The Secretary of State to the Ambassador of the Union of South Africa (Jooste)1


The Secretary of State presents his compliments to His Excellency the Ambassador of the Union of South Africa and has the honor to refer to the Ambassador’s note dated October 9, 1950,2 confirming in broad outline the policy of the Union Government with regard to the defense of Africa, and furnishing certain information concerning the Union Government’s military equipment requirements. These requirements were classified into two groups: equipment required immediately for the training of normal, peacetime forces, and that required for an expeditionary force. It was stated that the equipment for the expeditionary force would not be needed until the force arrived in the theatre of operations, and the hope was expressed that the United States would find it possible to extend the least onerous financial terms for this equipment.

In the conversations which the South African Minister of Defense, the Hon. F. C. Erasmus, had with the Secretary of State and with the Secretary of Defense during his visit to the United States in October, 1950, he was informed that there was no existing legislative authority which would permit the United States to extend military assistance to South Africa on a grant basis. However, the provisions of Section 408(e) of the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949, as amended, which would, under certain conditions, permit the United [Page 1430] States to extend to the Union of South Africa military assistance on a reimbursable basis, were explained to Mr. Erasmus.3

It has now been determined,4 in accordance with the terms of Section 408(e) of the Mutual Defense Assistance Act, as amended, that the Union of South Africa is eligible to receive reimbursable military assistance from the United States. Consequently the Government of the United States, upon receipt of the assurances from the South African Government required in the administration of the Act, will be able to extend reimbursable military assistance to South Africa. The assurances required in order to give effect to this determination will be the subject of a separate communication to the Ambassador.5

With respect to the observations contained in the Ambassador’s note concerning the hope of the South African Government that the Government of the United States would find it possible to extend the least onerous financial terms possible, the method by which the fair value of equipment or material transferred is determined, is set forth in Sections 403(c) and 408(e) (2) of the Act, as amended. In extending reimbursable military assistance to a nation determined to be eligible for such assistance, the Government of the United States has only such discretion in the fixing of the terms of reimbursement as is afforded by the terms of the Act, and specifically the provisions of the sections cited.

In the Ambassador’s note it was further stated that informal discussions were taking place between the Service Attachés of the Embassy and representatives of the Department of Defense concerning the availability and costs of equipment required by the South African Armed Forces. It was the understanding of the Department of State that on the basis of these conversations, the Union Government would determine the specific items it would seek to obtain in the United States, and would forward to the Department of State its requests for the assistance of the Government of the United States in obtaining this equipment. It should be noted, however, that eligibility for reimbursable military assistance does not in itself assure in any way that equipment desired can be made available. Competing and urgent demands for limited quantities of equipment and materials necessitate [Page 1431] an examination and determination in the case of each item of equipment. In view of this situation it is apparent that this Government is unable to give any general commitment or assurances regarding the equipping of the proposed South African expeditionary force even though, as pointed out in the Ambassador’s note, such equipment would not be required until the force arrived in the theatre of operations. The Government of the United States recognizes and appreciates the initiative of the South African Government in deciding, as a part of its defense policy, that it will regard any military attack by a communistic power or powers on the continent of Africa as a direct attack on South Africa to be resisted with all the force at the Union’s disposal. This Government has also noted with appreciation the references in Prime Minister Malan’s statement in Parliament on January 25 to the importance of armed strength in the free world as a deterrent to Communist aggression. It is the sincere hope of this Government that the eligibility of the Union Government for reimbursable aid under the Mutual Defense Assistance Act will assist South Africa in carrying out its training programs and in implementing its defense policy. Within the limits imposed by the Act and the availability of the equipment needed, and having regard to world conditions at the moment, the Government of the United States will give the most sympathetic consideration to requests from the South African Government.

  1. This note was drafted by Shullaw (EUR/BNA) and was cleared by S/ISA and L/E.
  2. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. v, p. 1841.
  3. For records of the conversations described here, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. v, pp. 1832 ff.
  4. Regarding the determination under reference here, see the editorial note, p. 1427.
  5. An approved draft of the note under reference here was given to South African Ambassador Jooste by Assistant Secretary of State Perkins on December 26, 1950. (Memorandum of conversation by Satterthwaite (BNA), December 26, 1950: 745A.5 MAP/12–2850) On February 12, 1951, Jooste sent an informal letter to Perkins requesting clarification of certain of the assurances called for in the draft note of December 26. (745A.5/3–1551) Raynor discussed the requested clarifications with Jooste on March 15 and March 20. (Memoranda of conversation. March 15 and March 20, 1951: 745A.5/3–1551 and 745A.5/3–2051) Jooste discussed the matter with Secretary Acheson on April 20; see the Secretary’s memorandum of conversation, p. 1446.