129. Memorandum of Discussion at the 393d NSC Meeting1

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  • Discussion at the 393rd NSC Meeting Thursday, January 15, 1959

Present at the 393rd NSC Meeting were the President of the United States, Presiding; the Vice President of the United States; the Secretary of State; the [Deputy?] Secretary of State; the Secretary of Defense; and the Director, Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization. Also present and participating in the Council actions below were the Secretary of the Treasury; the Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission; and the Secretary of Commerce (Item 1). Also attending the meeting were the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Director of Central Intelligence; the Director, U.S. Information Agency; the Director, International Cooperation Administration; the Special Assistants to the President for National Security Affairs, for Science and Technology, and for Security Operations Coordination; the White House Staff Secretary; Assistant Secretary of Defense John N. Irwin, II; Assistant Secretary of State Gerard C. Smith; the Assistant White House Staff Secretary; the Executive Secretary, and the Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC.

There follows a summary of the discussion at the meeting and the main points taken.

[Omitted here are agenda items 1 and 2.]

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(SNIE 100–10–58; NSC Action No. 1876)

Mr. Gray pointed out that last autumn when trouble arose over the retention of our bases in Morocco, the Planning Board had asked CIA to prepare an Estimate on the prospects for the retention of U.S. bases in Morocco and eight other countries. The Planning Board discussed this Estimate and agreed that it would be desirable for the Council to hear a summary of the Estimate together with the views of the Secretary of State and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as to the net advantage to U.S. security of each of our overseas bases. In this connection he also reminded the Council that last March when the Nash Report on U.S. Military Bases Overseas had been discussed, the President had directed that our base system be reviewed each year and that “earnest and continuous scrutiny should be given . . . as to whether each U.S. overseas base throughout the world continues to represent a net advantage to U.S. security.” Mr. Gray then called on Mr. Allen Dulles who proceeded to report on our bases in North Africa, the Near East, on the three Far Eastern areas, Spain, Greenland, Iceland, and Latin America which latter area had not been in the original CIA Estimate.

Upon conclusion of Mr. Dulles’s report, Mr. Gray called on Secretary Dulles. Secretary Dulles said he had one observation to make about U.S. bases overseas. It was his view that in some of these countries at least we can probably carry on with our bases on a de facto basis for quite a little while if we are willing to do so. This was true especially of our bases in Africa. If, on the other hand, we try to formalize or legalize our position with respect to our bases, great difficulties would be created for us vis-a-vis the indigenous governments. Thus we have a situation which can be kept going on a de facto basis but not on a basis on which we formalize our specific rights and privileges over a specific number of years. Secretary Dulles said he realized this was not wholly satisfactory from the point of view of the Joint Chiefs of Staff but was probably a situation which would have to be lived with.

Secretary McElroy commented that if the Secretary had summed up the situation with respect to our bases in North Africa accurately, it would be important to avoid announcing any agreement with the indigenous governments there but that instead we should simply let matters drag on.

Mr. Gray then called on General Twining who asked permission to run through briefly each of the nine base areas covered in the original CIA Intelligence Estimate in order to point out the importance of each base to the U.S. The President expressed his approval and General Twining read a report dealing with our bases in Iceland, Greenland, Spain, Morocco, [Typeset Page 434] Libya, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, the Ryukyus, and Japan. (A copy of General Twining’s report is filed in the Minutes of this Meeting).

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In the course of this report the President inquired as to what constituted a reasonable quid pro quo for the maintenance of U.S. bases in Morocco while Secretary Dulles said that the situation with respect to our bases in Libya was very precarious. Secretary Dulles also pointed out that our negotiations with the Philippine Government on bases were not going at all well and that we have called Ambassador Bohlen home for consultation. He was expected to arrive in a few days.

As to Okinawa, Secretary Dulles recalled that about a year ago the President had suggested that a study be made as to the feasibility of consolidating all our military installations in Okinawa on one segment of the island. Secretary Dulles said he did not know whether this could actually be done but certainly at the moment our base installations in Okinawa sprawled all over the island. He then inquired as to the status of the study that the President had suggested. Neither Secretary McElroy nor General Twining knew about the precise status but Assistant Secretary Irwin pointed out that the study was being carried on. Already it had indicated the great difficulties of trying to concentrate all our military installations in one area of Okinawa. For one thing, such concentration would take up a disproportionate amount of arable land which would be hard on the natives of Okinawa.

The President commented in a familiar vein about the terrible difficulties which were inherent in the maintenance of U.S. bases in foreign countries. Secretary McElroy said that we would have to continue to run the island of Okinawa for a considerable time to come despite these difficulties. The President agreed that this was indeed the case but that we should run Okinawa in a way to cause the minimum amount of resentment from the inhabitants of the island. The President concluded the discussion of the subject by commenting on the spreading commitments of the U.S. both in the Atlantic and in the Pacific areas and suggesting that we might sometime have to make choices about our commitments.

The National Security Council:

Noted and discussed the subject in the light of an oral summary of SNIE 100–10–58 as brought up to date and with the addition of Latin American bases, presented by the Director of Central Intelligence.
Reviewed, on the basis of statements by the Secretary of State and the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, the net advantages to U.S. security of U.S. bases in Japan, Okinawa, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Libya, Spain, Iceland and Greenland; as required each year, pursuant to NSC Action No. 1876.
  • Noted a statement by the President:
    Requesting a review of the importance of continued maintenance by the United States of the Sangley Point Naval Base in the Philippines.
    Agreeing as to the need for a timely report on the results of the study as to the feasibility of concentrating U.S. military installations in Okinawa in a single area.
  • NOTE: The action in c above, as approved by the President, subsequently transmitted to the Secretary of Defense for appropriate implementation.

    [Omitted here is the remainder of the memorandum.]

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    S. Everett Gleason
    1. Source: Agenda item 3: U.S. Military Bases Overseas. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Extracts—5 pp. Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records.