110.15 MCG/2–1650

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


Subject: Briefing for your forthcoming visit to Liberia.1

The following constitute the most important problems under current review by the Liberians and ourselves:

Proposed Export-Import Bank loan for Liberia. In early December, Ambassador Dudley, Mr. Meier2 and Mr. Sims presented to President Tubman a “five-year economic development program” for Liberia.3 The President indicated a keen interest in such a program, and expressed himself as being in accord with the principle of securing a loan from the U.S. government. He pointed out, however, that his government would wish to study carefully the proposed development program. This is now being done by the Liberian cabinet. The development program was first discussed with the Export-Import Bank, and the Bank has indicated that it would be receptive to applications from the Liberian government for loans to finance several development projects. Included among the projects acceptable for the Bank’s consideration are the following:
Road Development (new road construction; improvement of existing roads; hard surfacing; purchase of road maintenance equipment; and bridge replacement);
Rice Production Projects (a program designed to shift Liberia’s production of rice from dry to swamp land):
Monrovia Water Distribution System;
Monrovia Electric Power Distribution System;
Agricultural Credit Corporation;
Repair of River Landing Facilities;
Agricultural Extension Program.
It is anticipated that these projects will entail loans of from one to two million dollars during the first year of the program. These would be twelve-year loans at 3½% interest. Amortization payments would begin three years after the date of the loan. The Bank has also indicated that additional projects in the same general field may be submitted for loan financing as they are developed and justified.
Proposal to utilize balance of funds in the Liberian Lend-Lease Account for improving the road (approximately 200 miles) between Monrovia and Ganta. We have now obtained clearance within the Department to proceed with talks with the General Accounting Office, [Page 1713] and, if necessary, with the appropriate Congressional committees to determine whether the balance of funds in the Liberia Lend-Lease account can be used for building small bridges, box culverts and providing road maintenance machinery for the Monrovia–Ganta road. It is estimated that $700,000 will remain in the Liberia Lend-Lease account upon the completion of the port works project. The justification for using this money is based on the economic benefits which will accrue to the Monrovia port by making this trunk road usable throughout the year. By so doing, it will afford port facilities for those regions in French Guinea and the Ivory Coast which are now without proper port services. There is attached hereto a copy of a memorandum on this matter,4 which will furnish you additional background information. Mr. Sims expects to join officers from the Legal Advisor’s Office and Mr. Thorp’s5 office for discussion with the General Accounting Office on this matter within the next few days.
Pan American Airways’ request to the Department of the Air Force that the road between Monrovia and Roberts Field be reconstructed. The Department has expressed approval of the proposal now before the Department of the Air Force to pave the road between Monrovia and Roberts Field. It is too early to tell what will be the final outcome of this matter.6
Monrovia Free Port operations. The Department was gratified to learn that the Port made a net profit of $132,000 for 1949.
Economic and Public Health Missions. Mr. Burns’ office is preparing for you a memorandum on the Economic Mission. We hope to strengthen both the Economic and the Public Health Missions if Point IV materializes. Additional personnel and equipment will be provided. Housing will be the Number One problem, and you might strengthen a request already made of President Tubman for the use of Camp Johnson as a site where our technicians can be housed, by emphasizing the importance of proper facilities for the program. Camp Johnson will become available about April, 1950. While Camp Johnson is a part of the Port facilities, we cannot use it without the concurrence of the Liberian government.
Strike at Firestone Plantation. For the first time in Firestone’s 26 years in Liberia, a serious strike broke out on its plantations in early December. At first, the Liberian government adopted a rather indifferent attitude toward the strike, and certain responsible Liberian officials were inclined to regard the strike as a natural development which goes along with economic advancement. Through Ambassador Dudley, we cautioned President Tubman regarding the adverse effects which this strike might have upon the Liberian economy, if it were not brought under control. In order that you may have a complete understanding of our position in this matter, there is attached hereto a copy of our telegram to Ambassador Dudley on the subject. The strike has not been settled, and new rioting has broken out. We feel, therefore, that the position expressed in the attached telegram7 is still timely [Page 1714] and fits the picture today equally as well as it did several weeks ago.
Mr. Byron H. Larabee, Executive Vice President of Firestone, is now in Liberia, and you will have the opportunity to talk with him.
The Liberia Mining Company. This Company is moving ahead satisfactorily. Mr. Lansdell K. Christie, President of the Company, is now in Liberia, and he can furnish you detailed information on the Bomi Hills iron ore operation. As you know, the Liberia Mining Company is the recipient of a $4,000,000 loan from the Export-Import Bank. The majority stock of the Company is owned by the Republic Steel Corporation.
Subject for discussion with Ambassador Dudley.
FBO has written the Ambassador regarding its plans for moving ahead with the building program for Monrovia. They will send their top-flight man in Paris to confer with the Ambassador, after the latter returns from the Conference.
You will wish to discuss with the Ambassador the subject of a possible transfer for him. There are attached hereto two memoranda on this question.8
We are making every effort to find a military officer who can go to Liberia and make a survey of Liberia’s military needs. We sent a telegram to the Ambassador on February 15 on this subjects.9 You may reassure him that the Department is working very closely with Mr. Evans10 in Mr. Johnson’s office (Secretary of Defense). You will recall that Mr. Evans came to the luncheon you gave for Ambassador King.11
We recently telegraphed the Ambassador concerning our latest efforts to find a competent lawyer to go to Liberia for the purpose of codifying the Liberian laws. We are now awaiting a reply to our telegram before proceeding any further on this matter.12
In January, we were able to obtain a census expert to assist the Liberian government in making a population census. The only thing delaying this operation at present is the fact that the Liberian government has not deposited the amount required to defray the expenses of the technician.

  1. Regarding Assistant Secretary McGhee’s visit to Liberia, February 21–25, see the memorandum prepared by the Department of State, infra.
  2. Oscar W. Meier, Chief of the Economic Mission in Liberia (Mission for Economic Affairs).
  3. Regarding the draft plan under reference here, see telegram 22, February 1, to Monrovia, p. 1709.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Willard L. Thorp, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs.
  6. Regarding the matter under reference here, see Assistant Secretary McGhee’s memorandum of February 14, to the Secretary of State, p. 1710.
  7. The reference here is presumably to telegram 5, January 10, to Monrovia, p. 1706.
  8. Neither printed.
  9. The reference here is presumably to telegram 39, February 15, to Monrovia, not printed (776.551/2–1550). Eventually, in March, the United States and the Liberian Government accepted the designation of Col. West A. Hamilton, Retired, as the officer to conduct a survey of Liberia’s military needs.
  10. The reference here is to James C. Evans, Civilian Assistant to Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson.
  11. Assistant Secretary McGhee gave a luncheon on January 24 in honor of Liberian Ambassador Charles D. B. King on the eve of the Ambassador’s departure for Liberia for consultation. During remarks at the luncheon, Ambassador King indicated that he had been received that morning by President Truman.
  12. A project was initiated in November 1949 for the selection in the United States of a legal expert who would assist in the codifying of the laws of Liberia. Through February 1950 several applicants were interviewed by the Liberian Chargé in Washington. The project was subsequently delayed because of Liberian budgetary difficulties. Documentation on the project is included in file 776.34.