The Under Secretary of State (Smith) to the Secretary of Defense (Wilson)1


My Dear Mr. Secretary: In Secretary Lovett’s letter of May 9, 19522 concerning the possible reestablishment of military bases in the Galapagos Islands, it was indicated that the Department of Defense considered that an adequate basis for obtaining military rights in Ecuador, when needed, is to be found in the provisions of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance3 and the Ecuador–United States Military Plan of February 20, 1952.4 Secretary Lovett’s communication concluded that an additional agreement is neither necessary nor desirable at this time.

In the course of consideration of this matter in the Department of State and consultation with our Embassy in Quito, considerable doubt has been expressed that the provisions of either of these agreements are sufficiently precise to warrant an assumption that military rights so comprehensive as those defined in the annex5 to Secretary Lovett’s [Page 143] letter of May 9 could, in fact, be obtained without difficulty from Ecuador in the event of global war or other extreme emergency. Neither the Rio Treaty nor the Bilateral Military Plan contains a specific commitment on Ecuador’s part to make available base rights of the nature of those contemplated. In the absence of an understanding with the Ecuadoran Government more specific than any embodied in agreements now in force, there would appear to be considerable risk that delay or other difficulties would be encountered in effecting necessary arrangements after an emergency calling for urgent use of such rights by this Government had arisen. It would appear, therefore, that if we wish to ensure that Ecuadoran military cooperation with the United States would include that Government’s making available military rights in the Galapagos Islands for purposes of hemispheric security, further conversations with the Ecuadoran Government will be necessary with a view to reaching an agreement or firm understanding on this subject.

In this connection the Department of the Navy has informed this Department of its concern caused by the salvaging of defense installations on Baltra Island of the Galapagos group; and has suggested that representations be made to the Ecuadoran Government designed to forestall further removal of such facilities. It seems to me that before making formal representations to Ecuador on this subject we should have clearly in mind the main outlines of such general agreement, if any, as it may be desirable to work out with Ecuador pertaining to the Galapagos Islands. The preservation of existing facilities could be part of such general agreement. In the absence of such an agreement, or of a clear understanding with the Ecuadoran Government of the need for maintaining these installations for use in the event of an emergency, an approach to that Government solely on the question of the removal of equipment from the installations would seem to lack adequate justification. The Ecuadoran Congress has in fact, already enacted legislation authorizing the grant of a considerable quantity of salvaged pipe to two communities suffering from chronic water shortages.

If the Department of Defense believes that an approach should be made to the Government of Ecuador on this broader question, i.e., the possible use of the Galapagos Islands in the event of an emergency, then perhaps our proposals might be submitted to the Government of [Page 144] Ecuador in the form of an amendment to the secret Bilateral Military Plan between Ecuador and the United States. Such amendment might provide for the maintenance of existing installations, guaranteed by Ecuador, as well as arrangements for the use of the Galapagos Islands for hemispheric defense during an emergency. If the general question of the Galapagos Islands is to be taken up further with the Government of Ecuador, there would seem to be obvious advantages in associating that subject with the Bilateral Military Assistance Agreement and the secret Military Plan pursuant thereto.

I should appreciate being informed of the views of the Department of Defense in regard to the foregoing, and suggest that as a preliminary step the entire subject be discussed by representatives of our two Departments. If you concur in this suggestion, Mr. Maurice M. Bernbaum is prepared to discuss the matter further with such representatives of the Department of Defense as may be designated.6

Sincerely yours,

Walter B. Smith
  1. Drafted by Mr. Spencer and Mr. Bernbaum on Mar. 10; cleared with the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of State, the Office of the Special Assistant to the Secretary for Mutual Security Affairs, the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, and the Office of Regional American Affairs.
  2. Not printed. (711.56322/5–952)
  3. For text of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty), opened for signature at Rio de Janeiro, Sept. 2, 1947, and entered into force for the United States, Dec. 3, 1948, see 62 Stat. (pt. 2) 1681, or TIAS No. 1838.
  4. For documentation on the military plan, see pp. 966 ff.
  5. The text of the referenced annex, titled “Military Rights Requirements in the Galapagos Islands,” reads as follows:

    “U.S. Army

    “1. None.

    “U.S. Navy

    • “1. The right to establish a Naval air facility for the support of fleet reconnaissance and anti-submarine air detachments, including associated communication components.
    • “2. The right to establish a high frequency radio direction finder station.

    “U.S. Air Force

    “1. The right to survey, establish, occupy, operate, improve, expand, develop, protect, maintain, stockpile and support air bases. Air facilities are required at, but not limited to, Seymour Island.

    “Note: The above rights are desired after the declaration of an emergency.”

  6. No record of a Department of Defense reply to this letter was found in Department of State files.