817.00 Woodward Electoral Mission/44

The Assistant Secretary of State (White) to the Chargé in Nicaragua (Beaulac)

Dear Willard: I am enclosing for your information certain papers in regard to a revised plan for supervision of the Nicaraguan elections which we have been considering. I want to give you in this letter the background of this revised plan.

[Page 795]

About the first of March Secretary Adams of the Navy handed Mr. Stimson at cabinet meeting a letter36 regarding the personnel plans for the electoral mission and the forces needed for protective purposes. This letter stated that the personnel plan for the Electoral Mission as prepared by Colonel Price called for 48 officers and 1045 enlisted men, plus medical personnel, making a total of 1115 in the mission. As regards the protective forces, Mr. Adams’ letter recalled the recommendations made by the Director of the Guardia, the Commander of the Second Brigade and the Commander Special Service Squadron that in addition to the present strength of the Guardia and the Second Brigade a minimum of 1800 marines, plus 150 from the Special Service Squadron together with officers and medical personnel, or a total of 2063, should be sent. This would mean, therefore, sending to Nicaragua a grand total of 3178 naval personnel to supplement the approximate 1000 now in Nicaragua. According to Mr. Adams this would involve an expense to the United States over and above the pay of personnel and the current operating costs, of about three-quarters of a million dollars. When Secretary Adams discussed this letter with Mr. Stimson at the cabinet meeting there was considerable adverse criticism of the plan to send so many additional Navy personnel to Nicaragua. The Navy Department’s budget for the fiscal year 1933 does not contain any provision for this extraordinary expense and it would be necessary either to go to Congress for an appropriation or else to obtain the approval of the President to incur a deficiency. As a matter of fact, neither course seems to hold any possibility of success. There is an urgent demand by Congress that the Government cut its expenditures drastically, and as a practical matter it seems impossible to obtain approval for the expenditure of three-quarters of a million dollars for sending this large additional force to Nicaragua. These reasons of a financial nature are entirely apart from those of policy which argue against sending so many of our armed forces to Nicaragua when we have announced that we shall withdraw completely after the elections.

In view of this situation we wrote the Navy Department on March 9, 1932,37 asking them whether they could not examine the matter again and see whether they would be able to devise means by which the safety of the Electoral Mission could be taken care of without sending the additional protective forces. A copy of this letter is enclosed for your information. We then considered the matter in this Department from all angles, and Mr. Hanna drew up a revised plan for supervising the elections, a copy of which is transmitted herewith. [Page 796] This plan in brief was based on the principle of having American personnel in the Electoral Mission function in the peaceful areas of the country and in only such places in the more exposed regions where they could be afforded ample protection by the Guardia Nacional. In order to carry out this principle, Nicaraguans would be selected and trained to perfrom the work of supervision at the mesas, that is, to be chairmen of these mesas’, a system of “visiting inspectors” would check up on the efficiency and honesty of their performance. Furthermore, a non-partisan Nicaraguan Guardia Civil would be created to assist in affording protection during the registration and voting. These proposals would in the first place reduce the United States personnel estimated for the work of electoral supervision, and in the second place would eliminate the necessity for the additional armed forces which had been estimated for protection.

The foregoing plan was discussed at a conference in this Department on March 15, attended by General Fuller, Commandant of the Marine Corps, Captain Johnson, who supervised the 1930 elections, Commander Lammers of the Bureau of Operations of the Navy, and Colonel Price, and on our side by Hanna, Wilson, Duggan and myself. We reached an agreement at that conference that ways and means should be considered to reduce the estimated number of personnel to be sent to Nicaragua and that the plan drawn up by Mr. Hanna should be used as a basis for study. Colonel Price was requested to prepare a memorandum as to the personnel which would be required to carry out a satisfactory supervision on the basis of the revised plan.

A copy of Colonel Price’s memorandum, marked plan “B”, is enclosed herewith.38 This memorandum proceeds on the basis that American presidents shall be appointed for the most important mesas of the greatest voting strength and so located that the normal disposition of the available police force will afford them adequate protection. Other mesas are to be manned entirely by Nicaraguan personnel and the “visiting inspectors” will check them up. This personnel plan of Colonel Price calls for an American personnel, officers and enlisted men, of 643, or a net reduction from the original estimate of 472. As it is drawn up on the principle of keeping the American personnel out of any place where they would not be afforded adequate protection by the Nicaraguan police forces, it would seem that the necessity for additional forces for protection purposes would thereby be eliminated.

On March 28 we had a second conference with the same people [Page 797] who attended the March 15 conference, in order to consider Colonel Price’s revised personnel plan. It was agreed that the Navy would send this plan “B” to Admiral Smith, General Matthews and the Commander of the Second Brigade, asking for a report on the question of protection in relation to the American personnel to be employed under this revised plan. You will doubtless be consulted and I therefore wanted you to have the background of this question. We hope it may prove possible, in the judgment of those on the ground, to carry out a supervision such as that outlined in plan “B” without the necessity of sending further forces for protection purposes, other than the Marines now stationed in Managua and those available from the Special Service Squadron. Please let us have your views after you have considered the matter thoroughly.

Needless to say this plan “B” is strictly confidential and is not to be mentioned in any way to the Nicaraguans at this time. In any case, it is for us to determine what plan of supervision we think will provide a reasonably fair and free election, and I see no reason to discuss the matter with the Nicaraguan Government. So long as we give them a fair election, that is their only concern. Of course we shall have to see later that necessary amendments to the electoral law are adopted to permit the functioning of plan “B”. Colonel Price is now engaged in drawing up these amendments. If, after receiving the report from Managua regarding the protection question, it appears advisable to go ahead with this plan “B” we shall then forward to the Legation the proposed amendments of the electoral law for the Legation’s consideration.

Yours, very sincerely,

Francis White
  1. Not printed.
  2. Letter not printed.
  3. Not printed; for substance of plans A, B, and C, see memorandum by the Division of Latin American Affairs, April 29, p. 799.