302. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, June 3, 19551


  • Inquiry Concerning United States Antarctic Claim


  • Senator Ralph E. Flanders
  • Mr. William Godel—Department of Defense
  • Mr. John S. Leahy, Jr.—H
  • Mr. Walworth Barbour—EUR
  • Mr. Grant G. Hilliker—BNA

Referring to Senator Flanders’ letter of April 282 to Mr. Morton, I said that we had requested a meeting to discuss the question of Antarctic claims in view of the difficulty of adequately clarifying our position in a letter.

I told the Senator that the Departments concerned had been actively considering for the past several months the question of a possible U.S. claim in the Antarctic, reversing the previous policy of reserving U.S. rights everywhere in the area. We had recently decided to postpone the action for a year during which time U.S. expeditions in the area might obtain additional information upon which we might better select the areas of greatest value to the United States.

The Senator supposed that the existence of other countries’ claims also affected the problem. Mr. Godel replied affirmatively and explained that U.S. expeditions would be in the Antarctic over the next several years after a period of several years of U.S. inactivity. [Page 620] He handed the Senator a copy of the “Bluebird” map3 and stated that the coming expeditions would establish five permanent U.S. stations (Little America, Marie Byrd Land, South Pole, McMurdo Sound, and Weddell Sea). The area is of some strategic value, he said, because the Drake Passage is an alternate route around South America in the event the Panama Canal should be disabled. No mineral discoveries had yet been made by the U.S. or any other country which would justify exploitation according to methods thusfar known. Other countries had established bases in the area, particularly around the Palmer Peninsula, which gave them very strong rights. Nevertheless the Administration was definitely moving in the direction of making an official claim.

I stated that we planned, once a decision on a claim had been made, to enter into negotiations with other claimants for the mutual recognition of claims. The Senator asked that we keep him informed so that when that time is reached he might introduce a bill for the assertion of a claim. He explained this desire on grounds of personal interest in the Antarctic and implied that he expected the bill would be handled by the Armed Services Committee of which he is a member.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 702.022/6-355. Secret.
  2. In this letter Senator Flanders expressed concern over the reluctance of the United States to exercise its sovereignty in declaring claims in the Antarctic, and the Senator indicated that he might introduce legislation in the Senate making claims in the area. (Ibid.)
  3. Not further identified.