Soviet Military Capability in Berbera, Somalia: Report of Senator Bartlett to the Committee on Armed Services, United States Senate, (July 1975)

Title Soviet Military Capability in Berbera, Somalia: Report of Senator Bartlett to the Committee on Armed Services, United States Senate ….
Author Dewey F. Bartlett
Contributor United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services
Edition reprint
Publisher U.S. Government Printing Office, 1975
Original from the University of Michigan
Digitized 2 Feb 2009
Length 29 pages


An American Senate and House delegations visited northern Somalia (today Somaliland) to investigate charges that the Soviet Union has built a missile complex at Berbera.


At the invitation of the Somali Government, Senator Dewey F. Bartlett, Republican of Oklahoma headed a 10‐man group composed of staff members of the Senate Appropriations and Armed Services Committees and technical experts from several sources went to a 3-day fact-finding mission to Berbera.

The Delegation team arrived in Mogadishu, the Somali capital on July 03, 1975, and fly back to the United States on July 05, 1975.

The purpose of the trip was to investigate allegations made by the U.S. Department of Defense that Berbera was the location of major Soviet support facilities.

Below is the report which Senator Bartlett summited to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee and to the Senate majority leader, Mike Mansfield, who had asked him to make the trip to the East African nation.

U.S. Report Soviet Military Capability In Berbera July, 1975
Missile Handling and Storage Facility, Berbera, Somaliland.
In June 1975 U-2s made clandestine espionage flights over Somalia to photograph Soviet military installations near Berbera, which also contained a depot for anti-shipping missiles for the Soviet fleet in the Indian Ocean. Schlesinger used the high-altitude U-2s because the CIA did not want to release satellite photographs to members of the US Congress (DoD).
SOURCE: Aerial Espionage. Secret Intelligence Flights by East and West. Dick van der Aart, Airlife Publishing Ltd., England, 1985, p. 42.


The Department of Defense has sought Congressional approval to establish it naval logistical facility on the Island of Diego Garcia since 1970. The Congress has proceeded cautiously in its actions fearing that if the United States were to unilaterally expand its presence in this Indian Ocean, a dangerous, expensive arms race with the Soviet Union could result.

In the Fiscal Year 1975 Military Construction Authorization Act, $18.1 million dollars was authorized as the first increment of a three-year, $37.8 million expansion effort for Diego Garcia. However, the authorization was contingent on a thorough review of the situation by the Administration and certification by the President as to the necessity. After the Presidential certification, either House of Congress could block the expansion by agreeing to a disapproving resolution.

On May 12, 1975, President Ford signed and sent to Congress the certification that the construction at Diego Garcia should proceed. Senator Mansfield on May 19, 1975, introduced a disapproving resolution (S. Res. 160) in the Senate which was referred to the Armed Services Committee.

On June 10, 1975, the Armed Services Committee held hearings on the Diego Garcia issue and received testimony from Secretary of Defense Schlesinger and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Brown. The highlight of that testimony was the presentation by the Secretary of Defense of aerial photographs allegedly showing major Soviet facilities under construction at Berbera, Somalia.

Secretary Schlesinger contended, “It is evident that the U.S.S.R. is in the process of establishing a significant new facility, capable of supporting their naval and air activities in the northwest Indian Ocean.”

On June 17, 1975, the Armed Service, Committee in executive session voted 10-to-6 to disagree with the Mansfield Resolution and filed their report on June 18, 1975.

The Secretary of Defense’s allegations brought vigorous denials from both the Soviet Union and the Government of Somalia. Red Star, the organ of the Soviet Defense Ministry, labeled the allegations “a mirage” and said the Soviets were building “a meatpacking factory.” Tass was quoted, “The American Defense Secretary James

Schlesinger must have fallen victim to a mirage when he saw a Soviet war base near Port of Berbera on the sun-parched sandy coastline of Somalia.”

The Government of Somalia sent invitations (Exhibit A) to both house and senate Members inviting them to “come and see for themselves.” Senator Stennis accepted the invitation (Exhibit C) on behalf of the Armed Services Committee and Senator Bartlett agreed to make the visit as the Committee representative.

Senator Bartlett invited the Somali Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Addou, to accompany the team; he declined, however, he did request and Senator Bartlett agreed that his first deputy, Mr. Muses, be permitted to accompany the team.


The trip was scheduled for the period of 2 through 6 July 1975. A general itinerary is at Exhibit C.

