28. Editorial Note

At 9 a.m. on March 4 the Secretary General of the Indonesian Foreign Office called Cottrell to inform him that Indonesia had decided to bomb the petroleum storage dumps at Padang and Menado to prevent them from being used by the Sumatran rebels. Secretary General Suwito told Cottrell that Indonesia would warn the oil facilities’ personnel of the raid and was prepared to discuss compensation with the owners, STANVAC, and BPM. Cottrell warned of serious consequences should American personnel be hurt and stated that the raid would affect U.S.-Indonesian relations for the worse. Suwito said he was sorry to have to inform Cottrell of the decision, but it was absolutely necessary and would be carried out without loss of life. (Telegram 2847 from Djakarta, March 4; Department of State, Central Files, 756D.00/3–458) See Supplement.

After conferring with Suwito, Cottrell called Jack Berlin, the manager of STANVAC, and discovered that there was only a 15-day supply of kerosene and gasoline at Padang, which Berlin thought could have already been decanted into oil drums and dispersed by the Sumatrans. Cottrell returned to Suwito’s office at 11:30 a.m. to ask him to verify the STANVAC estimate, to formally protest the planned destruction of the American facility at Padang, and to ask for an assurance that the raid would not be carried out. Cottrell reiterated again to Suwito the serious consequence of such a bombing raid on U.S.-Indonesian relations. If the STANVAC information were true, Suwito hoped that the Indonesian military would call off the raid, although he remarked that they had unusual authority during the emergency. (Telegram 2852 from Djakarta, [Page 52] March 4; Department of State, Central Files, 756D.00/3–458) See Supplement.

At the Secretary’s staff meeting on March 4, the possible Indonesian bombing of U.S. oil installations was discussed. According to the notes of that meeting, the discussion was as follows:

“Mr. Parsons called attention to a message from Djakarta reporting a conversation between the Foreign Minister and our Chargé during which the Central Government gave notice that it plans to bomb US-owned oil storage tanks at Padang. Our Chargé expressed his concern for the safety of American dependents; and the Indonesian Foreign Minister said that his government would consider the question of compensation for property damage after the bombing. Mr. Becker said he planned to discuss the question with the general counsel of STANVAC. The Secretary said he wished a study to be made to determine whether there is any justification in international law for the US to take steps in advance to protect US citizens and American-owned property in such a situation.

Action: Asked L, in coordination with FE, to consider whether there is any justification in international law for the US to take steps to protect American citizens and American-owned property in Indonesia in the light of the probability that the Central Government plans air raids to destroy certain US-owned oil properties there.” (Notes of Secretary’s staff meeting; Department of State, Secretary’s Staff Meetings: Lot 63 D 75)

Following the staff meeting, the Secretary of State spoke with Allen Dulles on the telephone about developments in Indonesia. According to a memorandum of that conversation, prepared by Phyllis Bernau, the conversation was as follows:

“The Sec referred to the threat to bomb US property and people and said he thinks we should see if that is a case for usefully doing something or not. A said if they try it they might get a bloody nose. The Sec said then you don’t think it desirable to send forces in to protect American lives and property. A said no, he is inclined to think it good if they did it—then we have a good basis for yelling and screaming and also get a better reception.” (Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, General Telephone Conversations)