169. Telegram From the Embassy in Portugal to the Department of State1

180. Ref: A. State 22031; B. State 13009.2 Subj: Smuggled B-26 Aircraft in Portugal.

When Director General Political Affairs (Themido) called Counselor to Foreign Ministry August 17 (to deliver approved text for exchange of notes on Azores shipping problem), latter took advantage of occasion to raise subject as instructed Ref. A. USG position stated as in Ref. B and all points made that message were reaffirmed.
Themido said Ambassador Garin has reported July 25 conversation with Acting Asst Sec Stoessel to FonMinistry and had also mentioned it to him. Themido said he had taken note of USG views and proposals and would personally bring them to attention of FonMinister.
Counselor urged upon Themido that GOP remove this source of friction between two govts by providing assurances planes would not be used outside NATO defense area (which assurances would have been required before any export license could have been issued) if GOP could not bring itself to return planes to US custody as USG requested. He emphasized that use of planes in Africa outside NATO area could have adverse effects on US-Portugal relations far exceeding significance or value of planes themselves. He stated GOP position that it was bona fide purchaser for value not acceptable to US and pointed out evidence of US origin in terms of contract and in delivery arrangements. Themido especially interested in fact pilot returned to US directly from Lisbon after each plane delivery and asked this statement be repeated.
Counselor also referred to Buffalo trial, pointing out (A) that jury had acquitted defendants apparently because principal conspirator not apprehended and not before court, and (B) trial judge had ruled that defense allegation of complicity USG agency in conspiracy was not proved. Object was to anticipate any Portuguese contention trial outcome weakened US position.
Themido confirmed seven planes still in continental Portugal. He also confirmed GOP adheres to position it was bona fide purchaser for value. He implied US was exaggerating importance and significance of implications of sale and use of few military aircraft. Finally he took direct issue with US arms export policy, saying GOP did not understand why US imposed such restrictions on arms exports to an ally (in conformance with resolutions of UN which had been considered irresponsible organization at restricted meeting during recent NATO Ministerial) when it made available arms without similar restrictions to African states (he mentioned Congo), some of which eventually used against Portugal. Embassy officer denied US arms export policy for African states was unrestricted or had effects stated. He added that though Portuguese disagreed with US arms export policy, these planes were US origin and legally subject to US export control. Themido did not comment further but repeated he would convey US position to FonMinister.3
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 12-5 PORT. Secret; Limdis.
  2. Telegram 22031, August 16, instructed the Embassy that in view of the lack of response to previous démarches it should again raise the issue of Portuguese use of “smuggled B-26 aircraft” with the Salazar government. Telegram 13009, July 25, reported that the Department of State had requested assurances from Ambassador Garin that the aircraft would not be used outside the NATO defense area. (Both ibid.)
  3. In telegram 24437 to Lisbon, August 21, the Department of State reported that Portuguese Embassy officials reaffirmed their position that the transaction was legal and that they would not provide any assurances that the aircraft would be used only in the NATO defense area. (Ibid.)