810.20 Defense/7–2645

The Ambassador in Brazil (Berle) to the Secretary of State

No. 2187

Sir: I have the honor to report on the Army Ground Force General Staff Conversations had between the United States and Brazil which are embodied in a secret document dated March 31, 1945 to which are attached eight annexes, and signed respectively by Brigadier General Canrobert Pereira da Costa, Brazilian Army, and Brigadier General Hayes Kroner,10 acting as deputy for Major General Ralph H. Wooten.11 Further despatches are going forward with respect to the conversations covering the Air Forces and the Naval Staff Conversations respectively.

These Staff Conversations were conducted entirely between the officers of the Army, without intervention of the Embassy. The Department is therefore in a position to take any view which it chooses. The text of the document under reference is presumably available to the Department in Washington through the War Department or the Adjutant General.

(1) Form: The form of the paper is a joint memorandum embodying the result of bilateral Staff Conversations, based on the United [Page 607] States secret memorandum of July 10, 1944. The War Department designated Major General Ralph H. Wooten as the senior United States Army representative, who in turn detailed Brigadier General Hayes Kroner to act for him. Staff Conversations covering several months resulted in the memorandum in question. While no distinct statement to that effect appears, I am of the opinion that the memorandum was fully discussed by the Brazilian Government, and does represent authorized action by Brazil.

The Army officers involved did not consider any economic problems involved in implementing the program. They assumed that the Brazilian Government would have this in mind.

(2) Military theory: The United States officers proceeded on the theory that Brazil was willing and anxious to become a southern partner of the United States in a military sense. This assumption is warranted, as was also their assumption that Brazil wished assistance in becoming self-sufficient in a military sense, rather than having continuing help. The size of the program was scaled to cover defense of Brazil from attack within or from without South America, in conjunction with possible United States help. This is clearly not out of line, given the size of the country, and the doubt as to continuing policy of Argentina. Brazil will be able, granted power of organization, to put an Army into the field larger than any South American state, and possibly larger than any combination of them. In view of the fact that she has approximately half of the entire continent, and about half the total population, this is not unreasonable; and in view of her consistently pacific policy and her general characteristics, such an army is not dangerous to hemispheric peace—rather the contrary. The initial assumptions on which Army acted, therefore, provided they are coordinated with the general system of hemispheric unity, seem well based.

(3) Organization: The contemplated organization of the United States–Brazil military cooperation is stated to be continuance of the Joint United States–Brazil Military Commission, or the substitution of a similar body to be composed of two voting Army officers, one for ground and one for air, with such staff as may be required to carry out the orders of the Commission. These may be removed at any time at the suggestion of either Government.

The head of the Military Mission together with the heads of the Naval and Air Missions will constitute a joint United States–Brazil Military Commission (as distinct from the strictly military section envisaged in the paper under reference). This seems sound organization; but I feel that a civilian member should be attached to it, presumably from the Embassy, lest the Commission undertake to expand its functions into the political field—which could easily happen, depending largely on the personality of the senior United States officers. [Page 608] In this respect I refer to my despatch no. 2186 covering the Naval Staff Conversations, and with particular reference to paragraph three thereof.

(4) Size of Army: There was agreement that the Brazilian peacetime strength should be 180,000; reserve force capable of initial mobilization bringing this Army up to 400,000 within 60 days in time of war; and an envisaged maximum within a year in case of necessity of 1,850,000 men. It was considered that the Brazilian Army had only a defensive function; and that the largest force she might be required to face from possible attack from within South America would not be greater than 20 divisions within 60 days, and an additional four divisions within four months. By consequence the figures of 180,000 and 400,000 seem reasonable. Brazil has ample manpower to maintain such a peace-time strength and to create such a war-time strength, and the numbers are not disproportionate to her relative size and strength in the continent. A difficulty not disposed of in the Staff paper is the fact that such mobilization must necessarily include a great number of technicians, which in her present level of education Brazil cannot spare from her economic life. The ability to implement this program effectively therefore depends in considerable part on the increase of education, primary, secondary, and technical, in Brazil herself. As will appear later, aside from this difficulty, the expense in maintaining the peace-time ground force envisaged appears to be within Brazilian economic capacity without undue sacrifice of the other interests of the country; in time of war, of course, the economy of the country would necessarily be subordinate to military needs. My feeling is that the conversations in this regard were carried on realistically, though the estimate of financial cost is deficient.

