The Acting Secretary of State to the Acting Secretary of Defense ( Foster )1
My Dear Mr. Foster: As you are aware, the Republic of Cuba desires to make a contribution to the effort of the United Nations in Korea, and it has advanced on an informal basis an offer of three C–47 transport aircraft with the condition that Cuba be given an opportunity at an early date to purchase aircraft which would replace the three planes contributed for Korean service.
Because the Department of Defense believes that the unavailability of C–47 aircraft for replacement purposes would make infeasible the consideration of this informal Cuban offer, it has advanced the suggestion that the Cuban Government might wish to consider making an offer of three C–46 aircraft with Cuban crews. These aircraft, instead [Page 1362] of being sent to Cuba to replace Cuban C–47’s, would be sent to Korea for integration with the United States Air Force. I am informed that the Department of Defense recently asked for the views of General Ridgway’s headquarters on a Cuban offer on this basis and that it received a reply which recommended that such an offer be rejected, unless overriding political considerations were perceived, because of the minor scale of such a contribution and because of difficulties in integration.
It is my considered opinion that there are overriding political considerations that clearly indicate that it would be in the best interests of both the United States and the United Nations that Cuba make an offer that could be accepted, and that would enable Cuba to join with the other free nations of the world in the struggle now being waged in Korea against communist aggression. A Cuban contribution, even though limited in scope, would serve to broaden the United Nations character of the collective effort. With regard to Cuba itself, acceptance of the offer outlined herein could serve to encourage that country to make a further contribution at a later date, if possible, in the form of troops. Rejection of the offer, on the other hand, might have the effect of discouraging all further Cuban efforts to contribute to the United Nations effort in Korea and might impair the spirit of cooperation with the United States which Cuba has manifested in the United Nations.
A Cuban offer for which the Department of State would recommend favorable consideration would be an offer of three C–46 transport aircraft for integration with the United States Air Force units in Korea, and of Cuban crews to operate these planes. The crews would have appropriate transport experience, and would be capable of integration with the United States Air Force with a minimum of further training and orientation by virtue of their experience, orientation in the United States, and the knowledge of at least two members of each plane crew of the English language.
If the Department of Defense concurs that an offer from the Cuban Government of three C–46 aircraft and crews might be assured favorable consideration, I believe that the appropriate procedure which might then be followed would be for the American Embassy at Habana to inquire of the Cuban Government whether it would be prepared to modify its initial informal offer in the manner indicated above. Upon receipt of a favorable reply, negotiations to complete the offer and acceptance could be initiated. At such time, it would, in my opinion, be desirable to remind the Cuban Government of its earlier offer of ground troops, that the primary need in Korea continues to be for ground troops, and that an offer of transport aircraft would not be considered a substitute.[Page 1363]
Since it would be desirable that our two Departments reach agreement on the acceptability of a Cuban offer along the lines suggested above before a reply is made to the Cuban Government regarding its initial informal offer, I would appreciate an expression of the views of the Department of Defense on this matter. There have been numerous indications from the Cuban Government that it desires to be informed promptly of United States reaction to its initial informal offer. I hope, therefore, that I may have the benefit of the views of your Department at an early date.2
- Drafted by Mr. Cedric C. Phillip of the Office of Middle American Affairs; cleared with the Office of United Nations Political and Security Affairs and the Office of Regional American Affairs.↩
- In a memorandum of conversation between Lt. Col. Roderie O’Connor of the Department of Defense and Mr. Philipp, dated December 13, 1951, Lt. Col. O’Connor is reported to have stated that he expected a letter from Secretary of Defense Robert A. Lovett recommending affirmative action on Cuba’s offer to reach the Department of State “on December 21 or immediately after the Christmas vacation.” (795B.5/12–1351) No such letter was found, however, in the Department of State files.↩