To assist Senator Bartlett in his assessment of the Berbera facilities a team of specialists was assembled. The team make-up and a short biographical sketch of each member are contained in Exhibit D. In addition to these specialists, Mr. Mike Rexroad, a professional staff member for the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Mr. Jim Smith, a professional staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee participated.

The Defense Intelligence Agency conducted extensive pre-briefings of the entire team to include a detailed “what-to-look for” briefing just prior to departure for Somalia. In addition, the State Department presented a background briefing on the evolution of the present Somali Government.



It was made clear to the entire team that this visit was at the request of the Somali Government, and the Somali Government had guaranteed the invited Members free access to use anything and everything, and every reasonable effort should be made to examine facilities in detail.

The team was advised that the purpose of the trip was to validate or refute the Department of Defense’s contention as it was stated by Secretary Schlesinger on June 10, 1975, that, “It is evident that the U.S.S.R. is in the process of establishing a significant new facility, capable of supporting their naval and air activities in the northwest Indian Ocean.

Each of the facilities identified by the Secretary of Defense was to be examined with a view toward determining (1) who constructed the facility, (2) what was the capability of the facility, (3) what was the intended use of the facility, (4) who controlled the facility, and (5) who had access to the facility.

First visit with President Siyad

U.S. Report Soviet Military Capability In Berbera July, 1975
President Siyad welcomes Senator Bartlett to Somalia

The team arrived in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, at about 2 p.m. on July 3. The team was met by Col. Ahmed Suleiman, the head of the Somali Secret Service, a member of the Somali Supreme Revolutionary Council, a son-in-law of the President, and according to our embassy, the number three man in the country. Colonel Suleiman accompanied the team throughout their visit of July 3 and 4. He appeared to have complete authority and on several occasions, he overruled other Somali officials who sought to impose restraints on the team.

After visiting a teachers’ college, a boys’ orphanage school, and a girls’ orphanage school, a call was paid on President Mohammed Siyad Barre at 10:30 p.m. The visit was made by Senator Bartlett, Messrs. Rexroad, Smith, Hamrick of the U.S. Embassy, Noyes, and Hughes, the photographer. President Siyad was accompanied by approximately seventeen persons identified as members of the Supreme Revolutionary Council.

President Siyad is articulate, polished, and convincing. He spoke uninterrupted for an hour concerning the history of Somalia, the Somali-Soviet relationship, the Somali-United States relationship, and the Somali form of government. He stated that Somalia was ruled by “scientific socialism,” which permits the reer practice of the Islam religion; ignorance, poverty, and disease were the forces against which the government was struggling. He closed his colloquy by saying that his reason for inviting U.S. Congressmen to Somalia was, not to see Berbera, but to witness their struggle and thereby to improve relations between the two countries.

U.S. Report Soviet Military Capability In Berbera July, 1975
Berbera Storage Facility

He said that the team could go to Berbera to see anything they wanted and that he would open all doors to prove that there were no Soviet facilities in his country. He asked that the team extend their visit for at least one day to see the refugee camps and how the government was handling the refugee problem.

U.S. Report Soviet Military Capability In Berbera July, 1975
Berbera Airfield Under Construction

At this point, Senator Bartlett thanked President Siyad for his invitation and showed the President the book of unclassified photographs prepared by the Defense Intelligence Agency that depicted the Berbera facilities as revealed by Secretary Schlesinger on June 10. A second copy of the photographs was shown at the same time to Colonel Suleiman and other Somali officials. Senator Bartlett told the President exactly which facilities the team wanted to see and received assurances from the President that the team would have unrestricted access and could spend as much as necessary.

Senator Bartlett also requested that a U.S. Air Force C-130 be permitted to take the party to Berbera. President Siyad objected stating that the team members were guests in his country and he preferred to handle the accommodations. Senator Bartlett agreed to utilize Somali transportation emphasizing that he did not ample time to see everything that the team desired to see.

Senator Bartlett requested and the President agreed that the United States and foreign press could accompany the party to Berbera.

U.S. Report Soviet Military Capability In Berbera July, 1975
Senator Bartlett confers with Colonel Suleiman who was the senior Somali representative during the trip to Berbera

The exchange between the President and Senator Bartlett grew sharp on one or two occasions after the President had been shown the photographs and he attempted to temper his offer of complete and unrestricted access. President Siyad directed Colonel Suleiman, who was to be the senior official for the visit, to “open all doors” for the visit.

The meeting with President Siyad broke up cordially about 12:30 a.m., July 4.

Read the full report here

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