(6) [sic] Transport: Plainly no Army is useful unless it can be transported, and this is peculiarly true of the mechanized armies of today. By consequence, the Staff paper properly includes an annex (Annex No. 3) covering resources required to make the various plans effective. The Staff plan accordingly contemplated the setting up, in addition to existing railroad lines, of two trunk railroad lines, both running from São Paulo to Santa Maria but through different territory; and the strengthening of transport by rail and road to the southern states and especially to coal ports, together with a very considerable network of roads and highways which are separately being planned by the General Staff of the Army.

Without specific maps it is difficult to evaluate the precise plans in mind. Yet as a generality it may be said that any additional transport line in Brazil will find good use, both at present (transport being deficient) and in the future, in view of the fact that the population of [Page 609] Brazil historically doubles about every 25 years. The interior communications envisaged by the Staff plans would be of use in developing the civilian life of Brazil; and through such a transport program, a solid contribution could be made to Brazilian development in peace, as well as to her safety in time of war. Tentatively, I feel that the suggestion that the São Paulo–Rio Grande Railroad be strengthened is wholly sound; this frontier is rapidly building up. Equally, a strengthening of the connections between São Paulo and the West will undoubtedly be of help. A fair criticism is that these routes should likewise be handled so as to contemplate an alternative distribution center; São Paulo now handles 55% of the entire commerce of Brazil, which is both vulnerable from the military point of view and unbalanced from the economic point of view. Probably other manufacturing centers will develop, in respect of which particular attention should be paid to the Santa Catharina district, and to the port of Victoria which within 10 years will become the port of exit for one of the greatest iron ore resources in the world as well as for a very considerable agricultural production. My recommendation is that the Department vigorously support this part of the plan, working both with the Army and economic experts to aid wherever possible in construction and to assure that the military connections serve internal economic as well as purely military ends. It cannot be too often repeated that the ultimate contribution of Brazil must be economic as well as military, if indeed it is not to be predominantly economic.

Further, should the United States ever have to engage in joint operations with Brazil, the better the development of transport, the easier our task would be. Every common interest of both countries is served by commencing with the problem of transport—without which, as the Brazilian officers frankly state, any development of the Brazilian Army is really illusory, save for very limited purposes.

(7) Training: The principal function of the American side of United States–Brazilian cooperation is designed to be instruction. This has implications in terms of supply of matériel which are separately dealt with. Nevertheless the conception of an American mission primarily for training is wholly sound, provided the training mission sticks to that job and does not try to interfere with Army politics and separate odd jobs other than as it may be specifically authorized to do. The Chief of the American Military Commission should not undertake to promote himself to a Theater Commander; indeed, the more he realizes that he has not a “command”, the better off everybody concerned will be.

The chart of training calls for American instructors in a series of schools, cavalry, field artillery, signal, engineer, motor mechanization, anti-aircraft artillery and coast artillery; as well as enlisted specialists [Page 610] dealing with cooking and bakeries, quartermaster work and engineering. On a higher level, it is contemplated that officers will be assigned to the tactical schools, the military academy, and officers pre-military schools. Still other officers are to be assigned to assist in basic training of Brazilian enlisted men, small unit training, large unit training, and sifting of recruits for various purposes.

If all this is kept on a restrained basis, a great deal can be accomplished. If, of course, the mission were used as a dumping ground for officers who wished mainly to preserve high rank in peace-time, the result would be bad; and it would be disastrous if too many officers used for this purpose were of senior grade when most of the personnel needed will be officers of field grade or less, dealing with relatively small Brazilian units, who actually work with the Brazilian enlisted men and subalterns, and who do not try to be “little generals”. This problem is a familiar one; and the comment does not detract from the soundness of the general conception. It is merely a consideration which must at all times be in the mind of the War Department and of the State Department.

