The Minister in Bolivia (Jenkins) to the Secretary of State

No. 689

Sir: I have the honor to report that two additional members of the Italian military mission to Bolivia have recently arrived in the country and taken up duties as instructors in the Military Academy at La Paz. These officers are a Colonel Matteoti, a General Staff officer, until recently head of the Italian military mission in Ecuador, and Lieutenant Colonel Pietro Antonio, a Field Artilleryman, also a member of that mission. The Legation understands that the contract of the mission in Ecuador was canceled by the Ecuadoran Government several months ago at the instance of the Department.

It will be recalled that in connection with the staff conversations which took place in Bolivia in September and October 1940, a note dated October 8, 1940,38 was presented to the Bolivian Foreign Office by the Legation inquiring whether the Bolivian Government was disposed to agree to five points, including: [Page 415]

“3. Bolivia recognizes the incompatibility of the presence of non-American military missions with the realization of perfect continental solidarity”.

It will also be recalled that the Foreign Office’s reply, dated October 30, 1940,39 answered this point as follows, in translation:

“3. There is in Bolivia only one military mission, of Italian origin. Its services are devoted exclusively to military instruction in the War College in the city of Cochabamba. According to its contract it should remain in Bolivia for seven years more. Despite the purely pedagogical character of this mission, the Government of Bolivia is prepared to rescind its contract; but in such case it would desire the Army of the United States of America to detail a mission of aviation officers to replace the Italian mission and which would come provided with the necessary training planes. The Government of Bolivia considers that a true technical cooperation on the part of the United States of America would thus be carried out.”

The addition of two new members of the Italian military mission to the eleven who were previously on duty in Bolivia, particularly in view of the fact that the two new ones were members of a mission whose contract with another American Republic was canceled, would hardly seem compatible with the Bolivian Government’s expressed willingness to dispense with the services of those already in Bolivia last October. This seems especially true at a time when the Bolivian Government is negotiating for an American Army air mission.

The Military Attaché of the Legation two days ago inquired of General Felipe Rivera, Superintendent of the Military Academy, concerning the status of Col. Matteoti and Lt. Col. Antonio. Gen. Rivera who was the Bolivian Army’s senior representative in the recent trip to the United States of Latin American Chiefs of Staff and others at the invitation of General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, and who has been among the Bolivian Army officers most friendly to the United States, stated that he had been glad to secure the services of the two Italian officers as they were competent and spoke good Spanish while he was short of qualified instructors and had been unsuccessful in getting the General Staff to assign qualified Bolivian officers to his teaching corps. Gen. Rivera added that the two Italian officers could be considered replacements rather than additions since two Italians who had orignally been intended for assignment to the Military Academy at the time of the appointment of the original Italian mission had died before proceeding to Bolivia.

Just what subjects two officers of field rank who have been performing duties incumbent on their grades could appropriately teach [Page 416] in a Military Academy which produces second lieutenants and is roughly equivalent, although of course inferior, to West Point is not clear to the Legation. The other members of the Italian military mission are instructors in the War College at Cochabamba which is the nearest Bolivian counterpart to the Command and Staff School at Fort Leavenworth and the Army War College at Washington.

The Bolivian Army’s action in taking on two additional Italian instructors in contravention of at least the spirit of commitments the Bolivian Government has expressed itself as ready to make seems another indication that such commitments for military cooperation may be of little value …

It is assumed that the State and War Departments will wish to make certain that the services of the Italian military mission are dispensed with before entering into any contract for the supplying of a United States Army air mission since this is understood to be the general policy in such cases and since it appears that the War Department considers the presence of totalitarian military missions in Latin America a menace to continental defense regardless of whether American missions substitute for them or not. Opposition to canceling the Italian contract may arise in Bolivian Army circles because of the fact that it is apparently only contemplated that we will send two Air Corps officers and there are thirteen Italians now here on duty … As mentioned in previous correspondence, there is a further flaw in the matter in that the Bolivian reply to our question as to the utilization of non-American military missions in the sense that the Bolivian Government is ready to rescind the Italian mission’s contract seems to be conditional on the supplying not only of an air mission by the United States but also of training planes; it is understood from a letter received by me from Major General Frank M. Andrews that the recommendations of Major Harry Weddington, sent by the War Department to Bolivia to investigate Bolivian needs as regards an air mission, and approved by Gen. Andrews, called for one bi-motored plane for the mission with training for a small cadre of Bolivian officers to be carried out in the United States.

It occurs to me that the Department may wish me to make some form of representation to the Bolivian Government in regard to the hiring of two additional Italian military instructors, particularly in view of the circumstances. Should this be the case, I should appreciate appropriate instructions.

Respectfully yours,

Douglas Jenkins
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.