Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State


Subject: South African Commitment re Defense of North Africa and the Equipping of the Proposed South African Expeditionary Force

Participants: The Secretary
The South African Ambassador, Mr. G. P. Jooste
Mr. ShullawBNA

The South African Ambassador, Mr. G. P. Jooste, called on me today at my request. I told him that having learned of his impending departure for South Africa I had asked him to call in order that I might discuss with him South African plans to send an expeditionary force to North Africa in the event of hostilities and the problem of equipping this expeditionary force. Before going into this matter in detail, I told the Ambassador of our great satisfaction with the decision of South Africa to send an air squadron to Korea.1 I expressed the hope that the Ambassador would convey our appreciation to his Government upon his return to South Africa.

So far as the defense of the African continent is concerned, I said that the South African decision with respect to an expeditionary force was most helpful. We are unable, however, because of lack of legislative authority to give any assurances concerning the equipping of the South African force. In the first place we cannot anticipate where the attack, if it comes, will fall, or where the need for equipment will be greatest. I said that I understood the South African Government had doubts about the desirability of training an expeditionary force in the absence of any assurances that the equipment for it would be forthcoming when needed. I said that I felt certain that if South Africa had in existence at the time of the outbreak of hostilities a force trained with American equipment and ready to go into action there [Page 1447] would be every effort made to see that it was equipped. Furthermore it is very obvious that in the event of war our present legislation would be inadequate and would require amendment. I said that I had no desire to be cagey or evasive but was attempting to give the Ambassador a frank statement of why we are unable to give assurances concerning the equipping of the expeditionary force. I added that I understood training equipment could be handled as reimbursable assistance and did not present any particular difficulties.2

The Ambassador said that this explanation of the situation would be most helpful to him in explaining our position to his Government. He remarked that one question which might be raised with him was the matter of eventual payment for equipment received for the expeditionary force, assuming that on the outbreak of hostilities some way were found by which it could be supplied to South Africa. He said that his Government is proud of its financial reputation and would be concerned about the possibility of assuming an obligation in excess of its capacity to repay. He referred in this connection to South Africa’s Lend-Lease negotiations after the last war. I told the Ambassador that Lend-Lease had been conceived by President Roosevelt as a method of avoiding the creation of war debts. It was only a step, however, in the development of this concept. I said that in any case there would be an opportunity for the question of cost of equipment to be considered by South Africa at the time the equipment was needed, and in the light of the circumstances and conditions then prevailing.

Following this discussion the Ambassador referred to the subject of Southwest Africa and the appointment of a successor to the late Ambassador Erhardt. These remarks are covered in a separate memorandum.3

  1. A South African air fighter squadron joined the United Nations forces in Korea in October 1950.
  2. In the statement summarized here, the Secretary of State followed the line recommended in a briefing paper submitted by Assistant Secretary Perkins under cover of a memorandum of April 18. (601.45A11/4–1851)
  3. In a separate, briefer memorandum of conversation, Secretary Acheson recorded that Ambassador Jooste expressed his hope that some solution could be found to the problem of South West Africa and stated that he would discuss the matter with his Government during his impending visit to South Africa. Jooste also asked if anything could be said about a successor to the late Ambassador Erhardt who died suddenly in Pretoria on February 18. Secretary Acheson promised to look into that matter. Regarding the designation, appointment, and confirmation of Ambassador Gallman as the new Ambassador in South Africa, see the editorial note, p. 1452.