Memorandum by the Director of the Office of African Affairs (Utter) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Byroade)



  • Air Staff Recommendation to Secretary Finletter Against Continued Financing of Roberts Field after FY 1953

Current Situation

AF has received an indication, through Mr. Snowdon of AV,1 from Colonel Robinson* of the Air Force, that the recently made appraisal of Roberts Field in relation to other airports of marginal military interest has resulted in adherence to the previous decision of the Air Staff advising that maintenance of the field cannot be justified on military grounds beyond FY 1953. A letter to President Truman to this effect is being or has already been prepared for Secretary Finletter’s signature.2 Unless Secretary Finletter, with some urging from you, alters this decision there seems to be no further prospect of obtaining funds from the Air Force after FY 1953.

The Air Force has also taken the position that unless it receives definite assurances from the Department of State that it is actively seeking funds from non-military sources to finance the field after June 30, 1953, the Air Force will not continue to provide funds even for the balance of FY 1953. Pan-American also desires similar assurances that financing during the balance of 1953 and thereafter are really in sight before committing itself to continuing to operate the field under existing arrangements with the Air Force.


That you consider making one final effort to influence Mr. Finletter’s decision favorably in the direction of continued Air Force financing, thus overruling the Air Staff’s recommendation.
If you do not wish to make the above approach to Mr. Finletter, serious consideration should be given to the alternatives outlined in the memorandum dated November 17 [7], namely:
That you request E/TRC to place the whole problem before the Air Coordinating Committee where a unified government appraisal can be made of the value of the field to the overall national interest. If adequate interest is found to exist, funds could be requested under [Page 501] Public Law 647 which permits the Department of Commerce to operate airports and related facilities considered to be in the national interest. Although we understand this legislative authority has never been used, E/TRC agrees that it may be worth a trial in this case.3
That you request financing under MSA appropriations, despite previous indications from Mr. Martin that MSA is not able to undertake this project.
That you request TCA to finance the project.

If you would indicate to me which of the above courses of action you favor, and at what level the approaches should be made, AF and AV will work together to prepare any necessary papers. In view of the constant pressure we have been under, especially from Pan-Am, to obtain final action on this problem, I hope that the alternatives recommended can be pursued actively to relieve the pressure on the Department.

  1. Henry Taft Snowdon was the Assistant Chief of the Air Facilities Branch of the Office of Transportation and Communications Policy.
  2. Lt. Col. W. B. Robinson, AFOPD (Air Force, Director of Plans). [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. This letter was held up, Lt. Col. Robinson revealed at a meeting at the Department of State the next day, while the Air Force studied the “Bargain Bases” concept which involved operating bases in sub-Saharan Africa at austerity levels. Such bases would be serviceable in the event of an emergency which immobilized bases to the north. (711.56376/12–352)
  4. This line of action had been recommended by J. Paul Barringer, Director of the Office of Transportation and Communications Policy, in a memorandum dated Nov. 7, which he submitted to Under Secretary of State David Bruce and Willard L. Thorp, the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs. The Air Coordinating Committee was responsible for coordinating federal policy in the field of aviation. (976.524/11–752)