810.20 Defense/1–648

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State

Participants: Mr. George C. Marshall, Secretary of State
Señor Dr. Antonio Parra Velasco, Ecuadoran Foreign Minister
Señor Augusto Dillon, Ecuadoran Ambassador in Washington
Mr. George H. Owen, NWC 2

After a while of pleasant conversation about politically indifferent subjects, I mentioned a plan I had favored immediately after the war, but which it was impossible to carry out, for the rapid development of air transport systems in Latin America with the use of surplus U.S. bombers and transports, concerning which Dr. Parra indicated considerable interest.

I then spoke at some length of certain aspects of hemispheric defense. I recalled the critical times preceding and during American participation in the last war, when I was confronted with the repeated appeals of several Latin American countries, gravely concerned about the inadequacy of their coastal defenses. I pointed out that during the war, Japanese submarines, properly directed, could easily have shelled important industrial installations on the shores of certain West Coast countries.

I mentioned the difficulties which were then and have now to be met in planning adequate continental defense, in particular the political repercussions in the several countries of any negotiations for the installation of needed defense sites. I remarked on the propensity of political factions everywhere to make political capital of defense site agreements on the basis of vaunting “national sovereignty”. I recalled how during the war negotiations for vital defense installations in the Dutch West Indies against submarine attacks were prolonged by the Dutch Government and imperiled the whole continent. [Page 208] I made particular reference to the current situation with respect to the defense sites in Panama,3 pointing to the imperative need for adequate defense of the Canal, which the Republic of Panama is utterly unable to insure by itself and the importance of which to the whole continent may not be fully realized in Latin American countries.

I then turned to the need for developing the natural resources of the continent, in particular oil resources and remarked that the growing requirements and consumption of petroleum products render the development of Latin American oil resources imperative.4 I indicated that, while I entertained no preference as to the manner under which arrangements for such development should be made, my principal desire was that the development be undertaken as rapidly as possible, since the question of oil supply was a critical defense problem and our resources have been heavily drawn upon.

More than once I invited Dr. Parra to speak about any matter he might wish to discuss. The Foreign Minister merely repeated that he had listened with immeasurable interest to everything I had said and then discussed briefly the matter of his government’s boundary dispute with Peru in the Lagartococha area,5 which he had already taken up at length with Mr. Armour6 yesterday. I indicated that I knew the principal question at issue in this dispute and that I would have the matter studied.

George C. Marshall
  1. Foreign Affairs Specialist, Division of North and West Coast Affairs.
  2. For documentation on this subject, see pp. 664 ff.
  3. For documentation on this subject, see pp. 243 ff.
  4. Documentation on this subject not published.
  5. Norman Armour, Assistant Secretary of State for Political Affairs.