817.48 Earthquake of 1931/61

Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Latin American Affairs (Thurston)

I attended meetings yesterday and today at the Red Cross for the purpose of discussing relief measures to meet the situation caused by the earthquake and fire at Managua. At the first meeting the Red Cross was represented by Mr. James K. McClintock and Mr. Ernest J. Swift, the Army by Major General MacArthur and Brig. General Whitehead, the Navy by Assistant Secretary Jahncke, Admiral Halligan and Captain Furlong, and the State Department by myself. The meeting this morning was attended only by Mr. McClintock, Captain Furlong, Brig. General Whitehead and myself, although Judge John Barton Payne7 joined us for a while upon his return from conference with the President.

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At the meeting of March 31 it was agreed that Minister Hanna should assume chargé at Managua of coordinating American relief measures pending the arrival of Mr. Ernest J. Swift, Acting Director of Insular and Foreign Operations of the American Red Cross, who will arrive by air Friday, April 3. A preliminary grant of $10,000 was made by the Red Cross and deposited with the Department of State to be drawn against as required by Mr. Hanna for immediate needs. The Navy reported that it was dispatching the hospital ship Relief to Corinto, also vessels of the Special Service Squadron as well as Navy planes from Panama with doctors, nurses and medical supplies, and the airplane carrier Lexington from Cuba to the east coast of Nicaragua. The Army reported that it held available in Panama from its extensive stores such tents, blankets and other supplies, including biological equipment, as might be needed.

At the meeting of April 1 it was decided that the Brigade Commander at Managua, after consultation with Minister Hanna, should report what supplies in addition to those which it was announced at the meeting of March 31 were en route to Nicaragua would be needed, to the end that they might be obtained and dispatched immediately by the Red Cross. It was further reported that the Lexington has seven doctors aboard, as well as other medical personnel, and that these will be launched from the Lexington today in three amphibian planes which will reach Managua today, landing on Lake Managua. It was likewise announced that Army antitoxin supplies to be used in checking any tendency toward epidemics are en route by air. There is appended to this report a statement by the Navy Department showing the concentration in connection with this emergency of its various elements as of April 1.

No further action is called for by the Department at the moment, in as much as all that can be done is now provided for pending the arrival of Mr. Swift, whose extensive experience makes it advisable to await his opinion on further steps.

Walter C. Thurston
  1. Chairman of the American Red Cross.