810.20 Defense/2–2645

The Chargé in Nicaragua ( Finley ) to the Secretary of State

No. 2916

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s secret instruction dated January 16, 1945 (file No. 810.20 Defense/1–1645),8 concerning military bilateral staff conversations, and to report that apparently Nicaragua has been selected for the first of the conversations to be held in Central America.

As a preliminary to the conversations, Colonels L. R. Besse and Harold H. Carr arrived in Managua from the Canal Zone on February 24, 1945. For the purpose of receiving honorary membership in [Page 1197] the Nicaraguan Air Force and of being decorated by President Somoza with the Presidential Medal of Merit, a visit was likewise made to Managua on February 23–24 by Brigadier General Luther S. Smith, Chief of the Military Missions Section of the Caribbean Defense Command. I had an opportunity to discuss with the abovementioned officers the plans which have been made with respect to Nicaragua. It appears that Colonels Besse and Carr will remain in Nicaragua for approximately a week and that they will not seek during that period to hold conversations with any high-ranking members of the Nicaraguan National Guard or the Nicaraguan Government, their mission being merely to acquaint themselves with the country and its needs. At a later date, they or others will return for the staff conversations.

In discussing this general subject with the officers mentioned, I pointed out to them briefly the situation which they will meet here. I told them that President Somoza would doubtlessly be interested in improving his National Guard by any and every means at his disposal and that any suggestions to that effect would probably be welcomed. I described to them briefly the nature of the reliance which the President places in the Guard and the role which it plays, and which it will probably continue to play in the local situation if, following the present term of office, he should continue to be—as now seems likely—the Commanding General of the armed forces of Nicaragua in a future administration.

I then went on to describe to them the manner in which American assistance was already being extended to Nicaragua in the fields of health and sanitation, education and communications. I added that it was my hope, in the all-over picture here in Nicaragua, that we should not so burden the country with armaments that they could prejudice further advances in those fields.

Colonels Besse and Carr stated that their mission—or that of the officers who eventually came here for the staff conversations—would be to determine what Nicaragua had in the way of armaments, what it wanted, and then, taking into consideration the country’s budget, determine what it should have.

General Smith, with whom I discussed this matter separately, stated that it was the view of the War Department that military missions from foreign countries in the Americas should be avoided at all costs; and he thought there was likelihood of a Russian attempt to establish military missions in these countries and that there was some possibility also that Great Britain and France might seek to do likewise. He said that it is the purpose of the War Department to modernize the Nicaraguan Guard with respect to training and weapons so that it might be easily integrated into the American Army [Page 1198] in case of need. I pointed out to General Smith the concern which I felt as to the misuse which modern weapons might be put in countries with a revolutionary tradition like Nicaragua. General Smith replied that once the presently existing equipment had been exchanged for modern weapons, it would be for the Department of State to enter into a treaty commitment with Nicaragua in order to insure that the weapons would not be used for revolutionary purposes.

I have requested Colonels Besse and Carr to let me have a further conversation with them toward the end of their visit and after they have had an opportunity to visit Nicaragua. I likewise suggested to them the advantage which would derive from the Embassy’s being informed in advance of the staff conversations just what proposals were to be made to the Nicaraguan Government and their probable cost. I said that this matter would want to be considered not only in the light of Nicaragua, but in that of neighboring countries, for it seemed unlikely that President Somoza would be willing to accept less in the way of a standing army—which was apparently the purpose—than we were prepared to give his neighbors. I said that the President would probably be disappointed, for example, if it were determined that the Nicaraguan Army were to be smaller than that, for example, of Guatemala, even though the Nicaraguan budget were smaller than that country’s.

For the Department’s confidential information, I may add that the officers mentioned above gave me no indication that they were really concerned with any other consideration than that of developing a modern army in Nicaragua and the extent to which the Nicaraguan budget would stand such an organization. I feel that this is a subject which merits a very careful and considered approach in view of the over-all picture and in view, particularly, of the fact that President Somoza will probably be predisposed to approve anything which will build up and strengthen the National Guard for which he has so high a regard and upon which he so heavily leans. Reference is made in this connection to the Embassy’s despatch No. 2849, dated January 26, 1945,9 entitled, “Future of United States Military Missions”.

In order that my further approach to this subject may be entirely in accordance with the Department’s views, I would appreciate receiving further instruction10 in the premises in advance of the forthcoming staff conversations.

Respectfully yours,

Harold D. Finley
  1. Same as instruction dated January 10, to Rio de Janeiro, p. 600.
  2. Not printed.
  3. For the instructions requested, see instruction 33, April 16, to El Salvador, p. 1063, which was repeated to the Missions in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Honduras.