The Chargé in Brazil (Key) to the Ambassador to Brazil (Pawley)


Subject: Comments on Proposal to sell surplus United States Naval Vessels, except Eight Destroyer Escorts, to Brazilian Government.

In accordance with your instructions, a meeting was held on September 17, 1947, at which various points arising out of the Department’s airgram A–454 dated July 29, 1947 regarding the proposal to sell to the Brazilian Government all surplus United States naval vessels, except eight destroyer escorts, were considered. The meeting was attended by Admiral Lovette, General Morris, General Beverley, Captain Cooke, as well as several of their assistants and myself.

The first subject which came under review was whether or not our records show if any definite commitment had been made to the Brazilian [Page 414] Government to convey to it the eight destroyer escorts. While it was the consensus that Brazilian officials, especially officials in the Brazilian Navy and the Brazilian Ministry of Marine, are under the impression that all United States naval vessels including the destroyer escorts, would be made available to Brazil, none of those present was able to find in the various files any evidence of a definite commitment on the part of the United States. With respect to the possibility that Admiral Ingram55 may have made some commitment on the subject, the Embassy files contain copy of a letter dated August 2, 1945 from the Navy Department (which forms an enclosure to the Department’s secret instruction 7442 of August 20, 194556) an extract of which reads as follows:


Reference is made to the letter from the Secretary of the Navy to the Secretary of State of July 25, 1945,56 concerning Admiral Ingram’s recent visit to Rio de Janeiro … Admiral Ingram has stated that in his conversations with President Vargas there was no discussion except as to the approved plans for withdrawal of United States Naval activities from Brazil and that he made no commitments as to post-war transfer of ships to the Brazilian Navy or in any other matters.”

Consequently so far as the record is concerned, Admiral Ingram entered into no commitment.

Nevertheless it was agreed that the fact remains that the Brazilian Government is strongly under the impression that it will be able to retain all United States naval vessels which it is now using. Consequently it was our unanimous view that any move on our part to take away the eight destroyer escorts would cause deep resentment and dismay especially since these vessels constitute the backbone of the present Brazilian naval forces. Additionally, it was the belief of those participating in the meeting that, apart from the foregoing, any proposal to obtain payment from the Brazilian Government for the United States Naval vessels now in their possession, would be most unpopular and would be ill received, not only because of aforementioned reasons, but because almost all Brazilians feel that their cooperation in the war effort and the outstanding services performed by the Brazilian Navy entitled them to retain the vessels given to them under lend-lease.

In view of these considerations it was the earnest hope of all who took part in the meeting that the proposal outlined in the Department’s airgram A–454 be left dormant. If that is not possible, it is the hope that the vessels will be sold to Brazil at a purely nominal price [Page 415] and that some way can be found to permit Brazil to retain the destroyer escorts. In this connection it occurred to us that a possible way out would be either to declare, in Brazil’s case, that the destroyer escorts are not considered “combattant” vessels or, at a later date, when the question of the implementation of the recently concluded Inter-American Treaty for the Maintenance of Peace and Security arises,57 to convey to the Brazilian Government all presently held United States naval vessels including destroyer escorts, at that time.

There is attached a list58 of all United States naval vessels which our Government furnished to Brazil under lend-lease. This list was compiled by Admiral Lovette who pointed out that, as of the present, no information is obtainable concerning the whereabouts and general condition of several of the categories of the list. His office is attempting to get information in this regard but he anticipates some difficulty as it is believed that most of this equipment was turned over by the Brazilian Navy to the Brazilian Air Force. This whole question is so delicate that all inquiries about these items will have to be very carefully handled: if the Brazilian Navy or Air Force suspected the purpose of the inquiries, they would unquestionably be greatly upset.

There is also attached for your information, a copy of a letter dated August 19, 1947 from the Chief of Naval Operations to Admiral Lovette bearing on this subject.59

  1. Adm. Jonas H. Ingram, Commander of the South Atlantic Force, and of the 4th Fleet, successively.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. For documentation on this subject, see pp. 1 ff.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Letter not printed.