Future of Overseas Bases

January 30, 1957

Report Outline
Network of United States Bases Abroad
Threats to U.S. Tenure in Key Base Areas
Possible Decline in Need for Foreign Bases

Network of United States Bases Abroad

President eisenhower's request for direct, stand-by authority from Congress to dispatch armed forces to help countries of the Middle East repel Communist aggression has turned attention to the overseas military bases which, in case the call came, would enable the United States to deliver assistance in good and effective measure. Meanwhile, another Eisenhower request—for funds to station abroad six new military units trained to use tactical atomic weapons—has stirred Soviet propagandists to lash out with fresh fury against this country's maintenance of bases in Western Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East. Those bases, in Moscow's eyes, are becoming “springboards for atomic warfare on vast expanses from Europe to the Far East.” The nations concerned are warned that if they tolerate such use of their territory, they will lay themselves open to atomic retaliation in wartime.

Red fulminations may make small countries close to the Soviet Union inclined to place restrictions on the base privileges extended to the United States, but this country is hardly likely to be frightened from existing bases by threats from the very direction in which the danger lies. Assuming that the allies stand firm, Americans will not move out until the bases are no longer needed. That will be only when the Communists change their tune, if ever, or when technological advances make foreign bases largely unnecessary. Although the latter day seems to have been brought within sight by missile developments and by such events as the recent non-stop round-the-world flight of three Air Force planes, defense authorities continue to stress the vital present need of overseas bases.

Global Reach of Military, Naval, and Air Bases

The United States today has a network of military installations extending around the world—the product of World War II programs, which began with the destroyers for-bases deal with Great Britain in 1940, and of the postwar rearmament drive that followed establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949 and the outbreak of Korean hostilities in 1950. Because the Defense Department makes available no all-inclusive compilation of overseas defense posts, the precise number of American bases abroad is not publicly known. From such information as has been published, however, it is believed that overseas installations of substantial size total about 200, of which air bases form the majority.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Military Bases
Sep. 30, 2016  Closing Guantanamo
Feb. 15, 1980  American Military Strength Abroad
Sep. 14, 1960  Foreign Bases: Declining Asset
Jan. 30, 1957  Future of Overseas Bases
Jul. 09, 1951  Overseas Bases
Jun. 16, 1944  Outlying Bases
Feb. 16, 1939  American Naval and Air Bases
Military Bases