811.24523/8–1546: Telegram

The Ambassador in Peru (Cooper) to the Secretary of State

us urgent

881. Reurtel 713 August 9 and 723 August 1453 requesting complete details including antecedents to Talara incident occurring at US Army Air Base “El Pato” 28 July 1946 involving American soldiers and Peruvian Naval personnel.

Basic trouble at Talara is there have been too many men at lonely base with little or no amusement or diversion. This opinion is based on conversation with Army personnel familiar with base and also civilians employed at Talara. Understand number US Army personnel located at Talara is 237 officers and enlisted men. Howard A. Grimes, resident manager International Petroleum Company and Canadian Ambassador, informed me there have been at least two prior incidents involving Canadian personnel but so far as I am advised this is only incident involving US Army or American personnel.

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Incident first came my attention August 4, 1946 during course of reception honor Fleet Admiral William Halsey when I was informed by Chief US Naval Mission54 to Peru that incident involving Peruvian naval personnel at Talara had occurred during celebration national holidays and had resulted in shooting and wounding of American Sergeant attached to US military complement operating “El Pato” Air Base.

I communicated immediately with Military Attaché Colonel O’Malley and requested his assistance securing full details of incident. I also requested Lt. Col. Charles M Walton, Jr, Military Air Attaché, who was going to Panama anyway August 5 to stop in Talara and request Base Commander Talara furnish me with full particulars relating to incident as well as to request information from authorities in Panama if they had information relating to incident. It should be noted here no telephone communications exist between Lima and Talara, that cable facilities woefully inadequate, and only practical manner communication is by air courier. No information was forthcoming [Page 1233] as result of Col Walton’s visit to Talara or Panama from Army sources.

August 6, I saw in papers and was otherwise informed National Senate in its session previous evening had approved motion introduced by Senator Rubio of Piura protesting alleged assault by 10 American aviators against one Peruvian naval ensign, one Alberto Rubio. According Senator Rubio’s account to Senate, Ensign Rubio became involved with American military personnel at Peruvian dance in commemoration national holidays, during course of which American personnel molested one or more Peruvian women whom Ensign Rubio was escorting. No mention in Senator’s report was made of fact, of which I was already informed, Ensign Rubio was armed and he had fired and critically wounded one of American military personnel.

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About 4:30 p.m. Acting Foreign Minister Ismael Bielich requested conference Foreign Office. When I saw Foreign Minister in office he informed me what had happened in Senate relating Talara incident and informed me Peruvian Govt would have to take notice of incident. He stated his Govt would be compelled send formal note protest to Govt United States and also claimed Peruvian Govt jurisdiction over United States Army enlisted personnel involved. I assured him my Govt’s deep regret and grave concern over incident and told him since Sunday, August 4, I had been endeavoring ascertain facts of incident and that would appreciate postponing further discussion until next morning 11 o’clock when I hoped have more facts at hand. However I replied my strong belief that best interests all parties would be served by court martial proceedings being instituted United States Army to summarily punish those found guilty. Also asked him refrain from sending note that time since I believed would only result harmful publicity. Acting Foreign Minister promised would take no action until further conference with me.

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Morning August 7 talked Mr Ellis Briggs55 of Dept, in which he advised on point jurisdiction Peru technically had right try United States Army personnel civil courts of Peru. About 10 o’clock morning August 7 was informed United States representative Air Force was flying Lima to inform me details incident and he would arrive about noon. Then informed Acting Foreign Minister Army representative could not arrive prior our scheduled conversation and he then suggested our conference postponed until 6 o’clock afternoon August 7.

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[Page 1234]

Being fully satisfied report Major Hanford56 our personnel were at fault, prepared formal note regret, which I presented Acting Foreign Minister when I saw him 6 o’clock. Acting Foreign Minister accepted note in lieu sending formal note protest to me, stating in substance he believed incident would be presented better light to public if I took initiative send first note. I agreed and did so.

Acting Foreign Minister Bielich insisted my yielding on point jurisdiction over US Army personnel. This connection facts are: incident occurred off limits Talara Air Base and Staff Sergeant Oscar J. Eiland at present located hospital International Petroleum Company Talara and not on air base, although he is being guarded, according my best information by US Army personnel as well as Peruvian police. Other 2 US Army personnel, Corporal Miller and Sgt Bethany, back on base Talara and under arrest and in confinement.

Air Minister Enrique Góngora acted as interpreter this occasion and apparently did all he could in circumstances to be assistance both to Peru and US.

When Acting Foreign Minister Bielich continued claim jurisdiction to try US Army personnel, I called attention heretofore unmentioned fact, namely, that Staff Sgt Oscar J Eiland critically wounded result bullet wound inflicted by Peruvian Ensign Rubio, Peruvian officer in question, and that bullet entered top his left shoulder, narrowly missing heart, punctured lung and spleen, ranging downward and passing from body through right hip and Sergeant had remained operating table very long time and his life hanging in balance. These facts learned Mr. Howard A. Grimes, Resident Manager International Petroleum Company, August 6, to whose hospital Sgt Eiland carried subsequent his injury.

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  1. Neither printed.
  2. Rear Adm. Jack H. Duncan.
  3. Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs.
  4. Maj. George Hanford, Staff Judge Advocate, Panama Canal Department.