The Argentine Ambassador (Espil) to the Secretary of State

D. E. No. 61

Mr. Secretary of State: In connection with the suspension of the conversations which recently took place between the naval-military commissions of the two countries and in order to make clear the position of the Argentine Government in this matter, I take pleasure in enclosing a memorandum recapitulating the antecedents and the progress of the said conversations.

I take the opportunity [etc.]

Felipe A. Espil

Memorandum From the Argentine Embassy With Regard to the Negotiations on Cooperation in the Continental Defense Plan

With the departure of our Naval-Military Delegation, the Argentine Embassy considers it opportune to outline below the progress of the recent negotiations for the furnishing of armaments.

1. Under date of July 30 last, the Embassy of the United States in Buenos Aires presented a memorandum to our Foreign Office25 inviting the Argentine Government to renew the conversations of General Staffs initiated during the visits to Buenos Aires in 1940 of Captain Spears and Colonel Christian. To this end the Department of State expressed the opinion that it would be mutually advantageous for the Argentine Government to appoint a Military-Naval Commission, which should visit the United States not only with authority to continue those conversations, but also to present the needs of the Argentine Army and Navy with respect to military and naval equipment which, according to the same memorandum, could only be obtained within the near future, under the Lend-Lease [Page 388] Act. As a result of this invitation, the Argentine Government appointed the Naval and Military Commission which, in execution of its task, was in Washington for the last three months.

2. Simultaneously with the departure of our Delegation on December 1 last, Mr. Laurence Duggan, Political Adviser of the Department, delivered to this Mission the text of a proposed basic agreement between the two Governments26 for the furnishing of armament under the terms of the Lend-Lease Act. The same offer was repeated in a note from the Department of State to this Embassy dated December 9 last.27

3. The conversations between the Naval-Military Delegations of the two Governments developed in the spirit they had anticipated and in an atmosphere of mutual understanding. Points of view and data for cooperation in continental defense were exchanged, the value of which, in view of possible eventualities, cannot be denied. The Argentine Delegation offered a plan of defense which, in revealing its war preparations, signifies a great demonstration of friendship towards the United States. And lastly, the imminent conclusion of the plan of collaboration which was to have been signed on the 14th instant constitutes, in the Argentine Government’s opinion, noteworthy expressions of its firm desire to cooperate in the common defense.

4. Coincident with the above proposals, as the Department has already been orally advised, the Argentine Government, in a Ministerial Resolution, recently decided to accept the proposed basic agreement for the furnishing of armaments under the Lend-Lease Act, suggesting certain modifications as to the amount and dates of delivery of the materials.

In fact, this Embassy has received a communication from our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to which the amounts offered in the proposed basic agreement which the Department submitted to it last December, would be insufficient to assure the adequate organization of the effectives which our Government considers indispensable to guarantee execution of the defense in the zones subject to our responsibility, which were contemplated in the joint, basic, “United States-Argentine Republic” war plan which has just been discussed in Washington.

As the Department must know, the urgent needs of our Army and our Navy were carefully studied during the conversations between the Naval-Military Delegations of the two Governments. From these studies, at least from the technical point of view, there has evolved an [Page 389] agreement in opinion between the Delegations which exhibits a discrepancy, as regards figures, with the plans originally contemplated.

5. Always in the same spirit of cooperation in the plan of continental defense, it is to be pointed out that the Argentine Government, without waiting for the signing of the pertinent agreements, has already taken important measures to forward defensive preparation and has expended large amounts in our country for such purposes. A brief list of such preparatory measures is given below:

a) Increase in the Army’s peace-time effectives

The figure of 45,000 men which the Army’s peace-time effectives reached in 1941 has been increased in the current year to that of 100,000 men. For that purpose, a large part of the class of 1920 has been kept in service and that of 1921 called up.

The cadres of commissioned and non-commissioned officers have been increased in a corresponding proportion by calling up reserve personnel.

b) Possible calling up of reserves

The calling up of other reserve classes to reinforce the effectives mentioned above, if necessary, has been provided for.

c)Defense of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego

The installation of large nuclei of Army troops—including aviation—has been ordered at the following points on the South Atlantic coast:

Rio Gallegos
Rio Grande

In addition to these troops, the present garrison units, suitably reinforced, are maintained at Comodoro Rivadavia and Esquel (in the Chubut Territory) at Bariloche (Rio Negro Territory) and in the Neuquen Territory.

d) Defense of the Atlantic coast in the sector corresponding to the Province of Buenos Aires

Measures have been taken for the defense of this sector of the Atlantic coast through the employment of a number of Divisions, with the corresponding intervention of the air forces.

e) Installation of air bases in Patagonia

The installation of air bases has been ordered to the end that aviation may be able to cooperate effectively with the Army forces entrusted with the defense.

6. Taking into account the emergencies with which the United States is faced by reason of the war, it is the Argentine Government’s intention not to request transfer of completed armaments, aviation or materials, except in the most moderate amount, compatible with the agreements provided for, and only of those elements which it is practically impossible to manufacture in the country within a short period.

The area of Argentine Patagonia and the importance of its vital and vulnerable points demand special measures with a view to strategic mobility. It most urgently requires that automotive, armored and [Page 390] air units be supplied. It is on such equipment, and on anti-aircraft artillery, that the efficiency with which our troops—already well instructed and reinforced with effectives—will be able to fulfill their protective or defensive mission will rest.

One of the most valuable contributions to continental defense in the southern hemisphere is, in the opinion of the Argentine Government, constituted by the efficient military and naval preparations of commanding officers, officer staffs and other cadres in its Army and Navy and by the ample proportion of instructed reserves which are the product of more than 40 years of compulsory military service.

7. From the foregoing, it is obvious that the effectiveness of our cooperation in continental defense is closely bound to the equipment and materials which the Argentine Republic has a probability of receiving in due time to complete the operative value of its Army and Navy.

  1. See telegram No. 810, August 8, 1941, 3 p.m., from the Ambassador in Argentina, printed in Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. vi, section under Argentina entitled “Discussions between the United States and Argentina regarding a Lend-Lease Agreement …”
  2. Enclosure 2 to Department’s instruction No. 1493, December 4, 1941, printed in Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. vi, section under Argentina entitled “Discussions between the United States and Argentina regarding a Lend-Lease Agreement …”
  3. Not printed.