309. Letter From the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Robertson) to the Under Secretary of State (Hoover)1

Dear Herb: In confirmation of our conversation on the subject of SAC flights to Antarctica,2 this office has determined that for the reasons we discussed the present operation by the Strategic Air Command should be cancelled.

However, in view of the desire of the Department of State that all possible efforts be made to obtain “first sightings” and mapping data in that area where the Soviets are expected to install their base and from which they will conduct their operations, we have requested the Department of the Navy to instruct its expeditionary Task Force to reschedule its mapping flights so as to anticipate what we judge to be the most probable time of the Soviet effort.

In order to provide the maximum time for Task Force 43 to conduct its operations, however, we would appreciate it if the Department of State would initiate such diplomatic action as may be feasible to persuade the governments of Australia, Argentina, and South Africa to delay or withhold permission for Soviet flight operations from bases within their countries.

We recognize, of course, that such action might involve other diplomatic considerations which would make a direct approach to these governments undesirable and defer to your judgment on this matter.3

Sincerely yours,

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 031.1102/10–2655. Confidential.
  2. In a memorandum of October 21 to Barbour, Hoover briefly reviewed the substance of a telephone conversation with Deputy Secretary Robertson. Robertson outlined the following reasons why the Department of Defense was hesitant to undertake aerial surveys over certain areas of Antarctica by means of Strategic Air Command aircraft: 1) the operations could not begin until early December, 2) inadequate coverage by surface vessels and lack of other facilities caused serious jeopardy of life, and 3) the cost of such operation was $4 million over and above expenditures contemplated in existing plans. (Ibid., 031.1102/10–2155)

    A memorandum from Barbour to Acting Secretary Hoover, dated October 21, recommending that Hoover support earlier proposed flights to Antarctica if the Department of Defense was still interested in them, is not printed. (Ibid.)

  3. Telegram 129 to Canberra, November 1, drafted in EUR/BNA and signed by Horsey for Hoover, reads as follows:

    “B–36 Antarctic flights discussed with Australian Counselor October 21 (memorandum pouched addressee missions) will not take place. Navy expedition will try make desired reconnaissance with own equipment. Decision cancel B–36 flights solely motivated by operational and budgetary reasons.” (Ibid., 031.1102/11–155)