The South African Minister of Defence (Erasmus) to the Secretary of Defense (Johnson)1


Dear Secretary Johnson: During my visit to Washington in August of last year,2 I informed you of the attitude of my Government towards communism, that is, the Government is prepared to support the Powers opposed to communism. Because of the possibility of an unsatisfactory internal situation developing in the Union I explained to you that the Government had, however, not found itself able to commit itself in principle to Union Forces serving outside the Union. Communism might prove to be a serious danger in South Africa with its large non-European population and if an international conflict were to arise, our Forces might be needed to maintain order and to ensure the security of the Union in the first place. It was at the same time decided by the Government that should the position regarding the security of the Union be satisfactory, the question of sending Union Forces outside the Union would be considered in the light of the circumstances prevailing.

Recently the position generally was reviewed and my Government has now decided that it will, in the event of war against communism, [Page 1827] be prepared to recommend to Parliament that Union Forces should participate on and in the defence of the African continent.

I have also advised Mr. Shinwell, British Minister of Defence in this sense and in view of the importance of the matter and our previous discussion, feel that you should know of this development.

Yours very sincerely,

F. C. Erasmus
  1. The source text and other correspondence cited in this footnote were transmitted to the Secretary of State under cover of a brief explanatory letter of July 11 from Maj. Gen. Leven C. Alien, Executive Secretary to Secretary Johnson. Maj. Gen. Allen’s letter stated that President Truman had seen Minister of Defence Erasmus’ letter printed here.

    This letter was transmitted sealed to Secretary Johnson under cover of a brief transmittal letter from South African Ambassador Jooste on June 29. Secretary Johnson replied to Minister Erasmus on July 11 as follows:

    “Thank you very much for your letter of June 15, 1950, in which you indicate the position which your Government would follow for the defense of the African continent in the event of a war against communism. I am particularly grateful for your personal explanation of the development of this position, including the outline of your internal security problems.

    “I have taken the liberty of passing this information on to the President and the Secretary of State.” (745A.5/7–1150)

  2. Regarding Minister of Defence Erasmus’ visit to Washington in August 1949, see Assistant Secretary Perkins’ memorandum of October 2, to the Secretary of State, p. 1832.