Truman Library, President’s Secretary’s file

The Secretary of Defense ( Lovett ) to the President

top secret

Dear Mr. President: I refer to your memorandum dated 9 August 1952 concerning the recommendations made by Edward R. Dudley, U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, with respect to Roberts Field, Liberia.1

Roberts Field is presently maintained and operated under a United States Air Force contract with Pan American World Airways. The contract is administered by the Military Air Transport Service. This contract expired on 30 June 1952 but has been extended on a bimonthly basis. The Fiscal Year 1952 contract for Roberts Field involved an expenditure of $280,000, and the Fiscal Year 1953 contract would require $371,000 as a result of additional maintenance costs. Repairs to the runway intersection will require expenditure of an additional $211,000 in Fiscal Year 1953. In addition, the over-all condition of the runways is such that an expenditure in excess of $1,000,000 will have to be made at an early date if the runways are to be kept in safe operating condition.

The Department of Defense presently does not have operational requirements which are of sufficient importance to justify the large expenditures involved in maintaining Roberts Field in operational condition. This Department does recognize, however, that there are large [Page 502] overriding economic considerations which might justify the expenditure of United States Government funds for its maintenance.

This problem has been discussed with officials of the Department of State who have indicated that political considerations make it highly desirable that Roberts Field continue under United States operation. It is understood that the Department of State, which has the primary interest in the continued operation of this base, is attempting to obtain funds from other than the Department of Defense sources for operation of Roberts Field subsequent to Fiscal Year 1953. The Pan American World Airways has indicated a desire to construct a $350,000 terminal building and hotel at Roberts Field if assured a long-term United States operation of Roberts Field. However, Pan American World Airways is unwilling to share in the cost of the maintenance and operation of Roberts Field.

In view of the overriding national interest in maintaining Roberts Field, the Department of the Air Force will continue to operate this field for the remainder of Fiscal Year 1953 to include the repair of the runway intersection. Although the Air Force and the Joint Chiefs of Staff plans for years subsequent to Fiscal Year 1953 do not now indicate military requirements which would justify the maintenance of Roberts Field, studies by the Air Force are now underway which may result in a change in this position. Until these studies have been completed and approved, the Air Force will be unable to justify the expenditure of appropriated military funds on a purely military basis for the maintenance of Roberts Field in Fiscal Year 1954 and subsequent years.

I am informed that the above arrangements are acceptable to representatives of the Department of State.

With great respect [etc.]

Faithfully yours,

Robert A. Lovett
  1. This was a covering note to the Dudley memorandum of July 10, p. 485.