The Secretary of State to the Appointed Ambassador in Colombia (Wiley)

No. 2628

Sir: Reference is made to the Embassy’s secret telegram no. 1537 dated September 6, 1944 regarding the Colombian request for 5,000 rifles to be used by the National Police Force.

As you know, the Colombian Government’s request for these rifles was discussed informally by officers of this Department with the appropriate officials of the War Department,53 and as a result of these conversations and subsequent conversations which were held with these officials, the War Department gave very careful consideration to this matter. The conclusion was reached, however, that it would be impossible to supply either rifles or carbines of any type.

As a result of the conversation which you held with Major General John E. Hull, Major General H. A. Craig and Colonel Parmer W. Edwards, a further study has been made of alternative equipment which might be made available to the Colombian Government under the terms of the Lend Lease agreement, and the results of this study are set forth in a memorandum from Colonel Edwards, a copy of which is enclosed.54 The War Department has made it clear that the actual decision on any such assignment of materials under Lend Lease must be made by the Munitions Assignments Committee.

Your attention is called to the fourth paragraph of the enclosed memorandum in which it is indicated that before any action can be taken by the Committee, it will be necessary for the Department to receive a request from the Colombian Government supported by your very strong endorsement. Furthermore, it will be necessary for the Secretary of War to receive from the Secretary of State a letter certifying that this transfer is considered necessary due to the highest political and diplomatic considerations.

In considering whether the Colombian Government should be informed regarding the War Department’s suggestion as to possible [Page 823] alternative supplies, you will of course wish to bear in mind that this Government has adopted the general policy of drastically curtailing shipments of Lend Lease material to the other American Republics with the exception of material which will be directly and effectively used in the actual prosecution of the war. Therefore, unless there are the most compelling reasons for deviating from this policy, this Government does not wish to lend any encouragement to requests for additional equipment. Furthermore, President López, Foreign Minister Echandía, and ex-President Santos have expressed strong and outspoken opposition to the continuance of Lend Lease shipments to the other American Republics. These statements were reported in the Embassy’s Telegrams No. 1416 of August 10, 1944, No. 1509 of August 28, 1944, and No. 1554 of September 8, 1944 and in the Embassy’s Despatch No. 4492 of September 25, 1944.55

You will recall that the request for 5,000 rifles was first brought to the Department’s attention by Ambassador Turbay, who personally delivered to an officer of the Department an informal memorandum dated July 27, 1944, a copy of which is enclosed for the Embassy’s files.56 On October 11 the Ambassador called upon the Acting Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs57 with further reference to this request, and at that time was informed that although we had been unable to obtain release of the rifles we would re-examine the matter. A copy of a memorandum of this conversation is likewise enclosed for the Embassy’s files.56 No reply has yet been made to the July 27 memorandum, and the Department has not told Ambassador Turbay of the possible availability of the alternative equipment mentioned in the War Department’s memorandum of November 13, 1944.

Taking into account all of the above mentioned factors, the Department would appreciate receiving at the earliest possible moment an expression of your opinion as to whether, in informing the Colombian Government of the impossibility of meeting the request for 5,000 rifles, it would be desirable to suggest that application be made for the alternative equipment. As you know, any such application should be presented through the Colombian Embassy in Washington, even though you may wish to transmit a despatch supporting it. In view of the fact that Ambassador Turbay presented and has been actively following the request for rifles, it would seem wise for the Department to mention the alternative equipment to him at the same time that you discuss the matter with the appropriate authorities in Bogotá. Accordingly, if you feel that we would be justified in supporting this [Page 824] request on the basis of highest diplomatic and political considerations, it is requested that the Department be so informed by telegram.

Very truly yours,

Edward E. Stettinius, Jr.
  1. Meeting of November 4, reported in memorandum of November 7, 1944, not printed (123 Wiley, John C.).
  2. Dated November 13, 1944, not printed; it indicated that allocation of military equipment based on political and diplomatic considerations was contrary to War Department Lend-Lease policy and that the prerogative of allocation belonged to the Munitions Assignments Board (821.24/11–1344).
  3. None printed, with the exception of telegram 1509, August 28, p. 813.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Norman Armour.
  6. Not printed.