The Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary of Defense (Marshall)


My Dear Mr. Secretary: On June 29, 1950, the Honorable Edward R. Dudley, American Ambassador to Liberia, discussed with President Truman the official request of the Liberian Government that the United States provide Liberia with a small military training mission for the purpose of organizing the present ill-equipped and poorly-trained Liberian military force into an efficient military police force for internal security. The President expressed interest in this proposal, and a copy of the Memorandum of Conversation between the President and Ambassador Dudley is enclosed herewith.1

The Department is now in receipt of a note from the Liberian Embassy which sets forth an official request for military assistance. A copy of this note is enclosed herewith.2 An official request has also been received from the Liberian Government that the Liberian Secretary of State and the Liberian Attorney General be received in Washington to discuss the question of military assistance.

Within the past few weeks the Department has received information from the French Embassy, our Consulate General at Dakar, and Ambassador Dudley at Monrovia concerning increased activity among the Communist elements in the areas of French Guinea and the Ivory Coast bordering Liberia. Copies of these reports are enclosed herewith.3

The Department refers to a letter from the Department of Defense dated November 3, 19494 on the subject of military assistance for Liberia, and as a result of Liberia’s official request for military assistance, and recent developments in West Africa, it is suggested that this matter be re-explored in a meeting between appropriate officers of Defense and the Department. A preliminary study of the legal authority [Page 1728] under which military assistance could be rendered to Liberia reveals the following:

Public Law 152, 81st Congress, June 30, 1949, covering the sale of surplus equipment.
10 USC 540.5 It is the opinion of the Department that authority contained in this statute for the sending of a military mission to such a foreign country as the President deems it in the interest of national defense to assist in military matters might be applied to Liberia. Bases for this opinion are:
Information which we have received concerning recent activity among Communists’ elements in French Guinea and the Ivory Coast Ordering Liberia, indicates attempts might be made to disrupt Liberia’s political and economic stability, which would create a serious diversionary operation for us, provided we decided to assist Liberia.
The Department of the Air Force is financing the maintenance of Roberts Air Field in Liberia, which is regarded as a vital link in our lines of communication to the Belgian Congo, as well as to the territories east of West Africa. The newly constructed $20,000,000 Port and Port Works at Monrovia are also under our control.
United States Government and private investments in Liberia approximate $75,000,000. In Africa, only the Union of South Africa ranks ahead of Liberia in this regard.
Liberia is an important source of raw rubber. Outside of the Far East it is the only source of latex. High-grade iron ore (69.2% pure iron content) from Liberia will start moving to our market next year

It is the opinion of the Department that Sec. 408 (e) of Public Law 329,6 as amended, could not be utilized for military assistance to Liberia for the following reasons:

That Liberia does not have the financial capacity to engage in reimbursable assistance transactions.
That training and advising missions under 408 (e) must generally be, of necessity, an adjunct to equipment transferred under that Section.

In preparation for a meeting between officers of Defense and the Department, reference is made to “A Survey of the Military Forces in [Page 1729] Liberia”, prepared by Colonel West A. Hamilton, USA (Ret.), dated April 1–30, 1950, a copy of which is enclosed herewith. Reference is also made to a Summary of Colonel Hamilton’s Recommendation dated June 25, 1950, a copy of which is enclosed herewith.7

Sincerely yours,

James E. Webb
  1. For the text of Ambassador Dudley’s memorandum of his conversation with President Truman on June 29, see p. 1721.
  2. The reference here is to Liberian Chargé Bright’s note of August 15, p. 1725.
  3. None of the reports under reference here (note of June 25, 1950, from the French Embassy to the Department of State, despatch 14, July 26, 1950, from Dakar, and telegram 22, August 2, 1950, from Monrovia) is printed.
  4. In a letter of September 20, 1949, to then Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson, not printed, Acting Secretary of State Webb recommended the establishment of a small United States military mission to Liberia in view of the unusual political relationship between the United States and Liberia. In his reply of November 3, 1949, under reference here (not printed), Secretary Johnson stated that the Department of Defense could not, under current circumstances, recommend that the President make a finding that the establishment of a military mission to Liberia was necessary in the interests of national defense in view of the fact that such a mission was to be established for purely political circumstances. (882.20 Mission/7–849)
  5. The reference here is to the Act of May 19, 1926 (44 Stat. 565) which authorized the President to detail officers and enlisted men of the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps to assist the governments of the Latin American republics in military and naval matters. By amendment of October 1, 1942 (56 Stat. 763) the President was authorized during war or national emergency to assist such other countries as the President deemed it in the interest of national defense to assist
  6. Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949; Public Law 329, 81st Cong., 1st sess. (63 Stat. 714); for significant portions of the text, see A Decade of American Foreign Policy: Basic Documents, 1941–49 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1950), pp. 1356–1364.
  7. Neither printed.