No. 801
The Ambassador in Portugal (Cannon) to the Department of State

top secret

39. Following is joint Embassy/MSA/MAAG message.

HQUSAF AFONS 53919 July 161 says Portuguese jet program cut to 3 squadrons and requests country team evaluation.
This comes on heels exchanges between MAAG and Portuguese Defense Ministry which reveal most disturbing situation. In reply to MAAG survey2 showing lag in Portuguese air program and pointing out Portugal unready accept delivery Jets by January 1953, Defense Ministry Chief MAAG July 3,3 following would be consequences if Portuguese air end item cut:
As regards Portugal NATO committed ground forces, SHAPE would have to provide air support.
As regards Azores, they would be left undefended as Portugal unwilling assign their defense to another country.
If continental Portugal not to have at least 5 jet squadrons, government prefers abandon NATO rather than leave nation defenseless. Moreover, with only 5 squadrons Portugal would still have to be released from commitments assumed.
MAAG believes Portugal by maximum immediate effort can provide men and leadership to absorb 3 jet squadrons in calendar 1953 and with continued effort 2 more calendar 1954 but insufficient indication Portuguese initiation effort as yet.
MSA does not believe Portugal capable proper money support 5 squadrons and doubtful as to 3 (see general comments under paragraph 7).
If Portugal maintains their position elements of problem are:
Shall we drop air side of program? Purely on basis its present instructions re utilization end items, MAAG feels obliged to recommend this unless prompt evidence of concrete progress. We wish, however, point out risk involved (see 2 b and c above).
Shall we limit jet program 3 squadrons? This may require money from US, would involve risk of paragraph 2 b and c above, and probably require modification MAAG’s direction to ensure that end items can be used effectively at time of delivery.
Shall we restore 5 jet squadrons program? This still entails risk (paragraph 2 b). It requires our financing and also suspension MAAG directive re effective use on delivery.
Shall we carry out c adding the 2 jet squadrons for Azores, entailing further financing and certainly relax utilization rule?

This situation brings out again, but possibly at a critical level, 3 incompatible elements:

  • First, what Defense Minister wants;
  • Second, what MDAP matériel US is prepared to furnish;
  • Third, what Portuguese Air Force has so far demonstrated it can do;
  • Fourth, what Portugal can and will finance.

Either matériel program must be reduced to what Portugal can finance and her Air can use, with risks of paragraph 2. Or to eliminate risks of paragraph 2, we must carry out course d of paragraph 5, or at least c of paragraph 5. Note that pending decision no reply can be made to Defense Ministry’s letter.

Though Defense Ministry’s document is in contrast with usual cooperation, and his position in some respects clearly unreasonable, we must assume his statement drafted after consultation with Salazar. We are naturally concerned also how this matter will affect other relations with Portugal considered of paramount importance. On study of whole program we think time has come for general reexamination. Dilemma goes back to beginning of program as pointed [Page 1725] out in Toeca 154 and Torep 156, June 9, 19514 and subsequently as for instance in TCC survey.5 In order to get forward with this problem we must have definite information on general planning and US expectations Portuguese performance. Please supply urgently high-level guidance.
  1. Not found in Department of State files.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. A copy of the Portuguese Defense Minister’s reply is in Lisbon Embassy files, lot 59 F 53, “Portuguese Air Force Program, 1950–1952”.
  4. Neither printed. (ECA telegram files, lot W 130, “Lisbon Toeca and Lisbon Torep”)
  5. For documentation concerning the activities of the Temporary Council Committee, see vol. v, Part 1, pp. 203 ff.