The Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary of War (Patterson)

My Dear Mr. Secretary: The Department of State has given careful consideration to the proposed interim allocation of ground and air force equipment which the War Department submitted in accordance with the procedure established in the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee paper 4/10. Reference is made to your letter of September 4, 1945, supplemented by a memorandum of October 30, 1945, addressed to the Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs by Colonel R. L. Vittrup, G.S.C.65

The present situation in most of the other American republics is one of great political instability. For this reason, the Department believes it is imperative to proceed conservatively and with the greatest care in the shipment of arms to those countries. Experience during the war has shown that increased armaments can easily lead to increased suspicions and jealousies among the other American republics, placing a strain upon the unity of the inter-American system. The suppression of opposition by dictatorial governments, or, in any event, the serious destruction of life and property, arising from the use of such arms in political disturbances are consequences which would react most unfavorably upon our political relations with the other American republics and prejudice their continued friendly support of the United States in world affairs. Public opinion in the U.S. would also be aroused over such developments. I make this point in order to emphasize the extreme concern which the Department experiences in regard to increasing the armaments in the hands of many of the other American republics, for any serious deterioration in the political relations between those countries and the United States would, of course, seriously jeopardize the objective of national security which the War and Navy Departments and the State Department are jointly trying to achieve.

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The Department appreciates, however, the importance of the military objectives set forth in the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee paper referred to above. It is the Department’s aim to facilitate the achievement of those objectives, while at the same time soliciting your cooperation in shaping the program of military collaboration with the other American republics with a maximum regard for the problems to which I have just referred. Toward this end, the Department believes it important to establish the following policies in regard to the implementation of this program.

Such arms, munitions and implements of war (excluding non-tactical aircraft) as are agreed upon by the three Departments should be made available to other American governments only after an undertaking has been obtained from each government that it will follow the policy of standardizing its military organization, training and equipment in accordance with those of the United States armed forces and will confine its purchases of equipment to those which conform to these standards unless the United States is unable to provide such equipment. This is necessary, I believe, to insure that other countries do not acquire from other sources additional arms which will have the net result of increasing their armament without achieving the objective of standardization.
As soon as legislative authority exists for such a procedure, this Government should attempt to obtain, in exchange for equipment provided to other governments, equivalent amounts of non-American equipment now in the hands of other governments. Steps to obtain the necessary legislative authority are already being undertaken.
Equipment should be made available on equal terms to the American republics purchasing it.

Subject to the foregoing policies, the Department approves the proposed interim allocation of equipment for ground forces to other American republics, but requests that deliveries be withheld from the following countries where political conditions make any shipments of U.S. arms highly undesirable at the present time: Argentina, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua. It is also requested that the amounts to be made available to Bolivia and Paraguay be reduced.

With respect to air forces, the Department approves the allocations of cargo planes, primary trainers, basic trainers and AT–6’s included in the War Department’s interim program, with the exception that no planes of any type be sent at this time, because of immediate political situations, to Argentina, Nicaragua or Paraguay, and no AT–6’s to Dominican Republic, Haiti or Honduras. At the meeting in Mr. Braden’s office on December 17, there was a discussion of the question of tactical planes including AT–11’s. The question of the quantity of these planes to be made available is still under consideration by representatives of the Department of State and of the War Department, [Page 263] and I am confident that a final decision on these aircraft can be made within a few days.

The question of implementing staff conversations in Panama will be discussed with representatives of the War Department separately, and pending such discussion it is requested that no equipment be offered to Panama under the Army program.

A copy of this letter is being sent to the Secretary of the Navy.

Sincerely yours,

Dean Acheson
  1. Latter not printed.