the Department of State would urge the military authorities to undertake the road reconstruction. (Memorandum of conversation by Sims, January 13, 876.00/1–1350) On February 6 Trippe informed the Department of State that Pan American had addressed a letter on January 26 to Secretary of the Air Force W. Stuart Symington proposing reconstruction of the Monrovia-Roberts Field Road. Trippe observed that the time had come for the Department of State to approach the Air Force in the matter. (Memorandum from Berry to McGhee, February 7, 976.524/2–750) On February 7 Pan American Vice President John Leslie called at the Department of State to urge more positive action in the matter by the Department. (Memorandum of conversation by Cyr, February 7, 876.524/2–750)
  2. For the letter as sent on February 23, see p. 1716.