810.20 Defense/1223

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

No. 973

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s telegram No. 106 of July 19, 1941, concerning the proposal to transfer certain military equipment to Bolivia under the Lend-Lease Program and to report that President Enrique Peñaranda brought this matter up during a conversation I had with him at the Presidential Palace yesterday morning. I called on the President at his request and was accompanied [Page 423] by Mr. Pool48 of the Legation. Dr. Joaquín Espada, the Minister of Finance, came in soon after the President received us and took part in the conversation.

President Peñaranda said that he felt Bolivia should receive a larger quantity of matériel than had been promised under the Lend-Lease Program and he asked me to do what I could to induce our authorities in Washington to take a more favorable attitude to Bolivia in this connection. He referred to the fact that Chile, Peru and other neighboring countries were to receive a great deal more than Bolivia, saying he felt this was not quite fair to this country.

I pointed out to General Peñaranda that I was sure the plan for distributing military matériel to our South American neighbors had been prepared with the greatest care and only after consultation and study with the representatives of the countries concerned. I had not been informed, I said, but I was under the impression that the matériel to go to each country was based on the standing army of the government concerned and for this reason I assumed Bolivia’s quota would not be as much as that of Chile or Peru perhaps, but probably more than the amount to be received by some of the other countries.

To this, President Peñaranda replied that a country’s strength did not depend on its standing army but rather on the troops it could put in the field and that Bolivia could be counted on to raise an army equal to that of any of the other countries mentioned.

The President then handed me a list of matériel which he felt Bolivia should have and which he said he hoped our Government would be willing to supply under the Lend-Lease Plan. A translation of this memorandum follows:

Aviation School—Necessary equipment for the training of pilots:
  • 20 Primary training planes
  • 15 Advanced training planes
  • 4 Twin-motored advanced training planes
Equipment for 30,000 (men).
Mission of United States Army Aviation Instructors.
One battalion of medium tanks.
Twelve companies of anti-tanks.
Communication material—Radios and telephones.
Two groups of 105 cal. howitzers.
Five escadrilles of fighting planes.
Fifteen escadrilles of bombing planes.

Of course I told the President that I would immediately transmit the list and the substance of his remarks to Washington where I was sure they would receive careful consideration. I added, however, that [Page 424] as he doubtless knew our Government was doing everything it could at present to supply England and certain other countries fighting for the democracies and I did not know whether the responsible authorities in Washington would feel it possible to increase the quota of military matériel set aside for Bolivia. The President said he understood this but hoped Bolivia’s quota could be raised in relation to the neighboring South American countries.

The Department may be interested to know that Colonel Moscoso, the Bolivian Military Attaché in Washington who is now back in La Paz on leave, called to see me a few days ago and, in the course of the conversation, he brought up the fact that Bolivia did not seem to be getting the war matériel under the Lend-Lease Plan to which he thought it was entitled. He added, however, that this was only his personal opinion and that he had not said anything about the matter to our authorities in Washington.

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

President Peñaranda went on to say that he was convinced the Germans intended to gain control of Bolivia first and use it as a point from which to extend their influence by infiltration or other means to the neighboring South American countries. He said recent political events in Bolivia and elsewhere tended to confirm this and pointed out the natural advantages offered by the Bolivian terrain for airplane landing fields as well as the strategical central position Bolivia occupies in this continent. He asserted very positively that Bolivia had definitely embarked on a pro-American and pro-democratic policy against the Nazi and totalitarian states.

In the course of the conversation with President Peñaranda, I referred to the proposed American aviation mission49 and asked the President if the Government still felt the need of this mission without delay. To this, the President replied most emphatically that he hoped our aviation mission would be sent down as soon as possible and pointed out that in his memorandum the mission of United States army aviation instructors had been specifically mentioned.

While I am quite sure, as a layman, that the allotment of military supplies has already been carefully worked out by our military authorities and that no general increase will be feasible, it has occurred to me that consideration might possibly be given to expanding and improving the aviation department of this country. As the Department knows, Bolivia possesses only one or two military planes that can be flown at present and it is evident that serious attention should be devoted to the training and organization of the aviation arm. This would probably cost less money than a supply of tanks and artillery and would be more effective in case of need.

Respectfully yours,

Douglas Jenkins
  1. John Cochran Pool, Vice Consul and Third Secretary of Legation.
  2. See pp. 412 ff.