To The "Top of the Mountain" and "Down to the Valley": the United States and Portugal during the Kennedy presidency [Do "Topo da Montanha" ao "Fundo do Vale": os Estados Unidos e Portugal durante a presidência de John F. Kennedy]
This dissertation deals with the political and diplomatic relations between the United States and Portugal during the presidency of John F. Kennedy. Therefore, it is chronologically centered in the years between 1961 and 1963, although it makes some incursions into the past and also into the years immediately after the Kennedy administration. The year of 1961 marked the beginning of a "new era" in the history of both countries and simultaneously in the history of the relationship between them. In the United States, John Kennedy assumed the presidency. His new administration defined and adopted a new American policy for Africa that would directly affect the relations between the United States and Portugal. According to the new principles guiding American policy towards Africa, the United States should, from now on, abandon the ambiguous attitude towards European colonialism that had characterized the Eisenhower administration and should actively support the emancipation, self-determination, and independence of colonial peoples in Africa.
This new African policy brought great distress to the Portuguese government. Portugal was one of the last European colonial powers in Africa and by 1961 it had not initiated a process of decolonization similar to those followed by the United Kingdom, France, or Belgium. The Portuguese government, led since 1932 by Oliveira Salazar, considered the maintenance of its colonial empire in Africa and Asia an essential factor for the survival of the regime and also for the survival of Portugal as an independent nation.
These two opposite perspectives clashed frontally in the first months of 1961. Moreover, they were maximized by events in the African continent itself. In early February, the Portuguese faced a first armed revolt in Angola, while in March 15, full-scale war erupted in that territory. Facing this new situation, and according to the principles and adopted by the administration, the American Ambassador in Lisbon, before an astonished Oliveira Salazar, informed the Portuguese government of the new policy of the United States and recommended a more liberal Portuguese policy regarding its colonies. When, in March, the situation in Angola was brought to debate in the United Nations Security Council, for the first time the United States sided with the Soviet Union and several African countries, voting favorably on a defeated resolution condemning Portuguese colonialism, and initiating a serious crisis in this bilateral relationship.
The dissertation recounts the story of that crisis in 1961 and also the way it was gradually attenuated throughout 1962 and 1963. It shows how the American policymakers would eventually recognize the strategic importance of the islands of the Azores, Portuguese territory in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, where the United States enjoyed naval and air facilities since World War II. Coupled with the tough, intransigent Portuguese diplomatic position, the Azores would cause a major "retreat" of the administration from the policies adopted in 1961. When President Kennedy met with the Portuguese Foreign Minister, Franco Nogueira, two weeks before his assassination, he pronounced the words that make the title of this work. Facing Nogueira's attempts to convince him to change the policies of his administration toward Portuguese Africa, Kennedy replied that he could not ask him "after he had gone to the top of the mountain, to go down to the valley again in less than two years." But he already had.”
Consequently, the central part of this work consists in three chapters: Chapter II, describing the "great crisis" in American-Portuguese relations in 1961, when, in Kennedy's words, the United States reached "top of the mountain," in terms of its African policy;
Chapter III, explaining the reasons for the "retreat" or reversal of the American policy and the abandonment of the policies initiated in 1961; Chapter IV, noting the major changes in terms of the American policy and characterizing the new pattern of Portuguese-American relations established since late 1962 and 1963, that is, the journey to the "bottom of the valley." The dissertation also includes two other chapters: Chapter I provides a characterization of the political and social structure of the Portuguese regime, with special emphasis on its foreign policy, its colonial empire, and its historical relations with the United States; Chapter V is an epilogue, with an overall view of the relations between the United States and Portugal during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson.
The bulk of primary sources used to elaborate this work were the Department of State Records, located at the National Archives II, at College Park. The most important were the State Department Central Files, although there was also some important information in the State Department Lot Files. In terms of American archival sources, the search was completed with an investigation in the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, with special attention paid to the National Security Piles, the personal papers of some members of the administration, and the valuable collection of Oral History interviews deposited in the JFK Library. Other important sources for the American point of view were the press, especially The New York Times, the Congressional Record, the Department of State Bulletin, and several official publications related to the United States participation in the United Nations. Equally important were memoirs by many of the intervenients in the events narrated. All these printed sources were consulted at the State Historical Society and the Memorial Library in Madison, and also at the JFK Library, in Boston.
