The Minister in Ecuador (Gonzalez) to the Secretary of State
[Received January 21.]
Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith for the information of and appropriate action by the Department, a copy with English translation of a note from the Ecuadorean Foreign Office, dated January 9, 1936,59 containing the text of a communication addressed to it by the Ministry of National Defense. The latter Ministry desires to engage the services of a line officer and an engineer officer of the American Navy for duty as instructors in the Ecuadorean Navy and, accordingly, it has requested the Foreign Office to cause that unofficial inquiries be made of the Navy Department in Washington as to the possibility of engaging two officers with the qualifications indicated whose services, it is understood, would be contracted unofficially. The question of compensation and other details would be discussed directly with the interested officers by the Ecuadorean Legation in Washington. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has forwarded the request to the Legation with the observation that the employment of these officers would undoubtedly serve to strengthen the bonds which unite our two countries.
I also enclose herewith a copy of a Memorandum on the subject59 prepared by Commander George L. Weyler, Naval Attaché to this Legation, who is at present in Quito. It will be observed that he considers that it would be advantageous to the United States if the services of retired American naval officers could be made available to the Ecuadorean Government for the purpose in view. I concur in the recommendation made by Commander Weyler.
It appears to be the plan of the present Government to develop a naval force with the primary purpose in view of patrolling the mainland seacoast and the territorial waters of the Galapagos Islands. I do not believe that this plan contemplates the development of a navy to the point where it might eventually be a source of danger of future aggression since the authorities themselves are fully cognizant of the financial incapacity of the country to meet the expenditures which such a program would demand. Rather it appears to be the intention to form the nucleus of a patrol fleet whose exclusive activities would be police duties in enforcing Ecuadorean sovereignty and jurisdiction along its coasts and in its island possessions. The latter is considered [Page 534] to be of particular interest and importance to Ecuador since up to the present it has had no means of exerting its control over the Galapagos and preventing unauthorized persons entering those possessions. I have in mind a recent report of an unauthorized visit of a Japanese squadron of submarines accompanied by a mother ship. The possibility that this may have been a Peruvian, Chilean or American squadron appears to have been completely refuted and the authorities themselves are fully convinced that the vessels belonged to the Japanese Navy. The purpose of the visit is unknown but the vessels are reported to have been engaged in making soundings in and around the Islands. What use the Japanese Government may intend to make of this information would be pure conjecture on the part of the Legation. The important point is that if Ecuador could establish an efficient maritime patrol service under the direction of retired American naval officers, it would be impossible to make visits of this kind by countries having ulterior interests in the Islands, or in the event that they should do so the information would be immediately available to our Government.
The importance of the Galapagos Islands in any offensive movement directed against the Panama Canal is generally recognized by naval strategists. In fact, the concensus of opinion appears to be that even the temporary possession of the Islands by a foreign belligerent force would imminently endanger the security of the Panama Canal. I feel confident that the policy of the Ecuadorean Government today is to prevent the Islands in any way coming under the control of a foreign country, particularly Japan. Under these circumstances the presence of competent and discreet retired American naval officers in the service of the Ecuadorean Navy, especially in the private capacity in which they would be engaged, might prove of invaluable assistance to the United States. Certainly it would be a gracious courtesy involving no expenditure upon our part. Moreover, it would be deeply appreciated by Ecuador and would contribute appreciably to strengthening our prestige and influence in this country. I therefore recommend strongly that the Department accord favorable consideration to the request with a view to making available the most competent officers.