126. Telegram 203651 From the Department of State to the Embassy in Portugal1

Subject: Use of Lajes for Mideast Resupply.

1. Portuguese Ambassador on instructions urgently requested meeting with Secretary Saturday evening. Stoessel advised Themido that Secretary was unavailable due to preoccupation with Middle East [Page 447] situation and Themido somewhat reluctantly agreed to see Stoessel to present letter to President from Prime Minister as well as long memorandum. (Memo, which prepared before Prime Minister received President’s letter, covered many of same points already raised in Chargé’s conversations with Patricio.) Memorandum being pouched.

2. In long rather emotional discussion; Amb. Themido stressed great difficulty that GOP had in agreeing to the use of Lajes as transit point in resupply operation for Israel. Risk that Portuguese were taking was largest in their history and had been agreed upon in response to the President’s direct appeal to Prime Minister. Themido stressed fact that, while facilities were now available for use in this operation, Portuguese were going to expect greater understanding and more friendly attitude on part of U.S. A specific request, which not included in memorandum, was for supply of surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles. He suggested Red-Eye as example of latter. He was especially critical of State Department as source of USG’s past unfriendly attitude toward Portugal.

3. Stoessel promised bring letter and memo to attention Secretary and President immediately. As Themido was under instructions see Secretary, Stoessel promised seek meeting as soon as feasible. He expressed appreciation to GOP for its decision in this matter and said we would give serious attention to points raised in memorandum, some of which (Tunney amendment) had already been resolved. He also stressed longstanding US support of Portugal in international fora, often under difficult circumstances.

4. In response to question regarding aircraft authorized to use Lajes in this operation, Themido confirmed that it limited to American aircraft, and did not extend to those of other countries. He made no reference in his comments to any distinction between American military and civilian airplanes.

5. Caetano letter follows:

Quote: Dear Mr. President: I have received your message and you can imagine the enormous responsibility which the answer entails for me at a time when it is impossible to consult with the representatives of the constitutional organs of the country, or even my personal advisers, and moreover during our electoral period.

6. In addition, the risk which the decision entails would in due form compel me to also consult with the countries with which we have defense pacts, specially Spain.

7. I see, however, that your appeal is formulated under conditions of extreme necessity and I do not wish to force you to the violent measures which it leaves to assume.

8. Under these circumstances, I am instructing my government to authorize the transit of American aircraft, relying upon your word that [Page 448] my country will not remain defenseless should this decision bring about grave consequences. Sincerely, Marcello Caetano. Unquote.

  1. Summary: The Department reported a conversation with Themido on the use of the Lajes Base for Middle East resupply.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 701, Country Files, Europe, Portugal, Vol. II (1972–1974) (2 of 2). Secret; Priority; Nodis. Drafted by Thomas Martin in EUR/IB; cleared by Pickering; and approved by Stoessel. In telegram 3782 from Lisbon, October 13, the Embassy reported that when Patricio notified it of Caetano’s approval of the U.S. request, he “did not hide fact that he had been overruled by Caetano” and “that he was extremely unhappy at the decision.” (Ibid., Portugal, Vol. II (1972–1974) (1 of 2)) The memorandum from the Portuguese Government, October 13, is ibid., Portugal, Vol. II (1972–1974) (2 of 2).