The Secretary of State to the Minister in Nicaragua (Hanna)
72. Legation’s despatch 828, June 21. The Department has given careful consideration to the question of turning over the Guardia to Nicaraguan control. While it agrees with General Matthews that an “orderly turnover is vitally important” and notes his opinion “that the short time available under the present plan makes such a turnover highly problematical”, the Department is strongly of the opinion that it would not be advisable to leave any Marines in Nicaragua after the date already announced for their withdrawal, and considers it essential to adhere to the plan to withdraw the Marines immediately after the new President takes office.
The Department notes that General Matthews does not believe that “the little bit of training in higher command that could be given the newly appointed Nicaraguan officers in the short time allowed (he apparently means 2 months) would be of enough importance to warrant serious consideration”. The basis of a really orderly turnover that would not immediately break down would seem to lie not merely in the transfer of positions to Nicaraguan officers but in the ability of these officers to handle capably and efficiently their new duties when once assumed. It appears to the Department, therefore, that [Page 867] the first step should consist in the immediate selection by Matthews of those Nicaraguans who will hold the higher commands upon the withdrawal of the Marines, particularly of those men who will occupy the key positions, both on headquarters staff and in the field, in order that they may serve an apprenticeship by working alongside the American officers now holding these positions for the time remaining before January 1. In this connection the Department is seriously concerned that there are no Nicaraguan commissioned officers of a rank higher than Lieutenant. In fact, it understands that all but two of these officers are Second Lieutenants. It is in order that such inexperienced men shall not be suddenly appointed to positions of responsibility that the Department feels steps should be taken to select and appoint immediately those who will hold higher commands in the Guardia after American withdrawal. In this connection it is suggested that General Matthews divide his selections as nearly as possible both as to number and rank between Liberals and Conservatives. The important point would seem to be that those Nicaraguans who are to occupy higher and responsible positions obtain as much instruction and experience as possible in order to prepare them to take over their commands when the new President takes office.
Furthermore the Commander of the Guardia will be able to judge in these succeeding months, and especially by their conduct in the electoral period, how trustworthy these officers are and any who do not measure up to requirements can be removed before the Guardia is turned over.