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Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 251–262 | Cite as

Opening and closing doors: US postwar aviation policy: 1943–1963

  • James L. GormlyEmail author
Article

Abstract

This article examines the development of US international civil aviation policy between 1944 and 1964, as the USA instituted policies to expand and protect the global aviation opportunities of its airlines. This entailed hard bargaining with the British and others to establish and maintain the Bermuda formula as well as efforts to contain and isolate Soviet and Soviet Bloc aviation behind the Iron Curtain. By the mid-1950s, the success of American aviation policy was clear. But thereafter, as the capabilities of non-American airlines increased and the needs of American carriers changed, the effectiveness of containing Soviet Bloc aviation and maintaining the Bermuda formula waned. Responding to the changing realities of international aviation, the Kennedy administration undertook a reassessment of American aviation policy that recognised the inability of isolating Soviet and Soviet bloc aviation and the need to modify the Bermuda principles to better protect the competiveness of American flag carriers.

Keywords

US civil aviation policy Chicago air conference Bermuda formula cold war Civil Aeronautics Board 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Henry Luce ‘The American Century’, Life (January, 1941); William Clayton to Josiah Bailey, 23 February 1945, Department of State Records, File 800.796, Record Group 59, National Archives II, College Park, MD. (Hereafter cited document title, date, file number, DSR.); Joseph J. Corn, Winged Gospel: America’s Romance with Aviation, 1900–1950 (New York, 1987), 125–30.Google Scholar
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  3. 2a.
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    The first four were generally accepted and a necessity for international flying. The first (freedom of transit) allowed the right to fly through the air space of another country; the second (freedom for technical stops) allowed for landing in a foreign country for servicing aircraft, but not for commercial reasons. The Third and Fourth freedoms were the keys for commercial operations, allowing an airline to discharge passengers to a specific foreign destination (Third Freedom), and pick up passengers at a foreign destination and fly them to the airline’s country of origin (Fourth Freedom). The Fifth Freedom was more controversial, but seen as necessary for the profitable operations of American international service. It allowed an airline to take on passengers at a destination city and take them to a third destination city on the airline’s route. Solberg, Conquest of the Skies, 285–6; H. A. Wassenbergh, Post-War International Civil Aviation Policy and the Law of the Air (Hague, 1962), 11–23.Google Scholar
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    British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin told the American Ambassador that he considered the linking of aviation issues to financial negotiations to be ‘monstrous’ and ‘blackmail’ and the ‘the British people would go down rather than be clubbed’. David MacKenzie ‘The Bermuda Conference and Anglo-American Aviation Relations at the End of the Second World War’, The Journal of Transportation History 12 (March, 1991), 61–73; Foreign Office to Lord Halifax, 3 January 1945, W543/8/802, FO 371, 1946; FR, 1946, I, 1451Google Scholar
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    Washington thought it also would be ‘desirable’ for the British ‘to withdraw their opposition to our negotiations of full fifth freedom in countries like Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Iran, and Belgium’. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1946, Vol. I (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1972), 1453. For an analysis of the conference see: MacKenzie ‘Bermuda Conference’, 61–73; Dobson, Peaceful Air Warfare, 192–204.Google Scholar
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    Extract from Cabinet Minutes (February 5–11), Cabinet Papers (46), Air 19/438, PRO; MacKenzie ‘The Bermuda Conference’, 68–70; Time, 47 (February 11, 1946): 79.Google Scholar
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    Norton was particularly critical of the way in which the USA selected and announced its international routes and then conducted its aviation diplomacy. Earl Burton to David Hulbund, 9 August 1946, W35/35/802, FO 371, 54628, PRO.Google Scholar
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    American officials in the Middle East were among the loudest in complaining about British obstructionism regarding their efforts to negotiate air transport treaties. See: Gallman (London) to State Department, 4 September 1946, 800.786. Cairo (Tuck) to State, 9 January 1946, 800.796; Cairo (Tuck) to State, 1 February 1946; 883.796; London (Gallman) to State, 25 April 1946, 841.796; Cairo (Tuck) to State, 7 September 1946, 800.796, DSR.Google Scholar
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    Satterthwaite also noted: ‘the record is perfectly clear that the British will oppose by every means at their command the control or exclusive domination by an American company of an airline of any country in Europe, Middle or Near East’. Satterthwaite to State Department, 4 September 1946; 811.796, DSRGoogle Scholar
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    American officials were disappointed that both France and the Netherlands were now supporting and accepting some restrictive air treaties. Report on Postwar International Aviation Policies, 9 November 1948, Bureau of International Aviation, Negotiation Bureau, Records of Civil Aeronautical Board, Record Group 197, Box 1, National Archives, Suit-land, Maryland.Google Scholar
