The Secretary of Defense (Marshall) to the Secretary of State
Dear Mr. Secretary: In his letter of 27 September 19501 [Acting] Secretary Webb raises the subject of military assistance for Liberia. I requested the Joint Chiefs of Staff to study this question and their views, in which I concur, are set forth in the following paragraphs.
The Joint Chiefs-of Staff consider that Liberia has some strategic value to the United States, since:
- Liberia itself now exports to the United States a substantial quantity of natural rubber and soon may also provide the United States with high grade iron ore;
- The use of Roberts Field would, in all probability, be necessary if during hostilities the United States should require a South Atlantic air route; and
- Monrovia provides the only port not controlled by a European nation in West Africa.
From the United States military point of view it would be desirable for Liberia to remain free of the control of any European power and to continue to recognize American interests as of preponderant importance in that state.
At this time there is no apparent external threat to the sovereignty of Liberia, and the military intelligence agencies have no information indicating any likelihood of subversion within that country even though the present military forces of Liberia are incapable of effective resistance against organized external or internal threats to that government.[Page 1731]
In the event of global war it would, in all probability, be necessary for the United States to provide some armed forces to insure the supply of strategic materials from Liberia and to protect the air base and other United States interests in Liberia. Conceivably, the strength of such United States units could be reduced by the extent that Liberia itself is able to contribute to its own security and its loyalty to the United States remains firm. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, on this basis, feel that assistance to Liberia in the form of a very modest program of military aid, primarily through the provision of a limited number of instructor personnel, could be in the national defense interest of the United States, particularly if political considerations so warrant.
In connection with the foregoing I would like to point out that Liberia apparently can only be made eligible to receive military equipment now on a reimbursable basis and that, even on this basis, only small amounts of light military equipment can be made available unless it were at the expense of other much higher priority military assistance programs.