810.20 Defense/306/11

The Minister in Costa Rica ( Hornibrook ) to the Secretary of State 15
No. 2256

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s telegram No. 44 of June 8, 3 p.m., and to report as follows:

I communicated the contents of the above-mentioned telegram to President Calderón Guardia and am quite certain that the reaction thereto was most unfavorable. The President reminded me that Costa Rica is a very poor nation, faced at the present time with the possibility of a “Fifth Column” movement, and finds itself in a position where it is unable to appropriate the necessary funds for the purchase of essential military equipment.

The President next suggested that in order to meet with the requirements of present American laws on this subject, it is quite possible my Government might be able to negotiate a trade of the used equipment in Costa Rica for the used equipment in the United States. He admitted frankly that the equipment owned at the present time in Costa Rica is of little monetary value, but suggested that in some manner my Government might be better able to dispose of it than his own.

I then asked the President as to the actual needs of his Government from a military standpoint, and he asserted that he should like very much to obtain four thousand used or unused rifles and forty-five .45 calibre sub-machine guns. The ammunition, he asserted, would of course be paid for by the Costa Rican Government.

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There is not the slightest question as to the belief of the President that there is better than an even possibility of the “Fifth Column” menace and he is manifestly worried as to the strength of his own military establishment in such an emergency. He definitely looks to the United States for protection and only yesterday asked me as to how many men could be transported from the Canal Zone to San José by plane in a three hour period. He gave me every possible assurance of the desire of his Government to cooperate with our own in the event we became involved in the European war and made it plain that the present régime here expected the United States to act speedily and effectively in the event the German and Italian elements here make an effort to upset the present Government.

A careful study of the memorandum16 which I have caused to be prepared and am including in this pouch as to the conversations held between the President, Major Clayton C. Jerome, Captain Maxwell D. Taylor and myself contains a close up view of the President’s mind on this subject, and should properly be read in connection with this despatch.

My own personal feeling is that it will be a great mistake not to work out some plan whereby at least five hundred or a thousand of these rifles can be speedily obtained by the Costa Rican Government without cost. Our relations with the present administration are now on such friendly terms, the proximity of Costa Rica to the Canal Zone make this territory so important from a military, naval and air standpoint, and the activities of the Germans and Italians so aggressive in character, that it appears to me the cost involved is infinitesimal in comparison with the good will and safety that might be obtained.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Respectfully yours,

Wm. H. Hornibrook
  1. Printed from carbon copy. Original not found in Department files. No receipt date indicated.
  2. Not printed.