810.20 Defense/1177: Telegram

The Ambassador in Colombia ( Braden ) to the Secretary of State

304. For Duggan.33 Department’s telegram No. 188.34 Minister of War and Chief of Staff at luncheon yesterday emphasized to me the following:

  • 1st. Colombian military requirements are not merely for equipment but for number of other items purchasable or requiring expenditures within this country such as for health, transportation, radio, clothes, lighting systems, et cetera. For example as reported by me over 2 years ago War Ministry purchased large number of steel houses from the United States Steel Corporation. These now stored Barranquilla but there is no money to erect them at strategic points along the coasts.
  • 2nd. Military equipment now mostly 7 or more years old and is wearing out so that only protection on Pacific Coast is gunboat Junin and two ancient airplanes. Public and Congress will soon ask why equipment is lacking since Government was authorized to borrow funds wherewith to purchase up to 30 million pesos and the United States authorities have publicly announced desire to aid.
  • 3rd. Colonels Tamayo35 and Buenaventura36 returned from United States last week with “absolutely nothing concrete except a draft contract under Lend-Lease Act which includes certain declarations having political flavor” and provides for material only but no free funds which Colombia has since January stated would be required.
  • 4th. Minister of War had gathered from staff conversations that Colombia because of geographical location would be given preference in obtaining material but the two colonels report that some quarters in Washington considered this country important whereas others put at the end of list. For instance on aviation which has always been recognized as of prime importance for Colombia the colonels were told it was not sure when training planes could be supplied and that even the less advanced types of fighting planes could not be furnished until 1943. This would mean that with wearing out of present equipment Colombian officers returning from instruction in the United States would be without ships to fly or to instruct their fellow officers.

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I replied that the only draft I had seen (Department’s circular instruction strictly confidential of July 1138) briefly referred to inter-American political agreement39 already concluded. Then I called Minister’s attention to vital necessity of equipment of all kinds being supplied to Great Britain, China and for our own re-armament and hazarded opinion that a better understanding might have been reached in Washington if Chief of Staff and Military Attaché here40 had more thoroughly determined all facets of this question reporting their findings as a basis for Washington conversations (the Department will recall Colonel Strong’s conversations with Chief of Staff were long delayed despite Santos’s instructions, because of antagonism between Ministry of War and General Castaneda and former’s failure to instruct latter to pursue convention [conversation?] with Military Attaché; in fact Chief of Staff never has been able to go into Colombia matériel needs with us). When the Minister agreed with me I suggested that subject to approval of the Department, I would recommend that detailed survey by these two officers be effected as soon as Military Attaché returns from lowlands where he was forced by illness to go day before yesterday.

There would seem to be much merit in Minister’s complaint at not receiving training planes promptly and undoubtedly if expenditures were properly supervised Colombia could beneficially use some free funds if our policy permits, to improve efficiency of army and navy. Since I have scant information respecting distribution of $16,200,000 loan I am unable to express opinion thereon but do feel that this Embassy in consultation with Naval and Military Attachés41 and Missions might render valuable advice if given opportunity to go into this matter thoroughly at an early date and before program has assumed definite form.

In view of the foregoing I would appreciate being informed as to how matters were left in Washington by Colonels Tamayo and Buenaventura and instructions as to whether Colonel Strong, perhaps with Naval Attaché should proceed jointly with Chief of Staff to make detailed report and survey.

Please instruct.

  1. Laurence Duggan, Adviser on Political Relations.
  2. July 9, 9 p.m., p. 15.
  3. Col. Francisco Tamayo Cortes.
  4. Col. Ernesto Buenaventura Guerrero.
  5. Not printed; the draft transmitted with this instruction is basically the same as that worked out with special reference to Brazil, submitted to the President by Mr. Welles with his letter of June 28, printed in vol. vi, p. 138.
  6. The Declaration of Lima, a Declaration of the Principles of the Solidarity of America, approved December 24, 1938; for text, see Report of the Delegation of the United States of America to the Eighth International Conference of American States, Lima, Peru, December 9–27 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1941), p. 189.
  7. Lt. Col. Carl H. Strong.
  8. Lt. Col. Byron F. Johnson and Lt. Col. Carl H. Strong, respectively.