The Assistant Chief of the Division of the American Republics (Cabot) to the Chief of the Division (Bonsal)

Mr. Bonsal: Neither Mr. Tomlinson1 nor I know anything about the Salvadoran request for 1000 submachine guns, and Mr. Orme Wilson2 is also uninformed regarding it. Could it possibly refer to the Salvadoran desire to get some rifles? The Central Americans always seem to want the latest semi-automatic type.

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I seem to be in a pugnacious mood these days. With due apologies, I wonder whether the time hasn’t also come to modify our lend-lease policy towards the other Republics.

Our policy would originally appear to have been motivated by the following basic considerations:

By giving the other Republics an assurance of security and support, we wanted to line them up on our team.
We wanted them to have the means to suppress local fifth column movements.
We wanted them to be in a position to beat off enemy forays, and to delay more serious thrusts.

Since the establishment of our policy, the validity of all three of these considerations has been 99 percent eliminated by the course of events. As suggested above, the arms are likely to be used for a very different purpose than they were intended—not one consonant with our basic political policies or agreeable to the American taxpayer. And as you pointed out some time ago, the mere fact of the distribution of these arms is tending to stir up international suspicions.

An important corollary to our lend-lease policy in this hemisphere has been our uniform refusal to give anything but direct military aid through lend-lease. But, given the above circumstances, could we not now reverse ourselves and fulfil the commitments already embodied in lend-lease agreements by delivering articles the use of which would be to our mutual long-term advantage, for example, road-building machinery? The consent of the other Republics would of course have to be secured, but I should think they might be willing to substitute a shiny new bull-dozer for a shiny new howitzer, and it [Page 310] seems to me that this would be a neat way to get ourselves gracefully out of our commitments. This would of course have to be done either within the existing law or through an amendment to it, and might enable us to cut down our total commitments very considerably while assuaging any hurt feelings in the other Republics at not getting their lethal toys.

Attached is a memorandum from the Salvadoran Embassy requesting permission to purchase some road equipment to be used on the maintenance of the Inter-American Highway, as mentioned in my previous memorandum.5 The Army favors this request. Wouldn’t this be a good point to start?

  1. John D. Tomlinson, of the Division of the American Republics.
  2. Department Liaison Officer with the War and Navy Departments.
  3. Neither memorandum printed.