6. Memorandum for the Record0

On the evening of January third, Secretary Herter called me to say that he was sending a recommendation to the President as to timing of breaking relations with Cuba (the meeting with the President in the morning1 had resulted in the Presidentʼs approval to break relations, with a request to State Department to give him their view on timing). Mr. Herter said the matter was entirely clear-cut, except that, contrary to his statement in the morning, it did seem that there is some basis for a possible charge that breach of relations would vitiate our treaty rights in Guantanamo. He said he would call me back shortly to elaborate on this point.

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He called back within an hour and said the point was essentially this—that the agreement reached in 19032 involved a payment of rental on the part of the United States, and an undertaking to return fugitives. These provisions were confirmed in 1934 when the treaty was extended to state that it could not be altered or abrogated without agreement of both parties.3 He said the problem is that it might be argued we would not be in position to carry out the provision about return of fugitives. I asked Mr. Herter whether the weight of legal opinion would support this charge, would support us against the charge, or would be rather evenly divided. He said he could not say, but had the legal advisor, Mr. Hager, come on the phone and talk to me about this.4 Mr. Hager said this is a very gray area of international law. He added that a very good argument could be made by us, and a lot of non-Soviet nations would see some weight in our position, which would be a respectable one. However, the argument would be a very good one against us as well. He added that one key point is that he cannot think of a forum in which this charge could be effectively brought to bear, since the question would be held to be a political rather than a legal one.

I asked Mr. Herter, who had heard all of this, whether in light of all these considerations he would still recommend that the President go forward with the proposed action. He said he would.

I then met with the President in the Mansion and he approved the proposed action and statements.5 On my suggestion he talked by telephone to Mr. Herter in the foregoing sense.

A.J. Goodpaster6
Brigadier General, USA
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Project Clean Up, Cuba. No classification marking. Drafted by Goodpaster.
  2. See Documents 2 and 3.
  3. For text of the agreement between the United States and the Republic of Cuba for the lease of lands in Cuba for coaling and naval stations, which was signed by the President of Cuba on February 1, 1903, and by the President of the United States on February 23, 1903, see Foreign Relations, 1903, pp. 350351. The terms of the lease, signed at Havana on July 2, 1903, established an annual rent of $2,000 in gold coin for naval or coaling stations in Guantanamo and Bahia Honda, Cuba. (Ibid., pp. 351353)
  4. For text of the agreement signed by the United States and Cuba on May 29, 1934, which extended the provisions of the 1903 treaty concerning the lease of the Guantanamo naval base, see Treaties, Conventions, International Acts, Protocols, and Agreements between the United States of America and Other Powers, 1933-1937, pp. 4054-4055.
  5. A fuller record of this conversation and several others on January 3 involving Herter and the question of breaking relations with Cuba are in the Eisenhower Library, Herter Papers, Telephone Conversations.
  6. See Document 8.
  7. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.