Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Caribbean and Central American Affairs (Cochran)

Subject: Arms Program—Guatemala, El Salvador, Cuba, and Costa Rica.

On March 13 and 14, 1946, the Guatemalan, Salvadoran, and Cuban Chargé d’Affaires13 and the Costa Rican Ambassador14 called at my request. Mr. Dreier attended the first meeting, General Wooten,15 the first three meetings and the appropriate desk officers were present at all four.* I informed the Embassies’ representatives that with respect to inquiries which had previously been received from their Governments and from other American Governments, we had made necessary arrangements to make available to the countries concerned certain military equipment for their armed forces. The equipment is [Page 94] being made available from surpluses of our armed forces and will be offered for sale under the Surplus Property Act, in accordance with their desires as to whether they want all this equipment or part of it.

It was explained that the equipment had been listed on the basis of a military unit as set forth in our tables of organization (with which their military officers were familiar) and that it included all equipment listed in our tables except for some civilian items, including especially motor vehicles, which were in fact not in surplus at the present time. I added that if these items should later be declared surplus, they would be notified. I then gave to each representative a copy of the memorandum listing the equipment available,16 as set forth hereafter. I added that aircraft would be accompanied by spare parts and equipment for ground crews insofar as they were available in surplus.

I stated that FLC has been designated as the disposal agency for this material and that General Ralph H. Wooten, Room 6176 New War Department Building can provide details on equipment available and is responsible for establishing prices under the provisions of the Surplus Property Act, In consequence, all further discussions should be directly with him.

In no case did the question arise as to future purchases of further armaments; and in no case was the question raised as to the exchange of present equipment for that to be furnished under this program.

Equipment Proposed


Military equipment for: 1 Battalion of Infantry
1 Battery Light Field Artillery
Aircraft: 4 C–47’s
3 (C–45’s)
(AT–11’s) Depending on
(AT–7’s) availability
6 AT–6’s
10 PT’s

El Salvador

Military equipment for: 1 Infantry Rifle Company
1 Battery Light Field Artillery
Aircraft: 1 (C–45)
(AT–11) Depending on
(AT–7) availability
2 BT’s
[Page 95]


Military equipment for: 1 Battalion of Infantry
1 Battery of Light Field Artillery
Aircraft: 1 PBY (OA–10)
4 B–25’s
8 P–47’s
4 C–47’s
2 (AT–11’s)
(AT–7’s) Depending on availability

Costa Rica

Military equipment for: 1 Infantry Rifle Company

Subsequently, certain developments took place in each individual case, which are enumerated below:

Guatemala: The question immediately arose as to whether or not this equipment would be made available to Guatemala under the $1,500,000 Lend Lease credit which the Guatemalans consider still to be available to them. I stated that I was not in a position to give a definite answer on this but that I hoped to be able to do so within a week or ten days.

El Salvador: The Chargé d’Affaires asked whether these transactions would be for cash. General Wooten said that his understanding of the situation was that they were to be for cash and if the question of credit arose, it would have to be cleared with the State17 and Treasury Departments.

Cuba: Having explained to Dr. Barón the general program which was contemplated, I reminded him that Cuba was one of the few countries which had not paid anything whatsoever on Lend Lease, although the information available indicated that it was in a financial position to do so. I pointed out further that we had sent to the Cuban Embassy seven successive notes enclosing statements of the amount due, without having received any reply. I then commented that it was difficult to see how Cuba could afford to buy new equipment since it had not paid for the equipment which it had already received under Lend Lease, and that for the present, we were [Page 96] not disposed to make the equipment available as long as Cuba was in complete default on its Lend Lease. I said that we could not defend any other attitude on our part before the Congress and people of the United States. Dr. Barón commented that he had on one occasion, as Chargé d’Affaires, sent to his Government one of our notes regarding repayment for Lend Lease obligations but that he had had no reply. He intimated that he would telegraph to Ambassador Belt, who is still in Cuba and who is expected back tomorrow, the substance of the conversation.

Costa Rica: The same comments with regard to Lend Lease obligations which were made in the case of Cuba were repeated to the Costa Rican Ambassador. The Ambassador appeared to understand our position and that these comments involved no lack of desire to collaborate with Costa Rica. He asked if this furnishing of armaments was connected with the recent agreement which he had signed with Secretary Byrnes and I assured him that it had no connection with the Military Mission but rather with the Staff Conversations held about a year ago. He said that he thought Costa Rica would be better off without an army. I said that we had no desire whatsoever to suggest or support a Costa Rican army against the wishes of the Costa Rican Government and people but that since his Government had, in the Staff Conversations, indicated its interest in receiving certain armaments, we wanted to handle the matter just as we were with the other countries of the hemisphere.

William P. Cochran, Jr.
  1. Enrique Lopez-Herrarte. Felipe Vega-Gomez, and José T. Barón, respectively.
  2. Francisco de P. Gutiérrez.
  3. Maj. Gen. Ralph H. Wooten, U.S. Army, Latin American Division, Office of Foreign Liquidation Commissioner.
  4. Mr. Furniss of RL was also in attendance at all four meetings. [Footnote in the original.]
  5. Memorandum not printed.
  6. The Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs (Briggs) commented in a memorandum of December 2, 1946, as follows:

    “We are unanimously of the opinion that credit should not be extended, except perhaps in the case of certain vessels included in the Navy interim program, since all the other equipment is highly expendable and would be used up long before the debts would be liquidated.

    “The amount involved in the interim program is in the neighborhood of 75 million dollars, of which 25 million dollars will be for re-conditioning vessels which the Navy de-commissioned in its general demobilization program. What with the lend-lease and other accounts outstanding, few of the Latin American republics can or should involve themselves in new expenditures of this magnitude.” (810.24/12–246)