The Secretary of State to the Panamanian Ambassador ( Guardia )

Excellency: I have the honor to reply to Your Excellency’s note no. D–165 dated March 23, 1942 relative to the erection at Albrook Field in the Canal Zone of a concrete construction designed to serve as a new administration building for Pan American Airways. I also refer to your predecessor’s note no. D–464 of September 17, 1941,69 as well as to previous exchanges of communications regarding aviation matters on the Isthmus of Panama.

In referring to these communications I wish to restate this Government’s position as expressed in its note of August 5, 1941,69 that the use of airdromes in the Panama Canal Zone by commercial aviation companies does not represent an infraction of either the spirit or the terms of any treaty provisions in force between the Government of the United States and the Government of the Republic of Panama. The improvements now being made at Albrook Field, including the construction of a concrete administration building, are essential in view of present conditions, and should in no way be considered as a change in the situation which has prevailed since the establishment of the existing services.

Your Excellency’s recent note states that the construction of the concrete building for the Pan American Airways, Incorporated, “an enterprise of a private character which is devoted exclusively to commercial ends”, is in open conflict with the principles of existing treaties. In this connection Your Excellency’s attention is invited to the provision of Executive Order No. 8974 issued by the President on December 17, 1941,70 by the terms of which the Secretary of War is authorized and directed to take possession and assume control of civil aviation systems to the extent necessary for the successful prosecution of the war. Pursuant to this authority the War Department on May 14, 1942, announced its program to control operations of commercial airlines. It is clear, therefore, that although Pan American Airways is an enterprise of a private character, it is not at present devoted exclusively to commercial uses, since its services and facilities [Page 627] have been brought within the program of our armed forces in the interest of the defense and security of the hemisphere.

The objection of Your Excellency’s Government to the construction of the concrete building at Albrook Field has been brought to the attention of the appropriate authorities of this Government, who state that in view of the crowded and congested conditions at the present temporary administration building, it is imperative that the new building be completed and put into service at the earliest possible date. As Your Excellency is aware, the strategic geographical location of the Isthmus of Panama, the progress made in modern aerial warfare, and the recent expansion of the theatre of war have made it increasingly necessary to augment the system of aviation controls in order adequately to govern the entry into, the navigation within, and the departure from the Isthmus, of military and civil aircraft.

This Government, always interested in maintaining the best of relations with Your Excellency’s Government, has in the development of the airport at Albrook Field, no thought of interfering in any way with the national economy of Panama or of prejudicing the sovereignty of the Republic, and wishes at this time to reiterate its continued determination as expressed in the Treaty of 1936 “to enable the Republic of Panama to take advantage of commercial opportunities inherent in its geographical situation.” The only interest which this Government has in the development of the airport at Albrook Field is that of providing adequate protection for the Panama Canal.

In view of the foregoing, it is felt that the Panamanian Government has no justification for feeling that the completion of a new airport administration building in the Canal Zone “would have the effect of prejudicing, indefinitely and permanently vital interests of the Republic of Panama”.

Accept [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Sumner Welles
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  3. 6 Federal Register 6441.