Memorandum by the Minister in Ecuador (Long), Temporarily in Washington, to the Adviser on Political Relations (Duggan)

American Aviation Mission in Ecuador

Mr. Duggan: There is urgent need that several constructive steps be taken looking to the establishment of a small Ecuadoran aviation group. Last year we succeeded in eliminating Italian aviation instruction, and this year we hope to see the German aviation company out of Ecuador.19

Before the aviation members of the Italian Military Mission to Ecuador were sent back to Italy (1940), it had been tentatively understood that an American Aviation Mission would proceed to Ecuador. However, Ecuador opportunely made perfectly clear that her economic position was steadily growing worse, which prevented the making of payments as other nations do; hence, Ecuador asked for advance assurances that she would receive assistance—a million dollars being suggested as a tentative fund. The President of Ecuador called our Minister before his entire Cabinet, explained that he desired to be relieved of embarrassment by having the United States Government know in advance of Ecuador’s economic distress so that he (the President of Ecuador) would not be made uncomfortable by having our Chief of Aviation Mission come to Quito, make plans and ask for funds which Ecuador could not deliver simply because she lacked money and knew no source from which it might be obtained save through collaboration with us, which he desired to perfect.

In reply, the Department of State indicated that setting up such a fund for Ecuador would be premature as other American republics had not then stated what their requirements would be. Even so, we did say that, after the Chief of our Aviation Mission had reached Ecuador and made recommendations in which Ecuador concurred, methods for implementing them would receive attention. Compliance on our part is now in order, since Ecuador expected and expects that in some manner, not precisely specified but more or less as outlined by Colonel Burgess, we will help to put her experienced aviators back in the air and also train some new ones. Her experienced aviators are now practically grounded for lack of adequate planes, spare parts to recondition Ecuador’s old planes, a shop under proper mechanical direction for maintenance, and the other things which go with supporting a small air force.

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Prior also to concluding the arrangements for the establishment of Panagra in Ecuador (as a local operation) that country pointed out the double nature of Sedta20 services (1) commercial and (2) military services. Ecuador sought to oblige Panagra to undertake both, but for obvious reasons Panagra declined those of a military character.

Thereupon Ecuador was reminded that the revival of her own Aviation Corps, under our aviation direction, might enable them to perform their own military services, that is, take over from Sedta. These services consisted of transporting border guards, coast guards, troops and officers, including Cabinet members and occasionally the President, about Ecuador. The burden of these services would not be great. Also, Ecuador is said to have several experienced pilots who should in a comparatively short time be enabled to take over, with our aid. In this connection intimation was made that we might assist Ecuador in financing the acquisition of one or two hydro planes or amphibians for the “Oriente service” provided Ecuador would refrain from closing a contract with Sedta, the German company which precisely at that moment was seeking a contract for the entire Oriente service of about 80 flights per year for a million sucres (roughly $66,666.66 US dollars)—a low price.

Sedta transported some Ecuadorans free, others for a minimum fee, but the rates are being made progressively lower since Panagra set up its local service.

Panagra entered Ecuador with the understanding that her former rates would be brought down to those of Sedta as of a given date. Yet the moment Panagra got into operation (internal services within Ecuador), Sedta cut prices.

Our assurances to help Ecuador in the development of their own military aviation on a limited scale were given prior to Ecuador’s indication that she would assist in the elimination of Sedta.

It would seem that the proper procedure would be for funds to be made available now for the aviation schools and the things necessary to their success. A quarter of a million dollars should suffice (see attached memorandum “A” or letter from War21 which shows that Department has no money for such purposes).

When available the funds might be turned over to our Aviation Mission to do the necessary things, or they might be passed along to Panagra to do certain portions of the work in Ecuador. In the order of importance, the steps appear to be as follows:

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Pay or give guaranty to the Aircraft Export Corporation, New York, for $70,000 (plus) for spare parts, etc. to recondition the

5 Basic Trainers owned by Ecuador —all old
6 Primary Trainer engines Do
5 Primary Trainer planes Do

and get certain equipment to establish a repair shop for maintenance. It will also be necessary to obtain priorities for the manufacture of these parts, as they are not in stock.

Supply someone in Ecuador with about $80,000 to build primary training schools at Salinas, with quarters for our Aviation Mission members; secondary training aviation plant at Quito with quarters for our Aviation Mission members; make necessary connections with airports; establish repair plants; and generally to insure the success of the venture. Use for the remaining $100,000 will quickly thereafter become apparent.

The school plants probably could be built during the present dry season if funds were available forthwith.

The spare parts, or some of them, from the Aircraft Export Corporation, should begin filtering into Ecuador before the end of 1941. Meanwhile the members of our very small Mission will have plenty to do, after another officer from here reaches Ecuador, in giving instruction with Primary Trainers, continuing repair work or maintenance on the few old trainers now in Ecuador, and laying plans for further construction steps. The several things to be done are outlined in Mr. Welles’ letter to the Secretary of War dated June 27 or 28.22

Boaz Long
  1. See pp. 270 ff.
  2. Sociedad Ecuatoriana de Transportes Aéreos, German-controlled commercial air carrier.
  3. Not attached to file copy.
  4. Letter of June 28, not printed.