382. Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense (Bundy) to the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Gilpatric)0


  • Defense Interest in the Union of South Africa


Attached is a memorandum, prepared at your request, concerning the importance of the Union of South Africa to U.S. naval and maritime [Page 596] interests. This memorandum could serve as the basis for such discussion of this matter as you may wish to initiate with Mr. Bowles.

In addition, the Air Force has raised with ISA the desirability of inviting Mr. Bowles and Mr. Williams to visit the Air Force Missile Test Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. They have suggested a visit on or about the 14th of June because, if present schedules are maintained, that period offers an excellent opportunity to witness missile launchings. The Air Force would make appropriate arrangements for transportation and accommodations.

We concur that such a visit could be valuable. It might give Mr. Bowles and Mr. Williams a more concrete grasp of the operations and objectives of the Atlantic Missile Range, out of which such problems as the South African tracking station have been generated. If you agree, it is recommended that you extend the invitation. If Mr. Bowles or Mr. Williams is interested, we would undertake through the Air Force to make the necessary detailed arrangements with the State Department staff.

WP Bundy



  • Importance of the Union of South Africa to U.S. naval and maritime interests

The Union of South Africa possesses the most extensive and well-equipped harbors in its part of the world. These ports have a combined capacity to handle approximately 250 vessels, primarily at Capetown and Durban. The facilities include adequate numbers of powerful cranes and excellent floating and graving docks permitting major repair and maintenance work on large ships. For example, the largest graving dock in Capetown would handle the Forrestal class carrier. The nearest adequate facilities are at Bahia Blanca, Argentina, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but even these are not equal in capacity to the facilities at Capetown alone.

The South African ports are used regularly by our naval and merchant shipping in peacetime. In the event of emergency, their value would be even greater. Closure of the Suez Canal would require extensive [Page 597] use of the route around the Cape of Good Hope. The ports would be then needed not only for services to expanded merchant traffic on that route, but also for support of the antisubmarine forces which might, depending upon the nature of the emergency, be required to keep the route open.

The facilities would be needed also for support of any general naval operations by a U.S. Indian Ocean Fleet, and would be important for the staging of U.S. forces should contingency operations be undertaken in the southern part of the African continent.

In addition, effective U.S. naval operations south of the equator would require additional shore-based communications to supplement our present facilities in Morocco and Ethiopia. In the circumstances, we would have to rely on the use of South African naval radio facilities at Durban and Simonstown.

For all the foregoing purposes, naval visits to the ports of the Union of South Africa are most valuable for familiarization and indoctrination purposes should the need for use of facilities become more urgent.

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 65 A 3464, Africa 000.92-Africa 452, 1961. Confidential.
  2. Confidential.