2-280 Memorandum for the Secretary of War, October 9, 1940

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 9, 1940

Memorandum for the Secretary of War

October 9, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]

Subject: Aviation Facilities between the United States

and Northeastern Brazil.

In order to carry out joint Army and Navy basic war plans for the defense of the Western Hemisphere it is essential that facilities for operation and the emergency movement of Army and Navy aircraft in the Caribbean area and northeastern Brazil be available at the time of the emergency. Failure to provide for such facilities will prevent the adequate air support of the expeditionary forces, as well as the full utilization of the newly acquired air bases.

Arrangements have been made on the basis of having these facilities provided by the Pan American Airways for an estimated amount of twelve million dollars. I am of the opinion that due to the urgency of the time element no other method of providing these facilities is practicable. I urge that an immediate decision be made in order to permit this work to be started.1

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. Since May 1940 the War, Navy, and State departments had been trying to work out a program to facilitate airfield construction in Latin America that did not overtly involve the United States government. Lengthy negotiations had been under way with Pan American Airways since June. On September 7 Marshall reported to Secretary Stimson that the army, navy, and Pan American Airways had reached an agreement, and he recommended that $12,000,000 be allocated for construction from the president’s emergency fund. “The immediate conclusion of the Pan American contract,” he wrote, “is now more essential to our national defense than any other single matter.” (Marshall Memorandum for the Secretary of War, September 7, 1940, NA/RG 407 [Classified, 580.82 (8-27-40) Bulky Package].)

The State Department, however, was not enthusiastic over the prospect that Pan American Airways might use government money to establish a monopoly over air traffic in Latin America. Assistant Secretary of State Adolf A. Berle, Jr., commented in his diary on September 30 that “this air business is getting to be almost as much of a war as the European war. . . . [Pan American Airways President Juan] Trippe’s plan is monopoly or nothing; and he is quite able to play on either side of the belligerent line, or both sides at once.“ (Navigating the Rapids, 1918-1971: From the Papers of Adolf A. Berle, ed. Beatrice Bishop Berle and Travis Beal Jacobs [New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973], pp. 336-37, 340. See Memorandum for the Secretary of War and Under Secretary of War, March 6, 1941, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-384 [2: 438-39].) Nevertheless, the State Department gave its approval on October 24, and the contracts were signed on November 2. (Stetson Conn and Byron Fairchild, The Framework of Hemisphere Defense, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1960], pp. 250-53.)

Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 328-329.

Digital Downloads




Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 2-280

Rights: Public Information