810.20 Defense/4–545

The Ambassador in Mexico (Messersmith) to the Secretary of State

No. 23,800

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my despatch No. 23,542 of March 20,3 in which I made a preliminary report on the opening of the staff conversations between representatives of the Armed Forces of the United States and of Mexico in Mexico City. In this despatch I indicated that the conversations were opening auspiciously and promised to have fruitful results.

I now have much pleasure in informing the Department that there is in the opinion of this Embassy no question but what these conversations proved to be most fruitful and most helpful in every way, achieved the purpose for which they were intended, paved the way for further and even more intimate collaboration between the Armed Forces of the two countries, and without any question created a spirit of increased mutual confidence and respect.

There is transmitted herewith a copy of the report giving the conclusions reached during the meeting and which report, as it will he noted, is signed by the three principal representatives of the Armed Forces of both countries participating in the meeting.4 A reading of the report will be the best evidence of the spirit in which the conversations were conducted and of the results achieved. Before commenting on several phases of the report I wish to make the following general comment.

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I will enter into only a brief discussion of various phases of the final report, hereto appended.

1. It is significant and encouraging to note that there was full agreement between the American and Mexican officers on the great strategic importance of Mexico in the defense of the Western Hemisphere. In this connection we need only bear in mind the preoccupations which we had in the first phase of the present war when the attitude of Mexico was still an unknown factor. We know what the definite plans of both Germany and Japan were with respect to possible landings in Mexico and the use of Mexico as a base of attack or at the least a disturbing fact to us. The importance of having Mexico friendly, [Page 1111] collaborative and militarily adequately strong is one of the lessons which we have learned from this war. In view of the fact that Mexico will increase in importance because of her industrial and agricultural development and, I believe, in increasing internal stability, will make her in any future war an even more definite objective for our enemies. (Page 1.)

2. Emphasis is also placed on the long coastline of Mexico—longer than that of any Republic in the Western Hemisphere—and the significance of this from a military and defense point of view. (Page 1.)

3. Special attention is directed towards the section on pages 2 and 3 of the report entitled “Finances” which shows a thorough understanding of the Mexican position. Our officers participating in the conversations wisely and properly took the attitude that we should not make any suggestions in the military or naval field to Mexico which go beyond the expenditures in the present Mexican budget. Consideration will be given to this point later in this despatch.

4. On page 2 it will be noted that “Mexico is prepared to assume any international obligations which may be agreed upon at the coming San Francisco Conference”.5

5. I would draw the Department’s special attention to the reference on page 3 of the report to the artillery ammunition plant which is being constructed under Lend-Lease in Mexico. It is noted that the American and Mexican delegates were unanimously of the opinion that it is highly desirable for the Mexican Government to have these establishments6 mentioned in this section of the report under reference, both from the point of view of their own national defense as well as that of the Hemisphere. This is an important point and I wish to emphasize that it is our understanding of this particular factor that contributed so much towards making the conversations a success. From a military point of view it was recognized by both the participants of Mexico and the United States that it would be highly imprudent for Mexico to be totally dependent upon the United States for the supply of munitions in the event of a major war threatening the integrity of the Western Hemisphere, or to depend upon a possible fluctuating financial policy of the United States Government with respect to war materials for their normal peacetime requirements. From a psychological and relationships point of view it was equally important that our participants in the conversations should recognize the importance [Page 1112] of our continuing to aid Mexico in the establishment and maintenance of the plants mentioned on pages 2 and 3 of the report.

6. I wish to bring the Department’s special attention also to that paragraph on page 3 of the report setting forth the visit of the United States Army delegates to Military Camp No. 1 in the vicinity of Mexico City. Their comments with regard to the good use being made by the Mexican Armed Forces of the military equipment which has been furnished by our Government under Lend-Lease are significant. This comment is only in line with the comment which has been made as a result of observations by some of the highest ranking officers of our Army who have been in Mexico during the last three years and who have seen the use made of the Lend-Lease equipment. I can add to this my own personal testimony for I have seen Lend-Lease equipment of a military character in use all over Mexico at Army posts. I have seen no place where Lend-Lease equipment has been misused and not kept in good condition. I believe the record will show that in no country of the other American Republics has Lend-Lease equipment been used more effectively and been kept in better condition than in Mexico.

7. The comment with respect to the Mexican Air Force on pages 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the report is particularly interesting.

