Wide Angle

History : When Morocco wanted the US Air Force to pull out of the Nouasseur Air Base

In 1951, the US built three military facilities in Morocco including the Nouasseur Air Base, now known as Mohammed V international airport. The Kingdom demanded Americans to pull out of the bases on its territory after it gained independence.

The Nouasseur Air Base./Ph. DR
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The Nouasseur Air Base was one of the three air force facilities built by the United States in Morocco in the 1950s. The base was used by the Americans as a staging area for bombers pointed at the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The facility housed the Convair B-36, a strategic bomber operated solely by the United States Air Force and the Boeing B-47 Stratojet, a nuclear bomber capable of striking the Soviet Union. These bombers were kept in the base that was constructed under contract with the French who colonized Morocco at the time.

Three US facilities in Morocco

The contract was part of the Air Base Agreement, signed after the US Defense «established an urgent requirement for SAC bases in Morocco», revealed a Memorandum from the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs to the US Secretary of State as reported by the US Office of Historian.

«The U.S. accordingly undertook negotiations for the establishment of these bases with the French Government in view of the latter’s responsibilities for Moroccan foreign affairs under the Treaty of Fez», explained the same document released on May the 31st, 1956.

Indeed, after concluding the agreement with the French, Washington started the construction of the Nouasseur base in May 1951. During the same month, General Archie J. Old Jr. «arrived in Rabat to set up the headquarters of the Strategic Air Command’s 5th Air Division», which exercised jurisdiction over the three bases built for SAC in Morocco, including the Nouasseur Air Base.

Handing the bases over to Morocco

However, five years after the Nouasseur Air Base was established in the Kingdom, the Moroccan government decided that it was time for the US forces to head back home.

According to independent research group, Global Security, the «destabilization of French government in Morocco, and Moroccan independence in 1956», pushed the government of Mohammed V to urge «the US Air Force to pull out of the SAC bases in Morocco». The same source recalls that Morocco insisted on such «action after American intervention in Lebanon in 1958».

The United States agreed to hand Morocco down its bases in December 1959. US military personnel withdrew from the bases fully in 1963 after Washington realized that the Moroccan facilities «were much less critical with the long range of the B-52, and with the completion of the Spanish bases in 1959», reported Global Security.

A book entitled «MiG Alley to Mu Ghia Pass: Memoirs of a Korean War Ace» (McFarland, 2014), Cecil G. Foster recalled the moment when US military personnel left the three bases, including the Nouasseur one.

«When we left Sidi Slimane, we turned the air base over to the Moroccan government with everything on it in working order», recalled Foster, stressing that «every piece of equipment on that base was in working shape, from the radios in the towers to the telephone system».

«There wasn’t one light bulb burned out, and every faucet worked, there wasn’t a drip», concluded the same book.

Reports indicate that the Nouasseur Air Base was taken back by Morocco and was turned into nowadays' Mohammed V International Airport.

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