36. Telegram From the Embassy in Senegal to the Department of State Dakar, October 20, 1960, 5 p.m.0

274. Department pass Defense. From Henderson.1 On evening October 18 I made my call on President Tubman accompanied by Ferguson of State and Colonel Junkermann of Defense. After exchange amenities I told him I had come see him personally at request of [Page 163] President and Secretary of State.2 Since Liberia was our old established friend and ally in African trip. [sic]

I then told him of President’s determination equip one battalion LFF during FY 1961 by grant aid of up to one million dollars. Said this decision based in part on findings of recent US survey team and representations made by our Embassy Monrovia and by Padmore3 and Grimes and in part on desire US Government do more to strengthen Liberian security forces. When President failed react to my statement I invited comments or questions.

After some hesitation he launched into long history US-Liberian relations interspersed with frequent illustrations of what he considered to be US neglect of or at least lack of adequate attention to Liberia’s needs and aspirations. He referred to Liberia’s entrance into First World War even though defenseless at US request and Monrovia’s consequent subjection to submarine attack; to EXIM Bank’s insistence on accepting US bid on construction road despite 2.7 million lower bid by Vianinni; to US insistence that Liberia pay back lend lease investments in port and air field facilities even though Liberia pledged make them available US forces in time war; to his personal humiliation at way Department treated his Guinea arms request; etc. His main current grievance however was “insulting statement” in report internal security survey team which reflected “honor of Liberia” and very offensive to him and his government.

His general theme was that although for more than hundred years Liberia had looked to US as its mentor and protector; had in general followed US lead in international affairs; had entrusted to US private enterprise development of Liberian resources nevertheless US had not given Liberia assistance kind needed enable it keep up with its neighbors which although colonies were being developed culturally, economically, and militarily by their mother countries. He deeply ashamed that Liberia after more than hundred years freedom was now so far behind its neighbors. Particularly humiliating that Liberia’s armed forces in such pitiful condition re discipline, equipment, number, etc., he amazed at suggestions in survey report that Liberia needed no militia; that Liberian frontier force could control frontier; that if Liberia should be attacked from without it should depend on UN for protection. He stated any self-respecting nation should have [Page 164] armed forces prepared to defend country; he was not making any exorbitant requests for assistance in strengthening security forces; two brigades militia and one brigade frontier force were his goal. This force to be built up gradually. He not asking for such expensive and complicated weapons as jets or nuclear weapons.

I did not undertake reply to his specific complaints although with assistance Ferguson and Junkermann we did attempt remove certain his suspicions and clarify various situations which he apparently had failed understand.

I told him I had not been sent see him in Zurich merely to tell him of decision to grant equipment for one battalion. My main purpose was to discuss status US-Liberian relations. We had heard that he unhappy at what he considered be our current attitude towards Liberia; we considered Liberia as a loyal and trusted friend and ally; we respected him and had no doubt re his basic friendliness to US. We therefore considered it important to discuss with him our attitude re Liberia in broad perspective and learn in some detail causes for his concern and unhappiness. I stated it our desire see Liberia develop into a leader among African states. We therefore anxious see Liberia surge ahead economically, culturally and socially and wanted to help. If our advice and suggestions sometimes seemed gratuitous he should bear in mind they were prompted by good intentions. We had however given more than advice; we had been contributing to Liberian development and were prepared continue do so. Recent decision equip battalion illustration our interest in Liberian military needs. I agreed that if any nation was to be self-respecting it should possess security forces prepared instantly to fight in defense country. Not always necessary such forces be large in size—but they should be adequately equipped, highly trained, and possess good morale. The size of the military forces should of course be regulated by economic strength of country. UN should be depended upon to assist in case of large scale aggression. Colonel Junkermann explained in more detail our ideas reequipping and training battalion which would be based upon mutual agreement and tailored to Liberia’s needs.

President gradually thawed—and conversation became more relaxed and cordial. He registered his liking for and confidence in Ambassador Mathews and I expressed our confidence in Padmore. He also discussed some his more intimate problems and concerns re his own military people. In end he invited us partake with him of refreshments which he had at hand.

As we took our leave he asked us express his appreciation President and Secretary for sending us to see him. He said as result our discussion he felt much better and more hopeful re US-Liberian relations. He also grateful for decision equip and train battalion. He intimated, however, that additional battalions would be necessary in due [Page 165] course. In addition to equipment and training for one battalion which US offered on grant basis, he also stated would like to buy, if found necessary, additional equipment for his military forces. I strongly recommend that military aid program be implemented promptly and if possible a token shipment of matériel be made available before end calendar year.

It is our considered belief that President’s unhappiness re status US-Liberian relations not due merely personal pique. We think he really worried at his own personal position in Liberia as long-standing advocate of policy that Liberia support US internationally and at position Liberia among “neutralist” African states as ally and friend US. We believe that he fears that as rising tide of African nationalism makes impact on Liberia his position will become progressively weakened unless he can demonstrate it pays be ally of US. Similarly Liberia’s prestige among new African states likely fade unless Liberia can show it also making progress. Such progress not possible without vigorous US aid.

I venture suggest in view of growing Liberian sensitivity we be extremely careful in phrasing our criticisms or suggestions; and that so far as possible those which we feel we must make be presented orally and informally.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.76/10–2060. Confidential; Limit Distribution. Also sent to Monrovia.
  2. Deputy Under Secretary for Administration Loy W. Henderson visited a number of west and central African countries between October 17 and November 21 to discuss arrangements for U.S. representation in the area; see Documents 82, 84, and 85.
  3. At a September 24 meeting between Liberian Secretary of State Rudolph Grimes and Herter, Grimes had complained of U.S. actions which “had tended to belittle and even humiliate Liberia,” including “inaction on the U.S. military survey report on Liberia.” (Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 559, CF 1766) Dillon had discussed this with the President on October 5; according to a memorandum of the discussion by John S.D. Eisenhower, the President and Dillon agreed that Henderson should visit Tubman in Zurich on his way to Africa. (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DDE Diaries)
  4. Liberian Ambassador to the United States George Padmore.