(8) Supply of Matériel: The paper states Brazil’s desire that within two years after approval of the paper under reference, she shall be supplied sufficient war matériel with which to equip her peace-time Army of 180,000 and furnish her with a reserve sufficient to equip the 26 divisions contemplated in her initial mobilization plan. Further equipment in the four years following calls for matériel for five additional divisions plus a war reserve. Cost or method of payment for this matériel is not discussed. Evidently officers assume that it will be turned over either on Lend-Lease, or at a nominal price as disposable American surplus.

It is obviously to the advantage of the United States that American equipment be used in the Brazilian Army. In fact, it is probably dangerous if any other condition obtains. There will not be wanting salesmen of European arms at low prices as soon as the European situation opens up; and with those arms will go instructors, agreements to supply spare parts, et cetera, all designed not only to sell obsolete war matériel, but to draw the Brazilian Army into the orbit of foreign general staffs. We are now paying in Argentina for the results of a German training mission there, accompanied by sales to Argentina of foreign arms. By consequence, I am of the opinion that the Department should support this recommendation to the extent that it can do so without imposing too great costs on Brazil. It should be possible to do this through the sale to Brazil at a nominal price of surplus matériel, since it appears certain that at the close of the war the United States will have large quantities of such matériel which it does not need, cannot use, and which will probably eventually be replaced by more modern types.
The turnover of matériel within two years desired by the Brazilians seems to me unrealistic. While the Brazilian Army is a [Page 611] going concern, it suffers from defective power of organization particularly on the staff side; and to turn over matériel within two years capable of equipping 26 divisions probably involves an extremely large factor of waste. I should recommend that any commitment entered into along this line should be conditioned on progressive reports of organization and training to assure that the units to receive the equipment were capable of handling it—and that particular attention be given to the record of each unit in maintaining the equipment it had. The Brazilian record for maintenance is not good; and there is always a tendency to ask for new equipment as a solution. On the other hand, the capacity for maintenance is there if it can be developed. As the training mission and the Brazilian Staff succeeded in developing units or even areas capable of receiving, handling, and using equipment, this should be supplied.
Any arrangement made for supplying matériel should include an absolute agreement that none of this matériel be sold or disposed of outside the country, without the consent of the Joint United States–Brazil Military Commission.
It may also be added that there is no point in delivering motorized equipment unless and until it is known that adequate supplies of motor fuel and oil will reach the country, and that they can be detached from civilian use. The paper deals with storage and handling, but not supply. There is not at present sufficient storage capacity for oil in the country, and substantially no internal production.12 I regard this as substantially a Brazilian problem because something is going to have to be done about oil in Brazil anyhow; and my recommendation would be that this part of the paper be reviewed by our petroleum men with a view to blocking out a reasonably effective internal storage and pipeline supply system for Brazil’s civilian needs, and that that in turn be somewhat modified to meet the military situation. It should be added that there is some indication that Brazil will move into internal production of petroleum in the not distant future, and that as a result the calculations can be somewhat revised. But I think it should be pointed out to everybody concerned that a modern Army without fuel to run its motorized equipment is a dead thing. Other countries may not, indefinitely, have oil for export, especially in war-time.

(9) Oil and transport: The Department’s particular attention should be called to Annex No. 8 which is a memorandum from General Kroner to General Wooten for the attention of General Hertford,13 dated December 13, 1944. This memorandum makes the point we made above, namely, that local supply of necessary fuels within the country is essential; and concludes that Brazil should be urged to change her national law so that foreign oil companies may develop and exploit the oil resources of Brazil. The premises are correct: internal fuel supply is essential, and the quickest way of getting exploitation [Page 612] would be to let in the foreign oil companies. Politically, however, Brazil is unlikely to welcome this: her present policy is one of treating foreign capital fairly well, but of being pretty cautious about allowing foreigners to get a grip on the essential resources of the country. I do not think this policy will change. Some recent tentative soundings suggest the possibility that American oil companies might be enabled to go into Brazil, probably with Brazilian partnership, if Brazil and the United States were to enter into a Government-to-Government agreement setting up a joint United States–Brazil commission which would police the resulting agreements, each Government agreeing to keep its own private interests in line, assuring competitive and non-cartelized marketing, and reviewing the results from time to time with a view to seeing that the public gets the benefit of the resources. I think this line ought to be explored as a possible practical solution. President Vargas’ present attitude is that he trusts the American Government but does not trust the American oil companies which he believes are in cartel agreement with the British; and there is widespread belief that the British would throttle the distrbution of oil in this country in order to maintain a continuing market for British coal. President Roosevelt, before his death, was struggling with the idea of a possible joint United States–Brazil oil exploration company to be owned directly by the Governments, operating in those fields which were closed to the private companies; but if a quick solution is desired, the former alternative seems more likely to offer immediate results.

