175. Letter From the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Gilpatric) to Secretary of State Rusk 0
Dear Dean : In view of the present difficulties which have arisen between the French and Tunisians over Bizerte, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have made an appraisal of the military potential of that base to the Western Allies.1
The Bizerte base has the following military potential for maritime operations:
- It contains a Naval air facility capable of providing support for antisubmarine warfare, reconnaissance, mining and seaplane operations.
- The port of Bizerte is capable of supporting conventional submarines, minesweeping operations, local craft, an amphibious staging area for landing craft, and minor naval units.
- Geographically, the port is located strategically for both the conduct of submarine operations and the establishment of a defensive barrier line between Tunisia and Sicily. Such operations would assist in the control of sea lines of communication between the Eastern and Western Mediterranean.
While recognizing that the United States faces a political dilemma in how to reconcile its need to support NATO France and still maintain a satisfactory political relationship with the Government of Tunisia, I concur with the Joint Chiefs of Staff that, if politically feasible, it would be desirable to have the use of the Bizerte facilities available to the Free World after the present difficulties have been resolved.
I recommend that the above comments be considered in the political discussions or negotiations incident to the efforts toward settlement of the problem of the Bizerte base.