The conversations with respect to the Air Force presented particular difficulties. It is undoubtedly a source of some disappointment to our own Air Force that the Mexican Government is not in a position to maintain a larger and more effective air force in peace. On this point, however, the President of Mexico has very definite views which are based on economic, financial and social considerations, as well as on purely military considerations. He is of the opinion, and a very considerable number of the Mexican military are in agreement with him, that it will be impossible for Mexico to maintain any considerable Air Force in peace. The cost of such an Air Force of any real strength would be beyond the financial capacity of Mexico. The President is of the opinion that although changes and improvements in military planes may not make as rapid strides after the war as they have during the war, he is very definitely convinced that any material which the Mexican Air Force would acquire would rapidly be outmoded and relatively useless either for training or combat purposes. He is therefore of the opinion that so far as air protection is concerned, Mexico must depend for the foreseeable future upon the United States, which is the only country in this Hemisphere which can bear the burden of a large and developing and up-to-date Air Force.

On the other hand, the President is of the opinion that a minimum Air Force must be maintained but the circumstances are such that for the present year he wishes the budget to be kept within the relatively [Page 1113] small amount allocated to the Air Force. It is probable that for the next four or five years the amount of money which will be available to the Mexican Air Force will not be much larger. The demands upon the Mexican Government for its social, industrial, agricultural and sanitation program, as well as its educational program, will be such that no government could safely divert a considerable part of the national revenues from these purposes for an Air Force.

Our participants in these conversations have been thoroughly understanding of the attitude of the Mexican Government and it is my opinion that the arrangements which have been worked out are particularly happy and satisfactory. Both the Mexican and American group participating in the Air Force conversations showed a full desire to arrive at the maximum use of the money available to the Mexican Government. In this connection I would particularly call attention to paragraph b. under “Conclusions” on page 6 of the appended report, which reads “To organize its Air Forces on standard United States Tables of Organization”. I would also call attention on page 8 of the report to paragraph D. which reads, “That in view of the highly specialized technical nature of an air program, the Mexican and United States Governments appoint a joint advisory technical group to assist in attaining the maximum success in the development of the program, in the most economical manner and in the shortest period of time. This joint technical group should be charged with the responsibility of recommending lay-outs of facilities, training programs, the supply and maintenance systems and assisting in expediting all action in connection with these matters, both in the United States and in Mexico”.

In view of the Mexican reluctance to accept any military missions and of the fact that it has not in the past accepted any military missions from any country, and in view of the fact that this reluctance and attitude remain the same, it is particularly important, and characteristic of the cooperative attitude shown, that agreement should have been reached between the staff officers in these informal conversations for the designation and the acceptance of a joint advisory technical air group. I am frank to say that this is one of the results of the meeting which I very much hoped for but which I did not believe we would be able to get.

8. With respect to the section on the Navy, beginning on page 5, 1 wish to make the following comment. The Mexican Navy has had a secondary place in the Mexican defense and military picture. It will probably continue to hold a secondary place over a number of years. This is due entirely to internal considerations in Mexico. The Army has been and will remain in a considerable measure an internal police force. For impelling reasons within Mexico the Army is able to command fiscal support which the Navy cannot get. This attitude may be [Page 1114] from the military point of view completely out of perspective but it is a factor with which we have to deal and which cannot be changed for the present. The long coastline of Mexico which, as has already been indicated, is longer than that of any other American country, would seem to call for a considerable Naval establishment.

It is my considered opinion that it will be many years before Mexico can be able to support any considerable Naval establishment. Any efforts on our part to stimulate any increase of a considerable character in the Naval establishment of Mexico would, I believe, be unwise.

In the conversations which I have had with the President of Mexico on the question of military collaboration in peace as well as in war the President has always emphasized the importance of Mexico maintaining a reasonable but well equipped, well disciplined and effective Army. He says that this is a primary obligation on the part of Mexico as well as the most effective contribution which it can make to Hemisphere defense. So far as the Air Force and the Navy are concerned, the attitude of the President is that the maintenance of a Navy which would have any significance whatever, and the maintenance of an Air Force of adequate character, are both out of question in view of the meager financial resources of Mexico. It is his opinion therefore that so far as Navy defense and Air defense are concerned, Mexico will have to depend very largely on the United States as the only American power capable of maintaining an adequate and effective Navy and Air Force.

The President has in mind that Mexico should make her proper contribution under any security arrangements which are provided for under the Dumbarton Oaks plan7 as it now stands or may be revised. He believes, however, that Mexico’s contribution must be principally in the military field and that for years to come for Hemisphere defense purposes the Americas will have to depend on the United States Navy and Air Force. I must say that from my observation of the problem I believe that the President’s reasoning is sound and I believe it is a reasoning which is accepted by our own military and naval and air force authorities.

I am in complete accord with the recommendations set forth with respect to Naval equipment made in the appended report, and it is my hope that our Government will be able to furnish the Naval equipment which has been indicated.

