353. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Kennedy0


  • Portuguese Use of U.S. Military Equipment in Angola

In response to your memorandum of August 211 in which you asked whether we could successfully persuade the Portuguese not to use U.S. military equipment in their African territories, whether this requirement would have an adverse effect upon our use of the Azores base, and whether a public statement on the matter would be sufficient, the Secretaries of State and Defense have sent memoranda containing their views (attached).2 The essence of the two memoranda follows.

Of the approximately $300 million worth of U.S. equipment made available to Portugal under MAP, some has admittedly been diverted to Portuguese military forces in Angola without U.S. consent, contrary to our bilateral MDA agreement. Embassy Lisbon reports that no MAP weapons or ammunition were among materiel shipped to Angola, but mainly vehicles approaching obsolescence.

The Departments of State, Defense and Commerce are now following a restrictive arms policy by:

Making sales of U.S. materiel and granting commercial export licenses for materiel on the Munitions List only to fill actual needs of Portuguese NATO forces remaining in Europe.
Screening previously issued and still valid licenses authorizing export of Munitions-List articles either to Portugal or Portuguese overseas territories to consider possible desirability of suspending or revoking those licenses.
Holding in suspense all other applications or Portuguese requests, pending future developments.

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The Portuguese were informed of this restrictive policy on August 16, and the reaction was expectedly bitter.3 The Portuguese Foreign Minister informed our Ambassador that it was not a question of arms supply since they have alternate sources, including the Communist bloc, but the important fact was the hostile attitude of an ally in the face of the crisis confronting Portugal. The Foreign Minister said Portugal’s national interest was paramount, and that the Portuguese would have no interest in a U.S. victory over the USSR if this meant that Portugal itself would be lost.

In view of the Portuguese reaction, the Secretary of State feels that a public statement at this time would only further infuriate them. If inquiry is made, the Department is prepared to state that “the U.S. Government is currently reviewing the whole question of the supply of military equipment for Portuguese overseas territories and in the meantime such shipments have been suspended.” The Secretary of Defense feels that “for the immediate future, the success of our efforts to restrain the Portuguese from the use of U.S. materiel already in Angola is indeed problematical”… and that “a quiet, persistent, but unpublicized campaign appealing to the Portuguese understanding of our position might in time be successful. The critical military importance of our rights and continued use of our facilities in the Azores, and of securing extension of our rights in negotiations which must be undertaken in 1962, are such that any further public pressure on the Portuguese regarding the use of U.S. military materiel in Angola should be avoided.” The Secretary of State feels that Portuguese reaction to our restrictive arms policy and our over-all policy with respect to Portugal’s overseas territories makes the outlook for the successful extension of the Azores base agreement less hopeful.

My own feeling is that the departments are adequately following through on this problem for the time being. We will keep close watch on it from here and keep you informed of any new developments. We shall wish, at any rate, to bring you fully up to date on the over-all problem of Portugal and its African territories before the new Portuguese Ambassador presents his credentials.

McGeorge Bundy4
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Angola, 8/61-12/61. Secret. The source text bears the following notation (presumably in Bundy’s hand): “Noted. Discussed with Pres.”
  2. President Kennedy’s memorandum (NSAM No. 77) reads: “I understand that we have cautioned the Portuguese government against the use of American equipment in Angola. I also understand that a recent story in a London newspaper reported the finding of a ‘Made in America’ mark on part of a bomb dropped on an Angolan village. This is going to present problems to us both in Angola and in Portugal. Have we considered (1) whether we can be successful in persuading the Portuguese of this, or (2) whether this will have an adverse effect upon use of the Azores base. I wonder if we should perhaps content ourselves with a public statement in regard to the matter.” (Department of State, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 72 D 316, NSAM 77)
  3. Attached to the source text but not printed.
  4. Ambassador Elbrick described the reaction of Portuguese Foreign Minister Franco Nogueira to his demarche in telegram 240 from Lisbon, August 16. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Angola, 8/61-12/61)
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.