776.5 MSP/10–2954

Memorandum of Conversation, by Alexander J. Davit of the Office of African Affairs

official use only


  • Liberian Memorandum on National Security and Defense.


  • Liberian Representatives:
  • Mr. William E. Dennis, Secretary of the Treasury
  • Mr. C. Abayomi Cassell, Attorney General
  • Dr. Joseph N. Togba, Dir. Gen., National Public Health Service
  • Mr. Charles Sherman, Economic Adviser
  • Mr. Nathaniel V. Massaquoi, Assistant Secretary of Education
  • Mr. Rudolph Grimes, Counselor, Liberian Department of State
  • NEA—Mr. Byroade
  • Mr. Dixon
  • AF —Mr. Utter
  • Mr. Davit
[Page 523]

Mr. Byroade opened the meeting by indicating that the subject for discussion was the Liberian Government’s Memorandum on National Security and Defense.1

With reference to the acquisition of military equipment on a deferred payment plan, Mr. Byroade explained that the Executive Order had not yet been signed. In any event, he assured the Liberian representatives that every effort would be made to reach a determination before President Tubman departed.2

Concerning the request for a Military Assistance Advisory Group adequately staffed to make a survey of Liberia and the possibility of subsequent grant military aid, Mr. Byroade could not be optimistic. He explained that reduced appropriations had made necessary curtailment of certain plans. In addition, he pointed out that the military build-up in other areas had priority and noted that, in light of the present threat, the United States cannot afford at this time to put military equipment into Liberia. A military build-up could be a drain on the Liberian economy, and Mr. Byroade queried whether in the long run it was to Liberia’s advantage to put its resources into military expansion.

With regard to the local threat, Mr. Byroade said that the United States could not expend money at this time because of that probability. He drew attention to Liberia’s immediate need for a post-type installation. His remarks were not to be construed as precluding military help in the future, he said.

The United States, he noted, does not intend to stand aside if Liberia is threatened; however, it would be unwise to withdraw now equipment from Europe and the Middle East for Liberia, which is what would have to be done if Liberia were to receive grant aid.

Mr. Cassell inquired whether the United States military training group presently in Liberia were qualified to make surveys and if any [Page 524] had been made, to which Mr. Byroade replied that he understood the training mission was equipped only to handle training and knew of no surveys having been made. Concerning Liberia’s internal security problems, Mr. Byroade felt Liberia was the better judge of the possibilities of sabotage and subversion.

Mr. Cassell referred to the threat of Communism in Europe and indicated that his Government’s most immediate concern was the possibility of a collapse in France with possible subsequent developments similar to those which had existed in World War II, in which case territories contiguous to Liberia could fall under Communist domination, following which attacks might be made on Liberia. Mr. Cassell stated that in light of Mr. Byroade’s presentation, the Liberian Government would be satisfied with a statement indicating contemplated action by the United States in the event Liberia’s security were threatened so that Liberia could know the extent to which she could depend upon the United States. He indicated that a survey would point up to Liberia her defense problem. The Liberian Government considers its present forces inadequate and needs a well-trained token force to be a nucleus in the event of an emergency. Mr. Cassell considered the present United States training team inadequate and asked if it could be enlarged.

Mr. Byroade offered no encouragement for a survey team or grant equipment but said that he considered their request for increasing the present training mission very reasonable. He said that this was a question which the Pentagon would have to decide, but he would be very willing to urge favorable Defense consideration of this question.

Similarly, he said he would feel justified in asking that the Pentagon include an officer in the training mission qualified to help the Liberian army conduct defense planning.

Mr. Dennis discussed occurrences which had placed Liberia in jeopardy in past wars. Mr. Massaquoi, emphasizing Communistic opportunism, discussed the problem of our Western Allies and colonialism. Mr. Charles Sherman noted that, if Liberia is to carry the burden of her economic development, it will be very difficult for her to carry the full load of military requirements. He believed the United States might to some extent relieve the Liberian Government of economic development so that Liberia might bear its military burden, a burden which in part grew out of its responsibility to protect American investments in Liberia.

Mr. Byroade, indicating Liberia’s fiscal and budgetary position did not appear to be as good as might be desired, expressed concern over Liberia’s economic position.

With reference to an Export-Import Bank loan, Mr. Cassell hoped that the bank could indicate the extent to which it could extend credit prior to President Tubman’s departure; details could be worked out [Page 525] later. Mr. Byroade reviewed the State Department’s relation to the bank and said he had urged the bank to consider as sympathetically and quickly as possible the Liberian request. Mr. Cassell inquired whether it would be possible for Liberian representatives to meet with State Department officials concerned with economic matters so that Liberia’s financial position might be reviewed. Mr. Cassell affirmed his desire for a free and frank exchange of remarks. Mr. Byroade set up a meeting with economic officers of the Department for 11:00 a.m., Monday, November 1, 1954.3

Mr. Byroade handed Mr. Dennis a draft copy of an Aide-Mémoire presenting the United States position on the Liberian proposals concerning technical assistance.4 It was understood by the Liberian representatives that this was a draft on which their comments were invited.

With regard to the Memorandum on the Free Port of Monrovia,5 a meeting would be arranged for Tuesday, November 2, 1954.

  1. On Apr. 1, 1954 (see p. 518), the Liberian Government had requested that the U.S. Military Mission be converted into a Military Assistance Advisory Group and that a total military and naval survey of the country be undertaken with a view to strengthening its defenses. Frederick E. Nolting, Jr., the Acting Special Assistant to the Secretary for Mutual Security Affairs, passed this request on to the Department of Defense on June 11. (776.58/4–154) H. Struve Hensel, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, indicated on June 16 that the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had been sought. (776.5 MSP/6–1654) Then on Aug. 23, Adm. Arthur C. Davis, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, informed Nolting that the Joint Chiefs had decided that from a military standpoint there were no requirements at that time to justify a military survey or approval of a grant military aid program, to which Admiral Davis added his concurrence. (776.5 MSP/8–2354) It was then on Sept. 13, that Ambassador Simpson handed Byroade his government’s Memorandum on National Security and Defense. Eleven days later, Jernegan informed the Ambassador that the United States could not accede to the Liberian request that the existing agreement providing for a military mission be revised to provide for a total military survey of Liberia by a Military Assistance Advisory Group. (776.11/9–2954)
  2. The State portion of President Tubman’s visit took place between Oct. 18 and 20. He was greeted at the White House by President Eisenhower on Oct. 18, and a State dinner was given in his honor that evening.
  3. Alexander J. Davit prepared a memorandum of conversation summarizing the discussion of Liberia’s financial and fiscal problems. (876.10/11–154)
  4. Not printed.
  5. Not printed. The Liberians were anxious that certain maintenance work be completed and hoped for an expansion of the Port Management Company.