Memorandum of Conversation, by the Liaison Officer (Wilson)

Colonel Bessette, of our Military Mission to Haiti, called this afternoon. I discussed with him the various aspects of the plan to provide Haiti with military equipment according to the recommendations of the Joint Military-Naval Advisory Board. He told me that he had already visited the War and Navy Departments and had told Major Johnston and Captain Spears that there had been prepared, under his advice, a list of military and naval matériel to be furnished Haiti during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1942. He has also familiarized himself with the system of requisitions in order to be of assistance to the Haitian Government.

During the conversation, I referred to the basic agreement and to the position which I assumed Colonel Bessette would take with respect to the Haitian authorities. I informed him that while it appeared quite proper for him to advise the Haitian officials with respect to the procurement of armament, it was necessary for the latter to conduct formal negotiations with the United States Government and sign all necessary documents. Colonel Bessette replied that he was fully aware of this.

He showed me lists of war and naval matériel which he had already compiled. The former consisted principally of small arms, with the requisite ammunition, motor trucks, military clothing, and accouterments. The naval matériel did not include any vessels but instead such articles as buoys, lighthouses, a marine railway, etc. I pointed out to Colonel Bessette that it had been my understanding that the amount allotted Haiti for naval expenditures provided for the acquisition of one or two patrol vessels. He replied that the articles he had listed would be of much more value to hemisphere defense. He intimated that Captain Spears had concurred.

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I gathered that both of these lists would soon be put in final shape at Port-au-Prince and then forwarded to the Haitian Legation for delivery to the Department. After they have been transmitted to the War and Navy Departments, they can be handled expeditiously, as no negotiations or discussions will be necessary.

I took advantage of Colonel Bessette’s visit to ask his views on the advisability of sending a Haitian Military Attaché to Washington. He replied that the racial problem would not afford occasion for embarrassment as the Haitians understood the situation sufficiently well. A short time ago, two young Haitain officers had taken extensive military courses at Fort Benning, where Colonel Bessette was stationed. No disagreeable incidents occurred, although Colonel Bessette acknowledged that he had kept a very close watch over these young men. Pie added that Colonel Levelt of the Haitian Guard would not come to the United States in connection with the procurement of military matériel, as had been intimated by the Haitian Minister.