711.34/12–148

The Secretary of Defense (Forrestal) to the Secretary of State

secret

Dear Mr. Secretary: This is with further reference to your letter of 20 October 19481 requesting the views of the National Military [Page 715]Establishment concerning the degree to which Paraguay is strategically important to the United States.

In assessing the degree to which Paraguay is of strategic importance to the United States, its relationship to the Western Hemisphere must be considered with respect to two categories:

a.
As an element of the hemisphere defense structure, and
b.
As a source of strategic and critical materials.

A hemisphere defense structure implies integration of the member nations for common defense. However, from a geographical and a war potential viewpoint, Latin American nations are not of equal importance to United States security. The size, location, and war potential of Paraguay relegates that nation to a very low category in this respect excepting in the unlikely event that Argentina should ally herself with our enemies in war.

As a source of raw materials Paraguay has considerable actual and potential importance to the industry of the United States. She is one of the two world sources (the other source being Argentina) of quebracho extract, an agent essential in the tanning of leather and an emulsive used in oil well drilling operations. For either purpose there is as yet no better chemical substitute.

Paraguay also is important as a passageway to valuable deposits of high-grade manganese ore located close by in Corumba, Brazil. It is possible to transport ore from these deposits by rail to Brazilian ports; however, a cheaper method is by barge down the Paraguay River to a port at the mouth of the Plata River. The Corumba deposits are of particular interest to the United States not only because of their quality and extent but also because of their availability to the United States in the event of an emergency.

Based upon the foregoing considerations, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and I are in agreement that Paraguay’s strategic importance is primarily as a source of certain strategic and critical materials.

The matter of whether aid and assistance should be given to Paraguay along the lines implied by President González is primarily a political question. It would be in the United States military interest to assist a stable Paraguay and all other members of the hemisphere defense structure to achieve sound economies and to maintain those armed forces which are required for internal security and for hemisphere defense tasks. However, purely military considerations are not sufficient to justify the assistance desired by the President of Paraguay.

Sincerely yours,

James Forrestal
  1. Not printed.