Memorandum by the Acting Chief of the Division of Special Inter-American Affairs (Dreier) to the Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs (Briggs)

The Colombian Ambassador has for several months been seeking the Department’s approval for the purchase of 5,000,000 rounds of 7 mm cartridges from the Olin Industries, Inc., or from the Winchester Repeating Company. The ammunition is to be used to supply old Mauser rifles with which the Colombian Army is equipped. In view of the fact that the ammunition is sub-standard in the United States and therefore not used by the Army, it is unobtainable for disposition by FLC. The allocation to Colombia under the interim program includes only standard U.S. Army ammunition and standard U.S. Army rifles. The Colombian Ambassador has made it clear that if the request for sub-standard ammunition is refused by the State Department, Colombia will go elsewhere to obtain the ammunition. A Belgium firm has already expressed an interest in the sale and Mexico and Chile are other possible sources of supply.

If the pending arms bill23 is approved by Congress and implemented, it will probably be possible for Colombia to exchange her sub-standard Mauser rifles for standard U.S. equipment. However, the present regulations issued pursuant to the Surplus Property Act24 require that disposition of surplus property be made only in return for a fair value. It is therefore doubtful that authority exists for the disposition of goods to other governments on a strictly exchange basis.

In the circumstances, I suggest that we inform Ambassador Santamaria that the standardization of arms in the Western Hemisphere is an objective of the pending arms bill and explain that upon its passage by Congress it will probably be possible to discuss with Colombia the replacement of sub-standard arms and ammunition with standard types. We may suggest to the Ambassador that in view of the above it would perhaps be to the advantage of Colombia to restrict her purchase of sub-standard ammunition to a minimum. After every effort has been made to have the Ambassador reduce the amount of ammunition desired, I feel we might approve the purchase of any amount up to 5,000,000 rounds.

John C. Dreier
  1. To be entitled “Inter-American Military Cooperation Act”; see House Document No. 548, 79th Cong., 2d. Sess.
  2. Approved October 3, 1944; 58 Stat. 765.