S/SNSC Files: Lot 63D351: NSC 56 Series

Memorandum by the Executive Secretary (Souers) to the National Security Council

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NSC 56

U.S. Policy Concerning Military Collaboration Under the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance

The enclosed memorandum and attachments by the Secretary of Defense on the subject are circulated herewith for the information of the National Security Council and, as proposed by the Secretary of Defense, are referred to the NSC Staff for use in the preparation of a report for Council consideration.

Sidney W. Souers
[Annex 1]

Memorandum by the Secretary of Defense (Johnson) to the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Souers)

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For several important reasons I believe that it is timely to re-examine and state clearly and precisely U.S. policy with respect to military collaboration with the other American nations. The last statement of national policy on this subject (SWNCC 4/101) was promulgated in 1945 before the ratification of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance.2 The President’s Inaugural Address of 20 January 19493 was specific and emphatic in support of military implementation of regional defense arrangements in which the U.S. participates.

From the point of view of the Department of Defense the uninterrupted delivery of strategic raw material from Latin America to the United States is vital to any major U.S. war effort. Moreover, unless the other American republics are enabled to assume their military responsibilities under the Treaty their capacity to support our war potential by providing raw materials will diminish, and it will be necessary to divert U.S. military forces to defend our partners because of their inability to defend themselves.

[Page 602]

Apart from these considerations which make such a review of our policy timely, I desire to direct the Chairman of the U.S. Delegation, Inter-American Defense Board to undertake, through that Board, the preparation of combined studies for the defense of the Hemisphere. For this purpose the general principles of the military aspects of implementation of the Treaty should be considered.

Accordingly, I propose that the National Security Council recommend a statement of United States Policy with respect to the military aspects of the implementation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance. Such a policy may well concern the National Advisory Council insofar as economic and financial matters are concerned. To this end, I enclose a draft of the proposed policy statement, prepared in the Department of Defense, for consideration of the Staff of the National Security Council in formulating its recommendations to the Council.

Pending National Security Council action on this proposal, the Chairman, U.S. Delegation, Inter-American Defense Board, has been provided with an interim directive by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A copy of this directive is enclosed for the information and use of your staff.

Louis Johnson

[Annex 2]

Draft Report by the National Security Council on the Position of the United States With Respect to the Military Aspects of the Implementation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance

the problem

1. To assess and appraise the position of the United States with respect to the military aspects of the implementation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, with particular reference to continued military cooperation among the American States.


2. During World War II the United States was forced to divert considerable resources of manpower and materiel for the defense and operation of Western Hemisphere installations and lines of communication vital to its total war effort. …

3. [Here follow references to (a) efforts by the United States to bring about regional collaboration in hemisphere defense, and (b) measures undertaken in response to SWNNC 4/10, the text of which is printed in Foreign Relations, 1945, volume IX, pages 251254.]

[Page 603]

4. In implementing the President’s directive, the War and Navy Departments, in 1945, conducted bilateral staff conversations with other American governments, and determined the optimum strengths of the Latin American armed forces and the requirements of armament to support these strengths. For want of appropriate legislation, however, only a token percentage of the armament requirements has been provided to date in addition to that furnished under Lend Lease. Further, this lack of legislation has placed the Latin American military establishments in the intolerable position of being unable to obtain the spare parts and ammunition necessary for the maintenance of those armaments already acquired.

5. Those portions of the President’s directive dealing with the establishment of military missions, the training of foreign nationals in U.S. institutions and with combined joint staff planning have been or are being implemented to a satisfactory degree. Their continuance, however, is contingent upon the provision, by the United States, of the armaments required by the Latin American nations for the maintenance of armed forces in being. Unless the entire program is dynamic, the Latin American nations may be expected to withdraw their support of those portions which are being consummated.

6. The Latin American nations are aware of the existence of this standardization program and have eagerly awaited its implementation since 1945. In general, they have resisted the offers of European arms merchants and have considered themselves bound by the the Inter-American treaties and by the bilateral staff conversations to the principles contained in the President’s directive.

7. Meanwhile, however, events have overtaken the program proposed by the President, and budgetary limitations dictated by the overshadowing requirements of North Atlantic Alliance have relegated the Latin American arms program to a quiescent status incompatible with the long range objectives of United States policy.

