821.30 Missions/12–1845: Telegram
The Ambassador in Colombia (Wiley) to the Secretary of State
[Received 5:48 p.m.]
1483. President Lleras asked me about the status of proposed new American executive naval mission for Colombia. I replied that I understood that Navy was entirely disposed to send a new naval mission under standard form of contract and that Colombian Govt could work out functions of mission by agreement with Chief of Naval Mission. I added that I was apprehensive that Colombian law would not permit Colombian Govt to employ mission for purposes other than instruction.… I suggested to President that of course success of mission would depend largely on choice of its chief. The other day in New York I saw Captain Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter, Capt of the Missouri, an outstanding Naval officer who speaks Spanish and who has had a long diplomatic background. I asked Capt Hillenkoetter if he would accept the position as Chief of the Mission should it be offered to him. I was very gratified that Capt Hillenkoetter had replied in [Page 860] the affirmative. If the President approved I would suggest the Capt’s name to my Govt. President Lleras replied that he thought choice of the Capt would be admirable. I would be glad if this could be brought to attention of Navy Dept.
The President also inquired with regard to status of establishing naval bases at Cartagena and Malaga Bay. I replied that I had taken matter up with Secretary Forrestal,35 Admiral Edwards36 and others and that although such bases would have-only a low strategic priority matter had been received with interest and would I was sure receive sympathetic consideration. I told the President that the term naval base was very elastic and asked him what he had in mind. He replied that he was thinking only of something of very modest dimensions.
Gen Piedrahita told me this a.m. that it had already been decided to abandon the base at Buenaventura.
It might be well to suggest to Navy that a couple of well selected high ranking officers be sent to Colombia in order to discuss at least in an exploratory manner the matter of bases with the President and other competent Colombian officials.