Memorandum of Conversation, by the Adviser on Political Relations (Duggan)

The Ambassador31 stated that on April 13 he had presented a note to the Department requesting an increase in the lend-lease allocation for Cuba from $7,000,000 to $15,000,000. One of the purposes for which this increased allocation was desired was the construction of barracks for the Cuban Army, which will be augmented by the draft which will take place in Cuba early in August. The present Cuban Army consists of about 20,000 men. It is contemplated that an additional 25,000 to 35,000 men will be taken into the Army. As things stand today there are no barracks in which to house the new recruits. Moreover, the present Army is insufficiently equipped with rifles, machine guns, et cetera. There will be nothing with which to train the new Army.

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The Ambassador stated that he had not yet received any indication of the attitude of this Government with respect to an increased lend-lease allocation for Cuba. Since the note was presented, the situation has changed somewhat by the decision of the United States Government to construct and equip at its own expense a large airport for training purposes at San Antonio de los Baños. The Ambassador indicated that this might make possible the diminution of the additional assistance requested.

I asked the Ambassador whether it would not be possible to utilize a part of the existing lend-lease allocation for the construction of barracks, provided that both Governments were in agreement that this was an expenditure desirable and essential to the defense of the Western Hemisphere. The Ambassador replied that this was impossible, since the $7,000,000 had already been fully allocated and requisitions filed.

The Ambassador stated that the President was disturbed by the situation. He wanted to increase the Army in order to make troops available to the United States if desired. The Congress had passed a conscription law. Action in accordance with the law was about to be instituted. It would be very unfortunate to induct into the Army 25,000 to 35,000 men and then have no place to house them and nothing to train them with.

I told the Ambassador that I would look into the matter.

  1. The Cuban Ambassador, Aurelio F. Concheso.