  28. 26.
    Gormly ‘The Counter Iron Curtain’, 248–79; Central Intelligence Group ‘Future Soviet Participation in Long-Range International Air Transport’, ORE-14, March 1947, National Archives, Washington, DC. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1948, Vol. 4 (Washington, DC, 1974), 440–1.Google Scholar
  29. 27.
    Air Coordinating Committee Adopts Policy Toward USSR’, Current Economic Developments, 7 March 1947, State Department Records, Group 59, Lot70D467, Box 2 (Hereafter cited Current Economic Developments, date); Department of State Memorandum, Air Transport Operations Through Satellite States’, 9 June 1947, 711.0427, DSR.Google Scholar
  30. 28.
    Telegrams, Steinhardt to State, 12 August 1946, 10 January 1947, 860F796; US Embassy Beirut to State, 17 August 1948, 860.7660. Bohlen told George F. Kennan that American aviation policy was based largely on ‘security considerations’. Memorandum, 11 November 1948, 711.4027; FR, 1948, Vol. IV, 457–61, DSR; Gormly ‘The Counter Iron Curtain’, 261–8.Google Scholar
  31. 29.
    Ibid. In addition, London was hopeful that an aviation agreement was possible with Yugoslavia. Memorandum ‘US-UK Air Traffic to Satellites’, 28 January 1949, W 540/45/802G, FO 371 54627, PRO.Google Scholar
  32. 30.
    Gormly ‘The Counter Iron Curtain’, 269–72. The Scandinavians, the French, Dutch, and Belgians seemed unwilling ‘to co-operate’ or even limit their efforts to obtain aviation rights with the Soviet bloc, and the Italians appeared unwilling to cut their air agreement with the Czechs. Current Economic Developments, 15 April 1949, 25 July 1949, Record Group 59, Lot 70D 476, DSR; FR, 1948, Vol. IV, pp. 471, 486; Foreign Relations of the United States, 1949, Vol. V (Washington, DC, 1976), 196–7, 198–203.Google Scholar
  33. 31.
    Among those changed conditions was the outbreak of the Korean War, increased Soviet control over Eastern Europe, and Czechoslovakia’s confrontational and undiplomatic behavior that included arresting dissidents and foreigners. Gormly ‘The Counter Iron Curtain’, 271–4. By 1951, for example, CSA was flying only to Helsinki, Stockholm, and Copenhagen, Current Economic Developments, 5 June 1951.Google Scholar
  34. 32.
    Memorandum for Vice President, 26 June 1956, Security Council Staff Papers, 1953–1961, Box 2, Civil Aviation Folder National Security Council Files, Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Abilene, Kansas (Hereafter cited Eisenhower Library); Gormly ‘The Counter Iron Curtain’, 274–7.Google Scholar
  35. 33.
    In discussions with the United States over reshaping policy, London agreed that ‘there was no further point in preserving the ‘Containment Policy’ toward the Satellites’ and that the United States had failed to recognise that a ‘common policy’ was unattainable as well. Foreign Office Memorandum, 19 October 1956, GA 26/80, Foreign Office Note, 17 July 1957, GA 26/38. FO 371; ‘U.S. Civil Aviation Policy Toward the Sino-Soviet Bloc’, NSC Memorandum 5726/1, 9 December 1957, Box 2, Special Staff File, National Security Papers, 1953–1962, Eisenhower Library; Current Economic Developments, 8 January 1957, 10–12; Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955–1957, Vol. IX (Washington, DC, 1987), 488–503; Gormly ‘Counter Iron Curtain’, 277–8.Google Scholar
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    The Kennedy had limited success in getting most Western European and some African nations to close their aviation doors to Soviet and Cuban aviation during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. Once the crisis had passed, however, that cold war unity quickly vanished. See: Staff Study, United States International Aviation (Draft), 14 December 1962, Box 4, Folder: International Staff Study, Robert Murphy Papers, John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, MA.Google Scholar
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    In 1955, for example, Pan American Airlines made, before subsidies, made nearly as much as the combined profits of all major foreign airlines. ‘Papers for the Conference on International Air Transport Policy’, 1–3 May 1962, Folder: Air Transportation Policy, Carl Kaysen Box 364, National Security Files, John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, MA.Google Scholar
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    The British view arose in part from the inability since 1955 for the USA and the UK to successfully agree on major route matters.Google Scholar
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    Sixth Freedom traffic referred to passengers and cargo from a third or another country, flying to the carrier’s point of origin before boarding flights to another destination country.Google Scholar
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  49. 47.
    The State Department opposed the CAB ability to impose such limitation. It pointed out that in supporting the Bermuda agreement, the USA had strongly rejected other countries placing arbitrary and unilateral restrictions on air operations. The CAB responded that limitations would be applied only in cases where foreign carriers abused Fifth and Sixth Freedom traffic to the USA, and that such actions did not violate the Bermuda agreement. In adjudicating the two positions, the Justice Department found that neither had definitive argument, but the CAB’s position was the most persuasive. In the White House statement, the CAB position was adopted and that legislative authority should be given to support such CAB actions. Ibid.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryWashington and Jefferson CollegeWashingtonUSA

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