825.24/315a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Chile ( Bowers )

138. Your 118, January 22 [20], 10 p.m., and subsequent telegrams and your despatch 2443, January 19, transmitting Colonel Niergarth’s report.25

This Government has been giving careful consideration to the problem of cooperating with the Chilean Government in the cause of hemisphere defense by affording additional protection to certain important localities in Chile, and is pleased to state that if the Chilean Government should so request in writing, stating that it has learned of the availability of this material and of its utility for coast defense purposes, the War Department is prepared to ship to Chile about February 15 for delivery to the Chilean Government 4 batteries (16 guns) of 155-millimeter cannon with 300 rounds of ammunition per gun. It is believed that they would be most advantageously set up at Antofagasta, Tocopilla, Barquitos, and San Antonio.

Each battery of guns will be accompanied by a detachment of approximately 300 men which is the number of men assigned to operate these batteries in the United States. The efficient and maximum handling of these guns requires an integrated military setup. For each battery there are battery headquarters, gun squads, ammunition squads, searchlight platoon, medical detachment, fire control detail [Page 10] including isolated observation posts, a communications squad, a maintenance squad, et cetera. In other words, the proper operation of these guns is a highly technical and complex military operation necessitating the careful coordination and integration of a number of separate military functions. The United States detachments will go prepared to give immediately full instruction in all aspects of the operation of the guns. They will carry with them, in addition to the 300 rounds of ammunition per gun, sufficient ammunition for the training of Chilean detachments. The War Department suggests that the Chilean Military will fully appreciate the necessity of sending along detachments of approximately 300 men for the proper handling of these guns.

In addition to training the Chilean personnel, the duty of these detachments will be to emplace the guns and to render such protection as is possible until the Chilean forces are sufficiently trained to assume this duty. The American detachments will be withdrawn whenever the Chilean Government considers its own forces sufficiently well trained to take over.

The Commander of these troops is Colonel Sackville whose headquarters would be at Santiago. The regimental headquarters organization consists of 18 officers and 177 men which the War Department would like to have located at Santiago. They would be placed under the supervision of the United States Military Mission to Chile. The War Department, however, recommends that in order to facilitate Colonel Sackville’s task, he be appointed Military Attaché during the period of his stay in Chile. The salaries and other expenses of these troops would be met by the War Department. Other administrative matters will be communicated to you later when necessary.

Please place this matter personally and confidentially before President-elect Ríos and ascertain his views as to whether he wishes this offer to be made formally to the Chilean Government at this time. If his reply is affirmative, you will state that the early signing of the basic lend-lease agreement by the Chilean Government would greatly facilitate the delivery of the material, should the Chilean Government desire to acquire it under the provisions of the Lend-Lease Act. Otherwise it would be necessary to follow a less convenient procedure and one which would be less advantageous from the Chilean point of view.

Please also ascertain Ríos’ views regarding the location of the headquarters battery.

  1. Despatch No. 2443 not printed; Niergarth reported on the vulnerability of Chilean ports and power plants (825.24/225).