File No. 76372/11493

The Cuban Minister ( De Céspedes ) to the Secretary of State

No. 196

Mr. Secretary: At several of the interviews which I had the high honor to have with Your Excellency in connection with the entrance of Cuba into the World War and its desire to cooperate as far as it could in the triumph of democracy and liberty, I made known to Your Excellency the purpose of the Cuban people to have an active part in the struggle under the guidance of the same generous impulse and spirit of devotion to the great ideals of humanity which prompted the Government of the United States of America when it declared war on the Imperial Governments of Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Upon offering the military cooperation of my country for the time when the plans of our allies could admit troops other than those of the United States among the contingents that should be and have been prepared and transported to Europe, my Government sent to this capital a military and naval mission which in accord with the Departments of War and Navy made on that initial occasion the necessary preparations for the defense of Cuba, putting off the consideration of the details of our participation in the war until it should be practicable to undertake it. In the meanwhile the Cuban people heeding the prompting of their allies devoted to the great harvest of sugar, which has just been completed, its every energy and effort, and the Honorable Congress took up the compulsory military service law which was approved on the 3d of August last.

In connection with the training of a squadron of aviators which Cuba desired to send to France and other details of a technical nature, the military attaché of this Legation had the opportunity to become acquainted with the position of the staff of the Army of the United States concerning the scope of the military cooperation which might be at any time asked of Cuba. The liaison [Page 723] officer of the War Department told our military attaché that the Chief of Staff had said to him that he entertained the best will toward Cuba and would do anything he could do for her with pleasure, but he believed that at present the request concerning the training of the squadron could not be acceded to because the plan laid down in advance, which could not be departed from, was to devote all available resources to strengthening the organization and matériel of the American Army and of those of the great powers now battling against Germany; that he believed that the said squadron, as well as all the other elements that Cuba could organize of whatever nature, would give much greater assistance to the Allied cause by being kept in Cuba for the protection of its coasts, maintenance of order at home and aid in the anti-submarine campaign; that Brazil and other nations had made similar requests which on like grounds could not be acceded to, because the problem by which they were confronted was really so vast, owing to the training of so many recruits in their own army in ever increasing numbers, that they could not cope with anything else for the present. He, the chief, as well as the other officers of the staff were firm in that opinion and believed that it would not be expedient to take any action at present looking to the sending of our forces to Europe, for if the matter was referred to the staff they would have to report accordingly on the grounds above stated and that many months would still have to go by before the matter could be looked into with greater chance of being accepted. They believed that Cuba should make the best possible preparation but with nothing in mind at the present but home defense, coast defense and the anti-submarine campaign. They all were very thankful for all that Cuba was doing. They were aware of the noble purposes which actuated our Government, but such was the real state of affairs at the time. To sum up: The plan was to prepare the largest possible forces for the American Army and those of the other three great powers and nothing more for the present, in order to secure the greatest possible homogeneity, and Cuba should prepare itself for the future; its participation in the European campaign was believed for the present to be against the purpose in view.

The Cuban Government has taken due note of what was stated by the representative of the War Department to the military attaché of the Legation, but it nevertheless instructs me to inform Your Excellency that the law of August 3 last above referred to provided by its article 62 the following:

The Executive will take measures for the immediate dispatch of & contingent of our present volunteer army to the battle fields of Europe, adding to the said contingent as far as possible the volunteers [Page 724] who may make application therefor. The Executive is also empowered to send military missions to the United States, France, England and Italy.

The foregoing provision, which is mandatory, places the Executive under the obligation of taking steps to send the aforesaid expedition without loss of time, and under that law the main element of the said contingent must consist of forces of our present regular army, composed of staff and field officers, non-commissioned officers and privates well instructed and trained, a large number of whom have already had occasion to do creditable service in war operations, and the contingent would be supplemented by volunteers, preference being given to those who already had military instruction as having served in the army or militia. Inasmuch as that contingent should be properly prepared for war as it is waged on the battle fields of Europe, provided with the adequate armament and equipment, and transported, when the time comes, to the theater of war with all the requisite material in vessels suitably outfitted and convoyed, and Cuba being without the necessaries for these various and imperative requirements which none of the other belligerent states of America, except the United States, now possess, it will be impossible to carry out the purposes of the aforesaid law which are those of the people and Government of Cuba, without the cooperation of the Government of the United States.

Bearing in mind the close bonds which connect us with this great nation, so close that its decision to enter the war was singularly effective in bringing about our firm and spontaneous resolution to cast the lot of our Republic with that of the nations who are struggling against the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires, it is to that nation that we must now apply and present our case and the circumstances which support our offer to take an active part in the European campaign.

In view of the foregoing, I wish to say to Your Excellency in the name of my Government that Cuba is ready to organize and send without delay the contingent specified in the law of August 3 last and to that effect I have the honor to inquire what is the judgment of Your Excellency’s Government as to the expediency of bringing it into effect and whether it is found convenient to extend to us now the cooperation we are applying for or whether it is better for the Allied cause that the participation of Cuba should take the form described to the military attaché of the Legation by the representative of the War Department, in the understanding that if this Government should find a way of utilizing the military contingent under consideration and deign to inform me of the manner in which it should be organized, the Cuban Government would accept the suggestions [Page 725] that might be made for the better achievement of that purpose and is ready to draw up the agreement relative thereto and assume all attendant military and financial obligations, our earnest desire being to cooperate to the full extent of our forces in the triumph of the Allied cause.

I renew [etc.]

Carlos Manuel de Céspedes