I will not make specific reference to the conclusions and recommendations because they will bear careful reading by the Department [Page 1115] and I only wish to say that I am in complete agreement with the conclusions and recommendations contained in the joint report. I think that they are completely sound and that it is in our interest that they be carried through.

I wish to make the following specific comment with reference to paragraph C. on page 7 under “Recommendations”, which reads, “That the United States furnish on terms to be mutually agreed upon the necessary machinery and equipment for one (1) smokeless powder plant as originally requested through the Joint Mexican-United States Defense Commission. Also one (1) small arms manufacturing plant as per modified request submitted through same channels”. This is a joint recommendation of the Mexican-American participants in the conversations. I agree in the recommendation of the American participants that these small peace-time capacity plants are of vital concern to the Mexican Government. Mexico now has a small high explosive plant. It is being supplied under Lend-Lease with equipment for a small artillery ammunition projectile plant. Mexico also makes its own peace-time requirements of small arms ammunition. The smokeless powder plant is needed to round out these installations. Mexico has for some years made its own small arms and desires to continue along United States lines and to do its own maintenance small arms work. It is, I believe, of primary interest to us from the point of view of long-range policy to carry through the recommendations made in the report in this respect and of the definite necessity for which recommendations our own participants are completely convinced. From the point of view of policy I can only support in the strongest manner the recommendations made in the report in this respect.

I would like to indicate that the only point of difficulty in the conversations was the reluctance of the Mexican participants to indicate specifically the military material, whether for the Ground Forces, Naval Forces or Air Forces, which they deemed necessary. Their reluctance in this respect was entirely based on the question of cost. From the point of view of our participants it was absolutely necessary for us to know what this minimum quantity of material which Mexico needed or desired was. It was finally agreed upon that this material should be incorporated in a confidential memorandum to be submitted to the American participants but would not form a part of the report itself. This confidential memorandum has been furnished to the American participants and is in their possession.

It is characteristic that in this confidential memorandum indicating their prospective needs for peace purposes the Mexican Government has been as modest as it has in its requests for military material during the war. The Mexican Government has in mind that all this material [Page 1116] will have to be paid for and it has to keep in mind the financial possibilities of the Mexican Government. No matter what the Mexican Government may wish to do in the equipping of its Ground, Air and Naval Forces, it has to keep definitely in mind these financial considerations.

I think this is one of the most important factors we have to consider in connection with postwar defense plans in the Americas. Practically all of the other American Republics are in the same position financially as is Mexico. There are pressing internal needs in these developing countries which must be met. Their tax resources are limited. It will take years until their economies are able to bear the cost of increased military establishments. I am one of those who hope that the world security arrangements which will be arrived at at San Francisco will be sufficient and adequate in every respect in order to make large military establishments by small countries unnecessary and in a measure reduce the burden of military establishments on the major powers. I, however, have no illusions in this respect. I am one of those who believe that the best insurance against future wars is the maintenance of a strong military establishment by the United States, both with respect to Ground Forces, Naval Forces and Air Forces. The principal burden of the defense of this Hemisphere will have to fall on us for years to come. In order to maintain the self-respect and the dignity and through that to assure the collaboration of the other American Republics with us in any defense measures for this Hemisphere, it will be necessary for us in time of peace as it has been in war to supply certain military equipment to the other American Republics in the measure it may be found that it is needed and desirable at a minimum or practically no cost.

At present these countries are uncertain as to what our policy will be under Lend-Lease.8 They are uncertain as to what degree they will be called upon to fulfill their obligations under existing Lend-Lease agreements. They are uncertain as to what our policy will be with respect to future military equipment.

The conversations with Mexico have shown that this country is prepared to model its Ground, Air and Naval Forces on the lines of our own Army and Navy and Air Force. This is a great step forward. It is so great a step forward that we could not have conceived it as possible a few years ago. I think we must meet this situation by showing an adequate attitude with respect to the furnishing of the military material which may be needed by these countries. For the period immediately following the war there will be available to us so much in the way of equipment for Ground, Air and Naval Forces, [Page 1117] which is surplus, that it is a question whether we wish to supply it in proper quantities to our friends in the other American Republics without cost, or permit it to deteriorate or destroy it or reconvert it in the United States. While we do not wish to follow a policy of furnishing second-rate equipment to our neighbors in the other American Republics and I think any such policy would be disastrous and have very serious consequences for us because of the pride which these countries are acquiring in their own forces, I nevertheless believe that a policy of furnishing material at practically no cost whatever to the Ground, Naval and Air Forces for the next four or five years to these countries would involve no real cost to us.