The same annex-memorandum makes some observations about railroads as, for instance, that the Brazilian railroads shall be re-equipped so as to have a single standard gauge, and recommends coordination of highway construction with railway development. Since the bulk of Brazilian railroads are at present on meter gauge, this amounts to a recommendation that Brazil reconstruct approximately three-fourths of her entire railroad system, which she obviously is not in a position to do except under some very unusual form of international arrangement—such as a billion dollar loan. To get rapid results, this would have to be accompanied by contract to American engineers to do the job. This part of the paper seems unrealistic, though the need of unification and reorganization of Brazilian railroads is evident to every student of the subject except the Brazilian railroad men, most of whom resent suggestions along this line. In this connection, the observations made by Interstate Commerce Commissioner Clyde B. Aitchison on the occasion of his recent visit are more nearly in line with the possibilities.

(10) Strategy and organization: Not being qualified as to strategic matters, and haying no independent military advice available (the [Page 613] Military Attaché’s Office is actually responsible for most of the paper) this report does not comment on the annexes relating to the organization of the Brazilian Army, the estimate of the strategic situation, the strategic installations requiring protection, or the methods of training. It is assumed that these are in line with ordinary American conceptions on these points.

(11) Cost: I repeat the observation made in connection with the Naval Staff Conversations, namely, that Brazil has not unlimited revenue and she must choose between developing the productive economic situation of the country, and large military establishment. Where-ever the choice has to be made, her major contribution would seem to lie along the line of constructive economic development, rather than purely military evolution. If the constructive side of the Staff paper is emphasized—namely, improvement of transport, improvement of highways, and improvement of technical training for men undergoing military service in the Army who are presently to be released for civilian life—in these aspects the implementation of the paper could be of solid advantage to Brazil in her civilian life, and would correspondingly strengthen her ability to join in the defense of the hemisphere or in maintaining peace therein. Failure to do this probably would weaken her; and, 25 years from now, a country of 80,000,000 or 90,000,000 people undeveloped economically would be not a strength but a serious problem.

It follows that money spent in the constructive parts of the program probably would be well spent.

Costs resulting from the purchase of matériel (which in any event will be obsolete in a relatively short time) and additional money spent in pay of Army officers, would be a net drain on the economics of the country. If matériel is turned over at nominal cost as surplus liquidation, perhaps much of this could be avoided. Yet it is evident that Brazil, in any event, will maintain an Army of approximately 180,000 men, and that she will, in any event, pursue a program of compulsory military training with a plan for mobilizing reserves. Properly administered, and if matériel is not too costly, the additional expense resulting from implementation of the training features should not be unduly great; while the results of expenditures put into highways, fuel development, communications and railroads would be of solid productive benefit. Wherever possible these last should riot be placed under Army control, but should be retained as a responsibility of the civilian Government, following out plans which will be of use to the Army should occasion arise. Were the civil side of these expenditures thrown under Army organization, the result might be to create a disproportionately strong political-economic force in the country. In the main, Brazil has thus far been fortunate in having an Army which [Page 614] has not had delusions of grandeur and has never undertaken to try to run the civil administration of this country.

(12) Conclusions: The program, scheduled in the light of these considerations, might be a solid benefit to the internal development of the country; and would probably produce as satisfactory results in terms of possible future military cooperation as can be expected. This is on the assumption that Brazil is not asked to pay a huge amount of money for war matériel, but that this can be obtained at a nominal cost from American surplus.

Respectfully yours,

A. A. Berle, Jr.
  1. United States Military Attaché in Brazil.
  2. Commanding General, United States Army Forces, South Atlantic.
  3. See documentation on the United States concern with problems related to supplying of petroleum to Brazil, pp. 678 ff.
  4. Brig. Gen. Kenner F. Hertford, Deputy Theater Commander of the United States Army Forces, South Atlantic.