Memorandum by Mr. Bainbridge C. Davis of the Division of North and West Coast Affairs27

The attached copy of a memorandum of conversation28 in Mr. Braden’s office on November 23 would seem to illustrate the importance of making clear at once that the State Department does and must have authority over the disposal of armaments to other countries.

It would appear from Ambassador Santamaria’s comments that it may not have been made sufficiently clear to the Colombian Government by our army representatives that the staff conversations do not comprise “agreements” but were strictly exploratory and not binding.
When General Walsh29 gave Ambassador Santamaria and me on October 25 the impression that PBY’s could be obtained from the Navy and subsequently when Mr. Hamilton30 assured Señor Vargas31 and me that PBY’s would be available almost immediately, no intimation was given that the State Department must reach a policy decision with respect to the exportation of these demilitarized patrol bombers.
Likewise it appears that prior to the November 23 meeting General Walsh had encouraged the Colombian Ambassador’s interest [Page 858] in Army C–47’s, to be obtained in accordance with staff conversation procedure at a time when the State Department had not yet approved the War Department proposals to implement these staff conversations.

In this connection, it might be mentioned that during a recent conversation with two officers of the Venezuelan General Staff it became clear that they had gained the impression from our War Department that there would be no difficulty in securing the armament which they desired. It apparently had not been suggested to them that the consent of the State Department must be secured.

While none of the foregoing incidents are perhaps of a serious nature, they tend to place the State Department in a difficult position when other agencies of this Government attempt to decide matters of State Department policy and when foreign governments are not properly informed of the State Department’s jurisdiction in such matters.

  1. Addressed to the Chief of the Division of North and West Coast Affairs (Flack), the Chief of the Division of River Plate Affairs (Butler), the Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs (Briggs), and the Assistant Secretary of State (Braden).
  2. Not printed.
  3. Maj. Gen. R. L. Walsh, Army Air Force.
  4. Of the Office of the Army–Navy Liquidation Commission.
  5. Alberto Vargas Nariño, Colombian Chargé in Washington.