The Secretary of State to the Secretary of War (Patterson)


Dear Patterson: I refer to a secret memorandum of October 14, 194610 prepared by Colonel Mark A. Devine, Jr., Military Attaché at the Embassy at Guatemala City, concerning the disposition of United States Army property in Guatemala. A copy of the aforementioned memorandum was transmitted to the Department by the Embassy at Guatemala City under cover of a secret despatch No. 2000 of December 6, 1946,10 a copy of which has been referred to the War Department.

According to information supplied by Colonel Devine and by the Embassy, it would appear that during the evacuation of United States [Page 703] Army personnel from the Guatemala City air base in 1944, General George H. Brett, who was then Commander of the Caribbean Defense Command, directed that certain United States Army property, having an approximate value of $30,000, be transferred to the Guatemalan Government on memorandum receipt. The action of General Brett was doubtlessly the result of informal representations made by the Guatemalan Government that the property should be transferred to Guatemala without reimbursement under the terms of the Base and Lend-Lease Agreement with Guatemala. Approximately two years after the transfer of the property in question, the Caribbean Defense Command, on November 22, 1946, notified Colonel Devine that the records of the Caribbean Defense Command did not indicate that a transfer of the property under the provisions of lend-lease had taken place. Subsequently, the Office of the Foreign Liquidation Commissioner catalogued the property and is presently prepared to offer it for sale to Guatemala or to other prospective purchasers. However, the Embassy, the United States Military Attaché and a representative of the Foreign Liquidation Commissioner in Guatemala have investigated the circumstances of the transfer and have recommended that the property be withheld from sale. In discussing these recommendations with the Office of the Foreign Liquidation Commissioner, the Department has been informed that the property must be sold, unless the War Department withdraws the declaration of surplus by which jurisdiction over the property was transferred by the War Department to FLC.

In view of the fact that the property was, in fact, transferred to the Guatemalan Government, the latter is of the opinion that the transfer was made under the terms of the lend-lease agreement, no reimbursement being required. The grounds for Guatemala’s permanent possession of this property would appear to be Article 4 of Note 337 attached to the Lend-Lease Agreement of November 16, 1942, which provides that the bases, with all fixed installations “except the organic equipment of the troops”, shall become the property of the Guatemalan Government when the “emergency” is ended and the peace treaty is signed. Moreover, it is believed that the opinion held by the Guatemalan Government is justified, in part, by the circumstances of the transfer.

The Department would appreciate being informed if the War Department is able to furnish the Foreign Liquidation Commissioner a statement that this material is to become the permanent property of the Guatemalan Government under the terms of the Lend-Lease Agreement of November 16, 1942. This would make it unnecessary for [Page 704] the Commissioner to proceed with the sale of the material as surplus property.11

Faithfully yours,

G. C. Marshall
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. On March 29, 1948, the Secretary of the Army, Kenneth O. Royall, replied as follows: “After examination of all available data relative to the claim by the Government of Guatemala, the Department of the Army is able to inform you that the material in question will be withdrawn from the Foreign Liquidation Commissioner and will become the permanent property of Guatemala under the terms of the Lend-Lease Agreement of 16 November 1942.” (811.24514/3–2948)