50. Letter From the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Bundy) to the Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Ball)0

Dear Mr. Ball : You recently asked Deputy Secretary Gilpatric for an evaluation of the strategic value to the West of Mers-el-Khebir and other French military installations in Algeria.1

We have asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to consider the value of the military installations in Algeria based on their importance to the West, if these facilities remain: a) under French control, b) in neutral hands, or c) in the hands of a government essentially hostile to NATO. The reply of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to our inquiry is attached.2

Obviously, the situation under conditions b) and c) above is potentially a serious menace to the Western defense position in the North African, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern areas, particularly if it is the political evaluation that the new Algerian State will not be pro-Western in its orientation. In such a situation, we would want to watch developments most carefully and, in the event of a possible communist take-over, be prepared to take such steps as might be necessary. However, we see no need for the development of contingency plans to cope with this potentially dangerous situation at this time.


William P. Bundy 3
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 64 A 2382, Algeria 000. 1961. Secret. Drafted by Colonel Yount on October 19. Attached to a memorandum from Major General Frederic H. Miller, Director, European Region, to Bundy recommending that he sign the letter. A handwritten note indicates Bundy signed the letter on October 20.
  2. Ball’s September 22 letter commented on the value of the recent Joint Chiefs of Staff appraisal of the strategic value of the French naval base at Bizerte and asked that they undertake a similar study of the military installations in Algeria. (Ibid.)
  3. Attached to the source text but not printed. The memorandum of October 17 from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (JCSM-731-6) called French and NATO facilities in Algeria a valuable asset to the West and warned that Western forces would be seriously limited without these facilities and that neutral control would constitute a potentially dangerous opening in the southern flank of NATO, while hostile possession would threaten east-west lines of communication through the Mediterranean to the Middle East and U.S. air bases in Morocco, Spain, and other nearby countries. The memorandum was signed by U.S. Army Chief of Staff George R. Decker and included an attachment providing a synopsis of the military facilities in Algeria.
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates Bundy signed the original.