190. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, November 22, 19551


  • Luncheon Meeting with Secretary of the Air Force


  • Mr. Donald Quarles, Secretary of the Air Force
  • Mr. James H. Douglas, Under Secretary of the Air Force
  • Major General Richard C. Lindsay, Director of Plans, Air Force
  • Mr. John Johnson, Air Force General Counsel
  • Mr. George V. Allen, Assistant Secretary, NEA
  • Mr. Fraser Wilkins, Director, NE

Assistant Secretary Allen lunched with Mr. Quarles and others today. During the course of the luncheon various aspects of the political situation in the Near East were discussed. Against this background the question of the Dhahran Airbase was taken up. Mr. Quarles said that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were considering the importance of the Dhahran Airbase and related matters. He added that the preliminary view of the Department of the Air Force was that the Dhahran Airbase was of importance but not of overriding interest to the United States. He said that the United States had invested about $50 million in the Dhahran Airbase and that he did not believe it could be duplicated for less than $100 million today. He said that if the United States and Saudi Arabia were not able to agree on an extension of the Airbase, it would be necessary to find other facilities in the area—in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Iran or possibly Qatar. In view of these factors, the Department of the Air Force and, he believed, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hoped the U.S. could retain the Dhahran Airbase, but they were not willing to pay an exorbitant price therefor. Meanwhile, Mr. Quarles suggested the Department of State might attempt to assess the attitude of the Saudi Arabian Government in Jidda with respect to the price we might be expected to pay and that we might also attempt quietly to ascertain whether air facilities could be made available in Iraq or possibly elsewhere.

Mr. Allen said that he concluded from Mr. Quarles’ remarks that the Department of the Air Force and the Joint Chiefs now held views generally similar to those which they had expressed in the past. Mr. Allen noted that the Department of State had already requested the American Embassy in Jidda for an assessment of the [Page 291] Saudi Arabian attitude and related factors.2 The Department had also queried the American Embassy in Baghdad regarding possible air facilities there. Colonel Butler, the Air Attaché, was away for a few days and Ambassador Gallman was awaiting his return before expressing their views.

Secretary Quarles and Assistant Secretary Allen agreed further to discuss the matter when more information was available.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 711.56386A/11–2255. Confidential. Drafted by Wilkins.
  2. In telegram 218, November 3, the Department instructed Wadsworth to prepare estimates of possible Saudi demands during future negotiations on the Dhahran Airfield, and to suggest possible U.S. counterproposals. See footnote 6, Document 188.