711.56373/3–1052: Telegram

The Minister in Libya (Villard) to the Department of State1

secret

453. During my visit to Benghazi it was made unmistakably clear by King Idris as by local officials that US Armed Forces wld be welcome in Cyrenaica. King said he was deeply grateful for American aid and much impressed by what had been done for Tripolitania at Wheelus Field. He told me that Cyrenaican territory was at our disposal and that every assistance and facility wld be offered in event we desired site for milit installations.

Saquizli, Governor of Cyrenaica, was even more outspoken. He expatiated on advantages of Cyrenaica, urged that US establish airbase or bases, and inquired pointedly what had become of Navy communications project at Derna. When I expressed appreciation of this cooperative [Page 542]attitude, Saquizli replied that he must be frank in stating Cyrenaicans were not thinking solely in terms of East-West struggle but also of econ benefits which wld accrue to them from presence of US Forces. It was evident that rivalry between Cyrenaica and Tripolitania strongly colored his viewpoint as well as that of other Cyrenaican auths.

Whatever the motivation we shld realize that Cyrenaica is one of few places of great strategic importance where we are being actively encouraged to establish air or other bases. No comparable situation exists in any part of Middle East; certainly not in any other Arab country. I hope that friendly atmosphere which exists here at present will be fully taken into consideration in over-all milit planning for this area.

Villard
  1. On Feb. 6, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Henry S. Villard as the first American Minister to the United Kingdom of Libya.