Memorandum of Conversations, by the Assistant Chief of the Division of the American Republics (Walmsley)

Captain Schuirmann met with Messrs. Wilson of U–L19 and Bonsal and Walmsley of RA20 on July 7 and 10. He discussed a draft agreement between Cuba and the United States for the extension of the area around the Guantánamo Naval Station concession desired by the Navy Department for defense purposes. Mr. Bonsal took some pains to explain to Captain Schuirmann the principles, to which the Department attaches great importance, which we wished to proceed upon in drafting the Guantánamo extension agreement. The cooperative spirit of the Cubans might make it easier for us to obtain the type of agreement from Cuba in which the Navy is granted a great many powers, but such an agreement might well arouse suspicions, doubts and misgivings in other countries, such as Mexico, where we are anxious to have defense facilities established for Hemisphere defense on a joint basis. The principle of leased areas over which the United States forces exercise unquestioned jurisdiction could not be applied to other countries of the Hemisphere and, in fact, in Cuba, while in practice we might obtain greater jurisdictional powers than elsewhere, the constitution itself prohibits further alienation of jurisdiction over Cuban territory. For these reasons, the Department felt that the Navy Department’s draft agreement, contained in Acting Secretary Forrestal’s letter of June 17,21 would not be satisfactory, especially in the light of the program for other countries.

Captain Schuirmann, who appeared to understand the Department’s viewpoint perfectly, nevertheless let it be understood that there are others in the Navy Department who, if they are unable to obtain jurisdiction over defense facilities abroad on an exclusive basis, are ready to abandon the Guantánamo extension project in favor of Jamaica. Captain Schuirmann added that some elements of the Navy Department felt that the conditions under which we are establishing bases in British territories where we do not question British sovereignty are a strong argument in favor of similar arrangements in the American republics, including Cuba. Mr. Bonsal questioned the parallelism between the bases in British territories and those in the American republics. In concluding the July 7 meeting, Captain Schuirmann referred to Navy’s legal handicap in spending money on land which is not under its jurisdiction.

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It was agreed at the July 7 meeting that Mr. Walmsley would prepare a draft incorporating the Department’s views for discussion on July 10.

Rough copies of the Department’s proposed agreement were distributed on July 10 to those present and to LE.22 The question of the Navy’s legal handicap in spending money on defense installations on land not under its jurisdiction was brought up. The question was that as the installations in the extended Guantánamo area would be made under specific appropriations, a suitable provision could be included in the appropriation bill to take care of the legal handicap.

Captain Schuirmann, with regard to the matter of jurisdiction, emphasized that it was essential that United States forces be permitted to guard and patrol the installations it builds or establishes. It was suggested that this could be taken care of without raising the question of jurisdiction by assigning specific functions to the United States and Cuban forces in the area under a joint board which is provided for in the Department’s draft agreement. Captain Schuirmann agreed to pass copies of the draft around the Navy Department but threw out the hint again that it might be difficult to convince the Navy Department that the cooperative principle was workable or desirable and that the possibility of abandoning the Guantánamo extension in favor of Jamaica had by no means been dissipated. In this connection the Department’s view was made clear that even though the Navy Department might never decide to carry through the Guantánamo extension project, a cooperative defense agreement with the Cubans is nevertheless essential for its effect on United States relations with Cuba and the other American republics. Such an agreement, even though no action were taken under it, would give the Cubans a sense of participation in Hemisphere defense.

  1. Office of the Under Secretary of State—Liaison.
  2. Division of the American Republics.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Office of the Legal Adviser.