8. In global war, the basic undertakings required to achieve the objectives of the United States include:

Insuring the integrity of the Western Hemisphere and promoting and developing its war-making capacity;

In conjunction with the Allies, securing such bases as are essential for the projection of offensive operations;

Initiating development of the offensive power of the armed forces for such operations as may be necessary for achievement of the national war objectives;

Supporting the war effort of our allies by the provision of all feasible military assistance.

9. To sacrifice to the exigencies of the moment the gains secured in the field of Latin American military collaboration is to hamper the [Page 604] achievement of the foregoing undertakings. Further, such sacrifice would tend to nullify the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance which will provide to the United States few of the advantages which it envisages unless its military aspects are implemented prior to the outbreak of a major emergency.

10. During 1948–1949 the Latin American nations demonstrated, in Colombia4 and in Bolivia,5 their inability to maintain internal order. Were the Bolivian uprisings repeated in time of emergency, the consequent interruption of tin production could result in grave consequences to the United States.

11. The Latin American forces required for the preservation of internal order are generally of types adaptable to police duty. …

12. In the absence of an offer of U.S. arms, the Latin American nations may be unable to resist opportunities to purchase obsolescent armaments of European manufacture that may become available in currencies other than U.S. dollars. Past experience has shown that armament sales by European nations are usually contingent upon acceptance of training missions by the recipients. A foreseeable result, in the discontinuance of U.S. missions, would begin the deterioration of standardized military collaboration to an extent paralleling the situation prior to World War II, and might again require the diversion of sizable forces to secure the strategic raw materials essential to our war effort. Further, the cost of reestablishing Latin American military cooperation would far exceed that required for the conservation of the gains achieved to date.


13. In global war, the security of the Western Hemisphere (including Latin America) and access by us to the resources of the Hemisphere would be essential to any transoceanic projection of major United States offensive power.

14. The Latin American nations must be ready and able to assume their military obligations under the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance in order to insure the uninterrupted delivery of raw materials upon which any major U.S. war effort will depend, and in order to minimize U.S. military manpower requirements in Latin America under emergency conditions.

15. The United States has an implied moral commitment to conclude, without delay, those military agreements necessary for the implementation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance [Page 605] in order that they may serve as a basis for the collective defense of the Hemisphere and make the treaty effective in time of war.

16. To the ends of conserving those gains achieved in the field of military collaboration, and of furthering the Western Hemisphere Defense Program, it devolves upon the United States to find ways and means to enable Latin American governments to procure arms to the extent necessary to insure their continued interest and cooperation. As an immediate objective, this should include authorization for the provision, on a reimbursement basis, of armaments, spare parts, and ammunition necessary to prevent the deterioration of existing Latin American armed forces and to provide modest augmentation of armaments as justified for the maintenance of internal security. As a long range objective, it should include consideration of Latin America in future Military Assistance Programs, at least to an extent sufficient to indicate the continued interest of the United States in the Organization of American States as a regional defense arrangement.

17. [Here follows a reference to a proposed scheme for defense of the Western Hemisphere.] This scheme, without committing the American States to the provision of armaments or forces, should develop the strategic concept for defense of the Hemisphere as a step toward subsequently determining the extent and means of contribution to that defense by each of the member nations.

[Annex 3]

Draft Memorandum for the Senior Delegate, United States Delegation, Inter-American Defense Board

