149. Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation, Between the Ambassador in Panama (Harrington) and the Acting Officer in Charge of Central American and Panamanian Affairs (Sowash), August 17, 19561


  • Long Distance Conversation with Ambassador Harrington in Panama City

Ambassador Harrington called me from Panama at 11:00 o’clock this morning. The conversation covered the following topics:

The Ambassador said that Panama had again rejected the United States position with respect to Article II of the 1936 Treaty in connection with the United States request for radar sites in [Page 297] Panama. He said he had sent the Department a strong telegram on this subject2 and wished the Department to consider carefully its implications of Panama’s action with respect to our future policy toward that country.
He said that a telegram is being sent to the Department containing the text of a press release which he and Assistant Secretary Roderick believe should be issued at the conclusion of Mr. Roderick’s visit to the Isthmus.3 He thought that it was particularly desirable that this release be made in view of Panama’s action on the radar sites question. He said that it deals solely with questions involving the implementation of the 1955 Agreements with Panama and does not mention the radar sites and Suez issues. He asked that, if possible, the Department telephone its clearance today in order that the release may be made to the press in Panama tomorrow morning. He suggested that the text be cleared with Mr. Roderick’s office, too.
The Ambassador stated that he was also sending by cable the text of a protest regarding the London Conference made by the Panamanian Ambassador to London.4 He requested that the text of this protest be carefully reviewed with a view to determining whether its language requires a counter-protest from this Government to Panama.

Ambassador Harrington inquired whether any decisions have yet been reached with respect to the special mission of the United States Government to the inauguration ceremonies in Panama on October 1.5 I replied that an instruction should reach him over the weekend on this subject authorizing him to accept the invitation of [Page 298] the Panamanian Government to send a special mission. I added that the names of the members other than himself, as Chief of Delegation, could not yet be made available and that this information would follow at a later date. I suggested and the Ambassador agreed that the Embassy time its acceptance so that the United States delegation will rank about midway in point of precedence for the ceremonies.6

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.1913/8–1756. Confidential.
  2. Telegram 148 from Panama City, August 16. (Ibid., 611.1913/8–1656)
  3. Roderick was on a brief visit to Panama, August 14–19, to discuss activities of the Canal Zone Government, the Panama Canal Company, and the defense establishment in the Canal Zone, with particular emphasis on implementation of the recent treaty between the United States and Panama. Telegram 152 from Panama City, August 17, contained the text of Roderick’s proposed press release. A handwritten note on the telegram indicates that the statement was cleared by telephone with Sowash on August 18, with some changes. (Ibid., 611.1913/8–1756) A report on Roderick’s conversations with Panamanian officials was forwarded to Gordon Gray on September 14. (Department of Defense, OASD/ISA Files, Country Files, Panama)
  4. In telegram 145 from Panama City, August 16, the Embassy reported that the Panamanian Ambassador in London had been instructed on August 15 to deliver a note to the British Foreign Office protesting Panama’s exclusion from the 22-Power Suez Canal Conference. The note stressed the importance of Panama as a maritime nation with large tonnage. It stated, furthermore, that the Panama Canal was built on a lane under Panamanian sovereignty although certain specific rights for maintenance, sanitation, operation, and protection had been granted to the United States, and that according to a treaty in effect both the United States and Panama had a joint and vital interest in the canal. The note concluded that Panama reserved rights with respect to any decisions of the conference. (Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–LO/8–1656)
  5. Ernesto de la Guardia, Jr., was elected President of Panama in May 1956.
  6. Airgram 30 to Panama City, August 24, requested the Embassy to reply to the Panamanian note of August 15 regarding the London Conference in part as follows:

    “In the note occasion was taken to state that Panama ‘has granted to the United States of America certain rights [in the Canal Zone] for specified purposes relative to the maintenance, improvement, operation, and protection of the Panama Canal’.

    “In view of this statement, I am under instructions from my Government to state, for the record, that under Article III of the Convention of 1903 Panama granted to the United States ‘all the rights, power and authority within the zone … and … all auxiliary lands and waters … which the United States would possess and exercise if it were the sovereign of the territory within which said lands and waters are located to the entire exclusion of the exercise by the Republic of Panama of any such sovereign rights, power or authority’. Article III thus confers upon the United States exclusive jurisdiction within the Zone.” (Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–LO/8–1656) Brackets and ellipses are in the quoted airgram.