Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Charles C. Hauch of the Office of Middle American Affairs


Subject: Proposed Agreement With the Dominican Republic on Long Range Proving Ground for Guided Missiles2)

Participants: His Excellency Virgilio Diaz Ordonez, Dominican Foreign Minister
His Excellency Sr. Dr. Luis Francisco Thomen, Dominican Ambassador
His Excellency Julio Ortega Frier, Ambassador on Special Mission (Dom.Rep.)
Ambassador Albert Nufer, Director, Office of Middle American Affairs
Mr. Charles C. Hauch, Office of Middle American Affairs
Mr. Gerald Russell, Office of Regional American Affairs
Colonel Carl Swyter, Guided Missiles Branch, Department of the Air Force
Lt. Col. R. H. Clinkscales, Military Air Rights Section, U.S.A.F.

This meeting was arranged as a result of the initiative taken by the Dominican Foreign Minister in stating that if we had any particular [Page 1368] comments on the Dominican counter draft3 of the Long Range Proving Ground Agreement, submitted to our Embassy by the Dominican Foreign Office, he was at our disposal to hear our views while he was in Washington. At the outset of the meeting, an informal written statement outlining in general terms our preliminary thinking on the Dominican counter draft was given the Dominican representatives. A copy of this statement is attached.4 This statement indicates general concurrence with the form and approach proposed by the Dominican Government for the Agreement, but contains certain broad suggestions regarding desired changes in some of the Agreement’s Articles. The ensuing discussion was carried on in a spirit of friendly cooperation, with the Foreign Minister stating that his Government was happy to cooperate with us in this project. At one point Ambassador Ortega Frier stated that when the request for Dominican cooperation was received, his Government was “tickled to death” at the opportunity thus afforded to participate in a joint defense project.

After looking over the draft of our views handed them, the Dominican representatives, with Ambassador Ortega Frier doing most of the talking, mentioned the following points:

Ambassador Ortega Frier inquired whether it was intended to use the sites and rights granted by the Agreement for general defense purposes in the event of hostilities. He said that if there was any possibility that this might be done it would be better to include it now than to conclude a supplementary agreement at a later date. Ambassador Ortega Frier was apparently desirous, for prestige reasons, that such an addition be made to the Agreement. The Air Force representatives stated that it was not now intended to use the sites and privileges cited for purposes other than those stipulated in the draft already submitted to the Dominican Government. The Dominicans were told that consideration would be given to the point raised by Ambassador Ortega Frier.
Some apprehension was expressed by the Dominicans with respect to the extent of the range area and possible danger which might result should the missiles flown over the area get off course. They inquired whether it was possible that these missiles might fly outside the range area. The Air Force representatives said that while this is a possibility, they feel that very little danger will result therefrom, since the movement of the missiles can be controlled from the ground and the missiles can be destroyed if there is any reason to believe their continued flight would be dangerous.
The Dominicans inquired whether the missiles might carry atomic weapons or materials. They were told that this might be a possibility.
In general the Dominicans wished to know how much dangerous material would be carried in the missiles over the testing range. The answer to this question was that normally very little will be carried, i.e., only sufficient explosive material to destroy the missile in the event its continued flight is undersirable. It was clearly pointed out that the missile is a means of transporting explosives and is not an explosive itself, so that in testing the flight of missiles over the range the principal “cargo” carried by the missile will be non-explosive ballast material.
The Dominicans inquired whether it was intended to establish other proving grounds or to make agreements with other countries of the type proposed between the United States and Dominican Governments. The reply to this question was that this is the only LRPG contemplated by the Air Force and that it is not now planned to extend it beyond Puerto Rico. The Dominicans were told that the only other agreements negotiated or under negotiation are with the Government of the United Kingdom, with reference to the use of the territory of the Bahamas and other British islands on the route of the LRPG. It was pointed out that the testing of guided missiles over the LRPG is a joint United States-British project, and that the agreements with the British provide for the way in which British controlled territory shall be used in this project.
Some discussion ensued on the proposal of the Air Force for a 25-year period for the life of the Agreement and the Dominican counter proposal for a 5-year period. Ambassador Ortega Frier stated that it would be difficult to explain to the Dominican people, particularly those whose property rights would be affected by the need for sites, rights of way, etc., why they must give up the use of their property for 25 years. He felt it would be better to present the matter to those Dominicans whose property rights would be so affected as a 5-year proposal, since this would appear to be of a much more temporary nature than a 25-year period. He said that the Agreement could be extended as needed beyond the 5-year period.

The Air Force representatives stated that the 5-year period would just give them time to get well under way and that it would be difficult for them to explain the project to the Congress of the United States and to obtain the necessary funds for the heavy long run investment needed if assurances could not be given in advance that the Air Force would continue to reap the benefits of the investment put into the project. No conclusive result was reached between the United States and Dominican representatives as to the length of the Agreement.

No comments were made by the Dominican representatives regarding the general remarks in the United States informal statement with respect to the Dominican Government’s counter draft on the matter of jurisdiction.

It was agreed that we would prepare precise alternative language on those Articles in the Dominican draft which we wish to have [Page 1370] revised, and would submit these proposed revisions to the Dominican Government through our Embassy at Ciudad Trujillo, in accordance with the already agreed on plan to have the agreement negotiated and signed there.

After the Dominicans had left, the United States Government representatives tentatively agreed to suggest to the Dominicans a 12 or 15-year period, and to accede to a 10-year period if necessary. If it is decided to present this alternative to the Dominican Government it will be included in the Department’s suggested modifications of the Dominican draft for presentation by our Embassy to the Dominican Government.5

  1. In telegram 111, from Ciudad Trujillo, November 11, 1950, not printed, the First Secretary of the Embassy (Belton) had informed the Secretary of State that the Dominican Government agreed to discuss with representatives of the Department of State and the United States Air Force the acquisition of sites in the Dominican Republic in connection with the operation of a Long Range Proving Ground (LRPG) for guided missiles (711.56341B/11–1150); a draft of a proposed agreement was sent to the Embassy for presentation to the Dominican Government under cover of instruction 67, February 9, 1951, not printed (711.56341B/12–2950).
  2. The Dominican counterproposal for an LRPG agreement, dated March 16, 1951, was transmitted to the Department of State as enclosure 2 under cover of despatch 589, from Ciudad Trujillo, March 16, 1951, not printed (711.56341E/3–1651). In the covering despatch, Ambassador Ackerman stated in part that most of the concessions sought by the United States in the original draft had been retained in the Dominican draft, and that the only substantive changes were an explicit statement that the Dominican Republic did not cede sovereignty over the area specified as the testing ground, provision for the establishment of a mixed commission to determine jurisdiction over crimes by United States personnel in and outside of the area, and a reduction of the duration of the agreement from 25 to 5 years.
  3. Not printed.
  4. The several drafts and counterdrafts of the proposed LRPG agreement exchanged by the United States and the Dominican Republic between May and November, 1951, are in Department of State decimal files 711.56341B and 711.56339.

    On November 26, 1951, the United States and the Dominican Republic signed at Ciudad Trujillo an agreement, with an accompanying exchange of notes of the same date, providing for the extension through a portion of Dominican territory of the flight-test range for guided missiles of the United States Air Force Missile Test Center at Cocoa, Florida. The agreement was transmitted to the Department of State under cover of despatch 327, from Ciudad Trujillo, November 29, 1951, not printed (711.56339/11–2951). For text of the agreement and notes, see Department of State Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS) No. 2425, or United States Treaties and Other International Agreements (UST), vol. 3 (pt. 2), p. 2569.