237. Letter From Acting Secretary of State Dillon to Secretary of Defense Gates0

Dear Tom: I should like to draw your attention to an urgent Netherlands request that the United States assist in maintaining Dutch defensive forces in West New Guinea by making available four C–47 aircraft which the Dutch recently have declared as excess to their requirements in the Netherlands. These planes, which are now physically in the Netherlands, were furnished under MAP.

As you know, the Netherlands has made strong representations for United States assistance in maintaining Dutch defensive forces in West New Guinea. In his letter of March 22, 1959 to Dutch Defense Minister Staf,1 Mr. Quarles stated that the United States had given the Defense Minister’s request most careful attention and that he should like to assure the Dutch “of our willingness to assist you where possible in the purchase of the equipment you need for non-NATO defensive purpose.” In subsequent conversations in The Hague and in Washington, officials of the Departments of State and Defense have assured the Dutch that we desire to assist them by facilitating the sale of United [Page 462]States surplus or excess military equipment. The Department of State would not, of course, propose the transfer of United States military equipment for Dutch non-NATO use unless purchased by the Dutch.

The Dutch have stated that they wish to transfer the four C–47 aircraft to West New Guinea in January, 1960. The urgency derives from the fact that the crash of the fourth Mariner patrol aircraft of the single squadron which the Dutch have in New Guinea has caused the indefinite grounding of all these aircraft. Under these circumstances, Defense Minister Visser has explained to our Ambassdor that he believes it imperative that some replacement aircraft be available for service in West New Guinea as soon as possible.2 While the four C–47’s cannot constitute more than a temporary stopgap measure pending the replacement of the obsolete Mariners by a squadron of serviceable patrol aircraft, the Dutch have stated that the latest crash has aroused Dutch public opinion and has created an acute political situation for the Netherlands Government. According to Ambassador Young the Dutch consider that their national interests in this area are in danger and that they must, without delay, take remedial steps.

Department of State staff have been informally advised by your staff that requirements exist elsewhere in the MAP program for C–47 aircraft. I would like to know, therefore, whether the Department of Defense has planned to use the excess C–47’s from the Netherlands to meet these other MAP requirements or whether they would be available for sale to the Dutch to meet the urgent political problem outlined above. In the event that present planning envisages use of these aircraft for other MAP requirements, then it would appear that we are faced with a question of relative priorities as between the Dutch requirement in New Guinea and other MAP needs. In order that this matter can be resolved quickly, I should appreciate your urgent consideration of this problem and an early reply identifying the other MAP requirements for these aircraft together with the views of the Department of Defense as to the military implications and importance of utilizing the C–47’s now declared excess by the Dutch for these other requirements as compared to selling them to the Dutch for use in New Guinea.3

Sincerely yours,

Douglas Dillon
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  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 756.5622/1–760. Secret. Drafted by Cromwell of WE and James R. Fowler of U/MSC and cleared with SPA, RA, FE, U/MSC, and WE.
  2. Not found.
  3. Ambassador Young summarized this conversation in telegraph 898 from The Hague, January 4. (Department of State, Central Files, 756.5622/1–460)
  4. On January 8 Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Knight informed Ambassador Van Roijen that the United States was prepared to offer the four aircraft for sale to the Netherlands. On February 1, the four C–47s were turned over to the Netherlands at the cost of $70,000 apiece. (Memorandum from Mein to Parsons, February 17; ibid., SPA Files: Lot 63 D 436, Briefing File) See Supplement.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this stamped signature.