In terms of Portuguese sources, the most important were the records of the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and of the Portuguese Embassy in Washington, which are deposited in the Diplomatic Historical Archive in Lisbon. It is significant, however, that in the Portuguese archives the documents related to these issues are very scarce. Some of them are not declassified yet, but, above all, the way in which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs worked, under the dictatorial regime of Oliveira Salazar, did not result in the production of a significant amount of documentation. Discussion of the problems and the subsequent decision were mainly confined to Franco Nogueira, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and to Oliveira Salazar. Therefore, equally important were the Memoirs of Franco Nogueira, scattered throughout several books, and a five-volume biography of Salazar written by Nogueira. Nogueira's books are indeed the crucial source to understand Portuguese diplomacy, its main decisions, its reasoning, its way of work, in the early 1960s. Other Portuguese sources considered in this dissertation were several collections of documents published by the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Archive of Oliveira Salazar, the Portuguese press, and also some memoirs of the intervenients. Printed Portuguese sources were consulted at the Library of the Diplomatic Historical Archive and at the National Library in Lisbon.
In terms of secondary bibliography the results were somewhat contradictory. There are very few works on Portuguese-American relations in the early 1960s written by historians. Portuguese journalist José Freire Antunes published a narrative work on this subject, focusing on the events of 1961, and American author Witney Schneidman wrote a dissertation, still unpublished, on the United States and the downfall of Portuguese Colonialism, from 1961 to 1976. These two works provided some useful insights into the subject of this dissertation, although they left many of the crucial issues untouched. On the other hand, there is a considerable body of literature of John F. Kennedy's foreign policy, on American policies towards Africa, on the crisis of European colonialism and decolonization.
The majority of these books mention only collaterally the Portuguese problem, but nevertheless they were very important to contextualize the issue of Portuguese-American relations in the early 1960s. The bibliographical list at the end of this dissertation is therefore very extensive, but in most cases only one or two chapters of the books were really useful for the completion of this work.
Like all academic works, this dissertation has its history, beginning in the already remote day when my friend António Costa Pinto mentioned the existence of a Fulbright program for Ph. D. in American History destined to Portuguese young scholars. It proceeded with my trip to Madison, Wisconsin, where I lived three fascinating years of my academic life. It ended in the last two years, in Lisbon, where I wrote the final version of the dissertation. The Ph. D. program that I developed at the Department of History of the University of Wisconsin in Madison was financed in the beginning by the Fulbright Commission in Lisbon, then by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology, and finally by the Luso-American Foundation for Development. I express my gratitude for these institutions and for the meritorious work they have been developing to further academic and scholar collaboration between the United States and Portugal. I also wish to thank the support from the Department of History at the ISCTE (Higher Institute of Labor and Business Studies) in Lisbon, where I have had the privilege to work since 1999.
Throughout the process I became indebted to many outstanding persons who helped to achieve this goal. In Madison, the support and friendship of my advisor Thomas McCormick and of Stanley Payne were crucial and stimulating throughout the years. With Stanley Schultz, John Cooper Jr., Diane Lindstrom, and Paul Boyer I learned a lot about the American past. All the staff of the Department of History was helpful and supportive. Judy Cochran, however, deserves a special mention for her kindness and enthusiasm since my very first days in Madison. Unfortunately, I did not have time to thank her the way she deserves, My colleagues at the graduate program were also important in my integration in American society, from the halls of the Humanities Building, to the soccer fields in Madison, to the National Archives, at College Park. Jeff, Hiroshi, Eric, Dan, Ted, Thomas, thank you all. The Portuguese and the Brazilian "crowd" in Madison was also great in helping me to adapt to my new life in distant, cold Wisconsin, especially on Thursday evenings. Special hugs go to Manuel and Zé.
In Lisbon, I also had the support of my friends and professors António Costa Pinto, António Hespanha, and Femando Rosas. My friends in Lisbon and Caldas da Rainha were always there for me. Thank you very much!
Last but not least my family. My parents, as always, deserve a special mention. But to the rest of my family I also want to express my thanks for sharing the burden of this adventure with me. I wonder if I ever told them how important they were. I would like to express my deep feeling of gratitude to all of them, represented by these two nice little creatures, João and Pedro, who were born very near the end of this work. They represent the past, the present and the future of all my family. I just hope that one day they will have the time and the patience to read this work.
This dissertation is dedicated to my wife, Sonia, who gave a new purpose to my universe and showed me the true meaning of the word Love.