Lisbon Embassy files, lot 64 F 17, “Dunham Correspondence, 1950–1954”

No. 810
William B. Dunham of the Office of Western European Affairs to the Counselor of Embassy in Portugal (Carrigan)

top secret

Dear Johnny: You will recall our correspondence of last Spring and Summer regarding the question of additional US military requirements in the Azores.1 These requirements are now approaching final form and we discussed them informally with our friends at the Defense Department and with the Ambassador and Aaron Brown while they were here on consultation last week. As I promised them I am writing now to describe as briefly as I can what these requirements are so they can have this information when [Page 1741] they arrive and so we may have any comment which this outline may stimulate. Unfortunately, your letter of January 292 arrived late in the day on Friday, February 5 and we did not have a chance to talk with the Ambassador about it. However, as you will see, the circumstances are now a bit different, both as to the requirements and timing, so you may want to review your comments in light of this.

The new requirements for the Azores include: increasing the personnel ceiling from 1200 to 2400; securing additional land areas; equipping the air rescue unit with B–29’s; and stationing a fighter interceptor squadron. We realize that the questions of the personnel ceiling and the land areas were taken up by Col. Smith with the Portuguese last Spring, albeit without appropriate authorization, and it may prove to be somewhat embarrassing to come back so soon on the same subjects. However, I am afraid that is the price we must pay for the uncoordinated action which he took. We also realize that the fighter interceptor squadron may engage us in the discussion of a subject on which the Portuguese feel rather strongly, but this is something we will have to face.

A second category of requirements concerns the right to station a minimum support unit at Sal Island, in the Cape Verde Islands, and to develop the local air field for use in connection with an alternate central Atlantic route. The Defense Department has suggested that the Defense Agreement of September, 1951 be broadened to provide for these additional military rights.

At the same time Defense suggests we request that the Defense Agreement be extended for an additional five years or longer. They would also like to remove the restriction in the Agreement which provides that the US commander shall not be of higher rank than the local Portuguese commander. Since Defense is planning to have a unified command in the Azores, the removal of this restriction would make it possible to station a general or flag officer there whenever that is deemed desirable in the future.

A number of questions have arisen in our minds regarding these Defense Department proposals and we hope to resolve them before they send us an official letter setting forth their requirements and recommendations.

First, we have suggested that we leave to the discretion of the Ambassador and the negotiators the question of whether to incorporate the Sal Island requirements into the Defense Agreement. We have pointed out that the requirements in the Azores were processed through NATO and became NATO requirements and the current Defense Agreement was thereafter made in response to a [Page 1742] NATO invitation to both governments. The Sal Island requirements can properly be included under the Defense Agreement since they are subsidiary requirements in support of NATO and as such, according to NATO determination, do not have to be processed as NATO requirements. Nevertheless, we feel this is a question which can be better determined on the spot in the light of Portuguese views developed during the negotiations.

We would also leave to the Ambassador’s discretion the question of asking for an extension of the Defense Agreement—depending on how the talks go—and the question of asking for a change in the provision with regard to the rank of the US commander. With respect to the latter, it seemed to me that it might be preferable, if it would work, to settle this matter informally.

Questions have also arisen regarding the modus operandi. Since the matters to be discussed with the Portuguese are primarily questions of technical and military detail, the plan is to proceed as we have with all of our previous negotiations on this subject, i.e., to send several military officers, probably one from each service headed by Col. Smith, to conduct the actual discussions under the Ambassador’s watchful eye, and, as in previous cases, presumably under Ted’s tutelage. Defense has asked us whether they should again send a letter to the Defense Minister from the Secretary of Defense to assist in introducing the subject and these military officers. This seemed to be helpful in the past, and it occurred to us that such a letter, presented as seems best locally, might be useful.

With best regards,

Sincerely yours,

  1. The correspondence, mostly in the form of personal letters, is in Lisbon Embassy files, lot 64 F 17, “Dunham Correspondence, 1950–1954”.
  2. Supra.