The Ambassador in Liberia (Locker) to the Department of State1

No. 148


  • A–67, February 12, 19542


  • Roberts Field

On March 11, 1954, Ambassador Locker called on President Tubman by appointment to discuss the Roberts Field situation in compliance with the instruction above cited.

President Tubman informed the Ambassador that his Government had agreed in principle to a division of the costs of operating Roberts Field with Pan American Airways, Inc., and that he had appropriately instructed Ambassador Clarence L. Simpson to take up this subject upon his return to Washington with the Department and the interested American concern on a priority basis. The President expressed his awareness of the importance of finding a mutually satisfactory solution to this problem prior to the termination of the contract between Pan-American and the US Air Force on June 30, 1954.

As the Department may be aware, Pan-American late last year approached the Liberian Government with a tentative scheme for the operation of Roberts Field which included, inter alia, a proposal for the construction of a modern hotel in which the Liberian Government’s participation was sought. Inasmuch as Monrovia itself lacks a modern hotel, this aspect of the Pan-American proposal met with a brusque rebuff. However, President Tubman is understood to have committed himself in principle to accept an equal share in the cost of “normal” [Page 518] operation of the field, provided Pan-American would present acceptable detailed proposals, exclusive of the hotel feature.

In a conversation with the Monrovia representative of Pan-American, immediately following the Ambassador’s conversation with President Tubman, the former stated that he assumed that Pan-American was working on these proposals in the United States, but thought that the outcome might be related to the larger issue of Pan-American’s route certificate which comes up for simultaneous review by the Civil Aeronautics Board in late June or early July.3 That problem is of course tied in with the anticipated loss of Pan-American terminal rights at Lisbon and a possible rescheduling and rerouting of the West African run.

From the tenor of President Tubman’s conversation with the Ambassador, it appears that the locale for the negotiations on the Roberts Field problem is being transferred to Washington and New York with responsibility placed on Ambassador Simpson to deal with the problem on behalf of the Liberian Government.

As a side light on this problem, the Embassy is informed that when President Tubman briefed the Liberian Delegates to the Dakar Defense Conference,4 he stated that his Government had agreed in principle to carry one-half of the cost of the Roberts Field operations in cooperation with Pan-American Airways.

The Monrovia representative for Pan-American informed the Embassy that it is his understanding that no provision has been made in the Liberian budget for 1954 to cover this charge, which is roughly estimated as $150,000, but that he had been personally given to understand that the necessary funds would be made available, once a mutually satisfactory agreement with Pan-American had been reached.5

Jesse D. Locker
  1. This despatch was drafted by Frederick H. Hinke, Counselor of the Embassy. Locker had been sworn in as Ambassador succeeding Dudley on Aug. 31, 1953.
  2. Not printed; it instructed Locker to remind Tubman that financial support for Roberts Field would come to an end on June 30, 1954 in the hope that he might thereby be induced to engage in serious negotiations with Pan American World Airways. (711.56376/2–1254)
  3. This route connected the United States and Johannesburg via the Azores, Lisbon, Dakar, Monrovia, Accra, and Leopoldville.
  4. For information on the conference, see despatch 2138 from Paris, Feb. 18, p. 94.
  5. The draft Liberian-PanAm Agreement, a copy of which was sent to the Department by Locker on May 11, 1954, called for both parties to contribute $150,000 to Roberts Field operations. (976.524/5–1154)