810.20 Defense/2101a: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Colombia (Braden)7

201. The recent attack by hostile submarines against Aruba and oil tankers in that vicinity has struck at the very heart of inter-American defense interests in the Caribbean area and within about 700 miles of the Canal. I understand the attack occurred before our recently arrived ground troops had had time to set up their guns to provide the additional defense which was considered of great importance.8

Further attacks of this nature are to be expected which may prove very serious in their effects upon our vital interests as well as those of all of the other American republics, particularly those geographically most adjacent.

The present staff agreements with Colombia and of [with] Venezuela contemplate that the United States will assist with armed force when requested to do so to repel attacks made by non-American powers. In submarine operations of the character under reference such request for assistance in most cases will come too late to permit timely and vigorous action.

I believe that it is an imperative necessity in order that effective and immediate counteraction can be taken that the Governments of Venezuela and Colombia agree with the Government of the United States that in emergency cases of this character, the commanding general of the United States Caribbean Defense Command be prepared to take such action as may be necessary to repel future hostile attacks throughout the Caribbean area wherever and whenever they may fall and to request that a basis for the necessary speed of action be [Page 145] arranged by the establishment of liaison officers of the Governments of Colombia and of Venezuela at the headquarters of General Andrews in the Panama Canal Zone with the authority to confirm emergency arrangements of this character without the delay which will ensue from the need for consultation between the Governments most directly concerned.

It is proposed that the action under reference would only be resorted to in the case of extreme emergency where prompt action alone would serve to safeguard the Canal and the common interests of the three countries most directly involved.

Please take this matter up immediately with the President of the Republic, or should you deem it preferable, with the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In essence what is proposed is that the government to which you are accredited agree to send as liaison officer to General Andrews’ headquarters in the Panama Canal Zone an officer of the highest possible rank and responsibility who would be able to agree at a moment’s notice with General Andrews upon the need for the taking of emergency action which might involve the coastal areas or the territorial waters of the Republics of Venezuela and of Colombia. The utmost speed is necessary in cases of this character as I am sure the government to which you are accredited will agree.

The liaison officers whom it is suggested be sent to cooperate with General Andrews in the Panama Canal Zone would, of course, be furnished accommodations and quarters and all facilities commensurate with their rank. They would be treated as distinguished guests of the Government of the United States.

In view of the extreme urgency of this problem, please telegraph a reply as promptly as possible and do everything that may be within your power to convince the government to which you are accredited of the need in its own interest of an arrangement of this character.

  1. The same to the Ambassador In Venezuela as telegram No. 138.
  2. For correspondence regarding the concern of the United States over the defense of Aruba and Curaçao, see Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. vii, pp. 607 ff.