For this reason I believe that a revision of existing Lend-Lease legislation must be made in our own interest so far as the countries of this Hemisphere are concerned. The burden which present Lend-Lease arrangements place on the other American countries is too great. Their financial and economic structure is simply not able to bear it. If we wish to maintain this collaborative, military and defense structure in the Western Hemisphere, which I consider absolutely essential in our own interest, it is absolutely necessary to furnish material to these countries at practically no cost whatever.

If the conversations which have just been carried through with Mexico are in any way indicative of the character of the conversations which will be held with other countries in this Hemisphere, it will be found that the requests will be reasonable.

I go further and wish to express the opinion that we should relieve the countries of this Hemiphere from their obligations for Lend-Lease payments for military material already received. Most of these countries will not be able to bear the charge on their budgets which these payments involve. For the Governments of these countries to make these payments will in the peace period cause discontent which there is no purpose in arousing. All the Lend-Lease material which has been furnished to the American Republics has been military material. I am one of those who believe that it is decidedly in our interest to cancel Lend-Lease obligations already existing and to furnish for the next four or five years any military material which it may be deemed advisable to furnish at a purely nominal cost. It is my very sincere hope that in the interest of our own country that considerations of this character will be borne in mind in legislative programs which may be proposed to the Congress.

I am not aware of the secret plans of our Military, Naval and Air authorities for the postwar period. I am convinced, however, that their plans must take into account and do take into account that wars have not ceased and that future wars may take place no matter what security arrangements may be arrived at. I am sure their plans take [Page 1118] into account that so far as the United States is concerned, its defense is not only a world problem but primarily a Hemisphere problem.

For this reason I think that our Government is wise and farseeing in carrying through these staff conversations, such as those which have just been concluded so satisfactorily in Mexico. Through them defense measures with respect to this Hemisphere can be consolidated and such defense measures should be consolidated and consummated as rapidly as may be possible irrespective of any general plans for the prevention of war. The circumstances are such that any such arrangements for our defense place a financial burden on us as long as the economies of the other American Republics are relatively weak. It will be, no matter what the cost may be, the safest investment which we can make for our defense and security.

I wish to close this despatch by stating that I believe that the American officers who participated in these staff conversations being reported upon have performed a real service for our country. The fact that the conversations from the Mexican point of view were so satisfactory is due to the wise and sound policies of the President of Mexico who, I know, gave specific directives with respect to the attitude to be taken by the Mexican participants in the conversations. Such collaboration as that which we have established is a very precious thing, which it largely depends upon us to know how to conserve and consolidate.

I am retaining in this Embassy the signed copy of the joint final report which was furnished me by the American participants, as well as the reports of the plenary sessions. I am sending herewith copies only of the joint final report.9 If the Department desires copies of the memoranda covering the plenary sessions, I am sure that they will be made available to the Department by Admiral Johnson and General Henry. I may say that very full memoranda were also kept of all of the numerous meetings of the committees, copies of the memoranda of these committee meetings were not furnished the Embassy and are not necessary for our purpose. To all intents and purposes the joint final report, of which a copy is appended hereto, is I believe sufficient for the Department.

It is respectfully requested that a copy of this despatch be furnished to Admiral Johnson, General Henry and General Adler, who represented the respective branches of the Armed Forces of our country in these conversations.

Respectfully yours,

George S. Messersmith
  1. Not printed.
  2. “Final Report of the Delegates Conducting the Joint Staff Talks between Mexico and the United States,” not printed, signed by Mexican delegates Maj. Gen. Francisco Castillo Najera, Vice Adm. Mario Rodriguez Malpica, and Lt. Col. Luis Vinals Carsi, and by United States delegates Vice Adm. Alfred W. Johnson, Maj. Gem Guy V. Henry, and Col. Charles H. Deerwester.
  3. United Nations Conference on International Organization, April 25–June 26, 1945; for documentation concerning this Conference, see vol. i, pp. 1 ff.
  4. The Mexican Government’s small high explosive plant was also mentioned in this section of the report, together with its request through the Joint Mexican-United States Defense Commission for machinery and equipment from the United States needed for the construction of a smokeless powder plant and a small arms manufacturing plant of sufficient capacity for peacetime requirements.
  5. For documentation concerning the Washington Conversations on International Organization at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., August 21–September 28, 1944, and September 29–October 9, 1944, see Foreign Relations, 1944, vol i, p. 713 ff.
  6. For policy matters concerning the settlement of financial obligations and the termination of armament distribution under Lend-Lease in 1945, see pp. 231 ff.
  7. Not printed.