294. Memorandum From Secretary of State Herter to President Eisenhower 0


  • Approach to President Sukarno re Commutation of Death Sentence Imposed on Allen Pope1

In making a determination on December 9, 1960 permitting FY 1961 military assistance to Indonesia of up to $21 million without regard to the requirements of certain provisions of the Mutual Security Act of 1954, as amended,2 you expressed the desire that at an appropriate time President Sukarno be informed of your interest in the commutation of the death sentence imposed on Allen Lawrence Pope, the American flyer who was shot down and captured in May 1958 while allegedly aiding a rebel movement in Indonesia. You indicated that such an approach to President Sukarno be in addition to instructions then contemplated and thereafter issued to the American Ambassador. Such instructions, in effect, were for the Ambassador to tell President Sukarno that there has been brought to your attention a telegram from Mrs. Pope, the flyer’s wife, asking for your assistance, and to inform Sukarno that you have expressed an interest in the case.

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I have considered this matter very carefully and have concluded that, for the following reasons, such an approach at this time may not be in the best interests either of Mr. Pope or United States policy in Indonesia:

The approach already authorized, couched more in non-political humanitarian terms, expresses your interest in a personal manner likely to be best understood and appreciated by President Sukarno.
A subsequent approach related, even with utmost subtlety, to our Military Assistance Program with Indonesia might be strongly resented by Sukarno as an unacceptable implicit condition to United States assistance. There is a real danger that he might reject not only the plea on behalf of Mr. Pope but United States assistance as well. United States military assistance has been directed toward strengthening, in particular, the Indonesian Army, which is western-oriented. The point which is most important in considering the merits of this approach is that our military aid program has steadily enhanced our position with these anti-Communist elements as a counter to the instability of the President. Sukarno might actually welcome an issue of this emotional nature to justify the refusal of United States aid to his forces and turn completely to the Soviets.
Mr. Pope has not exhausted legal avenues for amelioration of his death sentence available to him under Indonesian law. Although the Appellate Court has confirmed the death penalty imposed by the lower court, he has a right either to appeal to the Supreme Court or to petition the President of Indonesia for executive clemency. An appeal to the Supreme Court would not act as a bar to a subsequent plea for executive clemency. On the basis of a report from our Ambassador, it appears that Mr. Pope intends to perfect an appeal to the Supreme Court. President Sukarno may respond to a further approach in your name now by saying that he is powerless in the matter until a formal appeal for executive clemency is made to him in accordance with Indonesian law. An approach now might lessen the effectiveness of such action as we might wish to take at a later date.

On the basis of your Determination with respect to the Military Assistance Program for Indonesia for Fiscal Year 1961, the Department has now conveyed the substance of this program to our Ambassador in Djakarta with an authorization enabling him, in turn, to pass this information to the Indonesian authorities. Because certain factors made it important from the point of view of our policy objectives to pass this information without delay to the Indonesian Government, the Department took this action on the basis of the authorization provided by your Determination rather than hold such action in abeyance.3

In view of the considerations outlined in the foregoing paragraphs, I strongly concur with your opinion that the Military Assistance Program for Indonesia should not be made in any sense a quid pro quo with respect to the Pope case. Furthermore, I recommend that under present [Page 586] circumstances, and for the foreseeable future, such further action as we may take with respect to Mr. Pope not be related in any manner to the operation of the Military Assistance Program in Indonesia.

Christian A. Herter
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DullesHerter Series. Secret. Parsons transmitted a draft of this memorandum to Herter on December 10, under cover of a memorandum in which Parsons explained that Mrs. Allen Pope had sent a telegram to President Eisenhower on December 8, asking him to intercede with President Sukarno to spare her husband’s life. Herter approved the draft memorandum to the President without change. (Department of State, FE Files: Lot 62 D 26, Indonesia 1960) See Supplement. A note on the source text by Goodpaster indicates that this memorandum was “reported” to Eisenhower on December 22.
  2. Extensive documentation on the Pope case is in Department of State, Central Files, 298.1122 Pope.
  3. On December 7 Herter sent Eisenhower a memorandum, requesting a Presidential determination permitting the use of up to $21 million in funds for military equipment and materials to Indonesia for fiscal year 1961. (Ibid., 798.5–MSP/12–760) See Supplement. President Eisenhower approved the request on December 9, and the Department informed the Embassy in Indonesia in telegram 920, December 14. The Department instructed the Embassy to inform appropriate Indonesian officials that the United States was prepared to furnish additional military equipment and training to the Indonesian Army, Navy, and Air Force in fiscal year 1961 under the terms of the military sales agreement of August 13, 1958. (Department of State, Central Files, 798.5–MSP/12–1460) See Supplement.

    On December 22, Ambassador Jones met with Air Marshal Suryadarma and informed him that the requested T–34 aircraft, approved in the Presidential Determination of December 9, would soon be delivered. Suryadarma expressed his appreciation. (Telegram 1821 from Djakarta, December 22; Department of State, Central Files, 798.5–MSP/12–2260) See Supplement.

  4. See footnote 2 above.