In consonance with the desires of the Secretary of Defense toward integrating all elements of the global strategy of the National Military Establishment, the guidance contained herein is designed to effect the development of a Western Hemisphere defense scheme under the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance analagous to and parallel with that being undertaken in connection with the North Atlantic Security Pact.6 The U.S. Delegation to the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) is the U.S. link for completing the western segment of the chain of countries outside the Iron Curtain.
A Western Hemisphere defense scheme is required which may be agreed upon in principle by the other American States to serve politically as the basis for: [Page 606]
A multilateral agreement among the American States which will list the broad measures of military cooperation required for the defense of the Western Hemisphere.
Subsequent bilateral agreements among those governments which will be required to produce operational commitments.
The Western Hemisphere defense scheme to be proposed for acceptance by the Organization of American States should include:
A strategic concept of the defense of the American States, both intra- and extra-continental, but within the Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance.
A statement of the strategic military objectives of the American States designed to achieve the maximum of Western Hemisphere cooperative strength under the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, 1947, for the accomplishment of that concept.
A statement of strategic military requirements of the collaborating American States for accomplishing their objectives.
In order that the Latin American countries may feel that they have been considered an integral factor in hemispherical defense, the military agreements under the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance should be considered contemporaneously with those of the North Atlantic Security Pact. The U.S. Delegation to the IADB should devote its primary effort toward stimulating, within the IADB, the development of this Western Hemisphere defense scheme for ultimate acceptance by the Organization of American States. When so accepted, it will become fundamental in the U.S. hemisphere defense plan and will provide the basis for U.S. bilateral agreements with the other American States. In exerting this effort, the U.S. Delegation will adhere to the precepts set forth in subsequent instruction and to such additional guidance as may be requested or required.
The political framework for U.S. participation in the Inter-American Defense Board is contained in the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, in the charter of the Organization of American States,7 and the Senate Resolution 239.8
The principal strategic military objectives of the U.S. in Latin America are:
The continued and increasing production and delivery of essential strategic raw materials.
The maintenance within each nation of political stability and of internal security to insure protection of the installations upon which the production and delivery of strategic materials depend.
The mutual cooperation of all the Latin American Nations in support of the United States.
The protection of vital lines of communication.
The provision, development, operation and protection by Latin American nations of those bases that may be required for use of the United States and for the protection of lines of communication.
The coordinated protection by member nations of their own national areas from invasion and from raids.
The provision by Latin American nations of those armed forces necessary for the accomplishment of the foregoing.
The provision by Latin American nations, for the support of the United States in other theaters, of those forces beyond their requirements for the accomplishment of the foregoing.
No U.S. strategic concept need be or should be disclosed but rather the position taken that the United States, while having under consideration various alternative lines of action in the event of war, has fixed on no rigid course with respect to Latin America and would welcome suggestions looking toward the evolution of a strategic Western Hemisphere concept on the basis of which common action might be undertaken.
The Latin American representatives to the IADB evidently desire to plan for the collective defense of the Western Hemisphere. This desire, properly channeled and given reasonable time in which to develop capabilities, could have the greatest benefits in assisting the United States in her many defense responsibilities in the Western Hemisphere and in adding to the total armed strength available for use in other theaters. In the event a major war of aggression occurs, no steps taken to encourage military cooperation in the Western Hemisphere will have been wasted.
Every effort should be made to encourage the development and acceptance by the Latin American representatives of:
A short-term concept envisaging minimum deployment of U.S. forces to the Caribbean and to Central and South America.
A long-term strategic concept envisaging the Latin American nations becoming capable of contributing, for use in other theaters, forces beyond their requirements for local defense and protection of LOC’s.
Every effort should be made from the outset to contain demands on the U.S. for material military assistance within manageable limits.
The U.S. delegation will indicate no acquiescence in:
Any military plan which might jeopardize or even unduly influence global strategy in favor of either direct military assistance or distribution of equipment solely for the achievement of political objectives.
Any arrangement for the Inter-American Defense Board’s command participation in Western Hemisphere strategy.
The United States will be prepared to consider estimates of what supplementary assistance from the United States might be furnished only after it has been demonstrated that the performance of agreed tasks by any member nation is beyond its capabilities. In this connection, the United States would expect reciprocal assistance from the Latin American nations to the greatest extent practicable. Appropriation of funds by the United States Congress will be necessary to provide significant amounts of military equipment, but it cannot be expected that the Joint Chiefs of Staff would support such legislation unless the foregoing condition has been met.
It should be made clear to the Latin American representatives that the reciprocal assistance we would expect from them will include as a minimum, base and transit rights and assurance of the security and protection of vital installations upon which the production and delivery of strategic materials depend.
The Western Hemisphere defense scheme can be developed only in broad terms for acceptance in principle by the Organization of American States.
  1. Text in Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. ix, p. 251.
  2. Text in Department of State Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS) No. 1838, and 62 Stat. (pt. 2) 1681.
  3. Text in Department of State Bulletin, January 30, 1949, p. 123.
  4. See the documentation on the Ninth International Conference of American States held at Bogotá, Colombia, in Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. ix, pp. 1 ff.
  5. For documentation on Bolivia, see vol. ii, pp. 744 ff.
  6. For documentation on the North Atlantic Treaty, see vol. iii, pp. 1 ff.
  7. The text is printed as TIAS No. 2361 in United States Treaties and Other International Agreements (UST), vol. 2 (pt. 2), p. 2394.
  8. Text in A Decade of American Foreign Policy: Basic Documents, 1941–49 (Senate Document No. 123, 81st Congress, 1st Session), p. 197.