Draft Paper1 for the National Security Council2 “by the Director of the Office of Regional American Affairs (Dreier)


Subject: Military Assistance for Korea from Latin America.


To determine the policy of the United States Government with respect to the extension by the Latin American countries of military assistance to the UN forces in Korea.3

[Page 643]


Ever since the North Korean forces launched their aggression against the Republic of Korea, and the UN decided upon a vigorous opposition to that aggression, two facts have stood out most clearly with respect to the attitude of the Latin American countries:

All of them have expressed their full support of the action taken by the UN and by the United States.
While indicating their desire to be of assistance, they want to be told by the United States what kind of assistance is wanted from them, before they make any offers.

There is a strong feeling among even the largest Latin American governments that they lack the necessary military training and equipment and logistical support for an effective contribution to United Nations military forces. Informal conversations are being held with representatives of individual countries in order to inform them of the military requirement in Korea.4 It is clear, however, that so long as it is necessary to count upon other countries not only to provide manpower but also to meet the cost of equipment and logistics support for any troops sent to Korea, it is virtually out of the question for Latin American countries to be expected to provide any effective forces. In view of the limited resources of Latin American countries, the positive assistance of this Government will be essential to any effective military contribution from Latin America.

Consideration of whether this Government should under these circumstances encourage Latin American military assistance to Korea involves an analysis of the benefits which the participation of Latin American countries in the Korean conflict might bring to the United States. It is felt that the following factors deserve special attention:

From the viewpoint of manpower alone, it would appear desirable to tap the resources of Latin America at this stage of world conflict with Soviet Communism in order to avoid too great a commitment of United States manpower. There exists in Latin America a relatively large potential fighting force and a considerable disposition to participate in the UN effort to restore peace and security. It appears desirable that the present opportunity of using this manpower not be lost.
The political advantage of active participation by Latin American forces in the UN action in Korea (or in any other similar situation) would be enormous. The Latin American peoples as a whole are relatively remote from the Asian scene and they are tempted by the thought, which is encouraged by Communist propaganda, that the present crisis is merely a struggle for power between the USA and [Page 644] USSR. If, however, Latin American troops participate with the UN forces, the nationalism and patriotism of the Latin American people will be aroused in support of the entire UN action against Communist aggression. The Latin American countries will be accordingly more closely than ever lined with the position of the United States in the world at large, and more directly committed to the UN.
A further political advantage from the active participation of Latin Americans in the UN action in Korea concerns the attitude of the Latin American countries towards Communism at home. The commitment of Latin American manpower against aggressive Communism in Korea will also arouse public opinion in Latin America more firmly than ever against Communist programs and activities within their own countries. Since a major concern of the United States with repect to Latin America under wartime conditions is the possibility of sabotage of the production and transportation of strategic materials, a strong public support of the UN position against Communist aggression should have far-reaching consequences favorable to our interests in Latin America.

Reports from Latin America as of August 3 indicate a considerable desire on the part of governments and people in Latin America to participate in the UN military action in Korea. However, there are also indications that the initial enthusiasm has already passed its peak and may be expected to drop rapidly if the United States does not give it positive support and guidance.

It is recognized that practical military considerations point to difficulties that would be encountered in utilizing troops from various Latin American countries under the Unified Command of the United States. These considerations should be weighed against the advantages mentioned above. It should also be borne in mind that, in view of the uncertain future outlook of the world as a whole, and the possibility of new outbreaks of Communist aggression, our manpower requirements may increase greatly within a year or more. The training and use of Latin American troops may well be found useful with respect to some future development in another part of the world, even if not entirely effective from the viewpoint of the Korean problem alone.

Under present legislation, it is not possible to transfer to Latin America military equipment from the United States Government except at 100 percent cash reimbursement (with the exception of extremely limited supplies of surplus). On the basis of past attempts, it appears unlikely that Congress would provide legislation under which grants of military equipment could be made directly to Latin American countries for use in their homelands, unless a threat of aggression became far more likely there. However, it is entirely possible [Page 645] in view of the strong feeling that exists in Congress regarding the necessity for utilizing troops from other countries, that Congress might adopt legislation permitting the grant of United States equipment to Latin American forces that were organized specifically for participation in the UN action in Korea or elsewhere.

It appears, moreover, that even without special legislation it may be possible for the United States Government to transfer military equipment and other supplies to forces which are being organized specifically for participation in combat side by side with American troops under UN auspices.

Two general approaches may be indicated for the organization of Latin American forces for use in Korea. On the one hand, special forces could be developed in a few of the larger countries, notably Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. These would retain their national identity, and arrangements for their training and equipment would be made directly with their respective governments.

On the other hand, it is possible to envisage the creation of a collective Latin American force pursuant to a decision of the governments, possibly through the OAS, that such a force should be developed under the authority and command of the UN Unified Command (United States Government). Such a force, consisting initially of one division, might be assembled from all or most countries and trained by the United States in Panama, Puerto Rico or the Philippines. Countries having some equipment that would be of use might contribute it, but, in the main, logistic support would come from the United States. The advantage to us would be the net increase in the manpower available for purposes for which United States troops are now being employed and might otherwise have to be employed in increasing numbers.

The political advantage of the second approach, namely, the collective force, would be greater in that it would involve the enlistment of men from a larger number of countries and thereby widen the desirable political effects mentioned above.

Meetings held by the Latin American Diplomatic Corps in Washington during the past few days, concerning the Korean situation, have emphasized the need of a positive statement of policy from the United States on the question of assistance which the Latin American countries should give to the UN in Korea. These meetings have also emphasized the natural tendency of the Latin American countries to approach a world problem of this character in a collective manner. Individual countries, sensing their weakness, tend to find strength [Page 646] through their association in a group. It is not suprising, therefore, that in these meetings, as reported to the Department, prominent consideration has been given to the possibility of creating a Latin American military force for Korea, and to the utilization of the machinery of the OAS to facilitate such a plan.


It is in the interest of the United States, both from the domestic and foreign viewpoints, to have Latin American forces participate in the UN action in Korea or in another similar situation should one develop in the future.
It is necessary that the United States take the initiative to obtain such participation, and provide the necessary training, equipment and other logistic support to put effective Latin American forces in the field. If the United States does not assume enthusiastic leadership and responsibility in support of a program, it would fail with disastrous political consequences.
A few of the larger Latin American countries could organize large enough national forces for service in Korea if the United States gave full assistance.
There are political advantages to obtaining Latin American participation in the form of a collective force representing as many of the twenty countries as possible, as compared with the contribution of national forces from only a few countries.


That the above conclusions be approved.
That arrangements be made by the Department of Defense with the military authorities of any Latin American countries now offering a specific number of troops, to accept the offer and train and equip those forces for eventual participation in the Korean conflict.
That in addition to No. 2 the Departments of State and Defense develop immediately a plan for the creation of a Latin American force on the basis of the approval of other American governments and in which volunteers from any Latin American country could enlist. Upon approval of such a plan by the President, and subject to any necessary consultation with or approval by the Congress, the plan should be communicated by the State Department to the other American governments with a view to their collective endorsement of it.

  1. Several memoranda which accompany the source text of this paper (in file 796B.00 for August 1950) indicate together that it was not revised before its submission to the Defense Department as an enclosure to the letter from Mr. Matthews to Maj. Gen. James H. Burns, August 9, 1950, p. 648. In a memorandum of August 7 to Aaron S. Brown, Special Assistant to the Deputy Under Secretary of State, Livingston T. Merchant, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, said in part that the paper had its origin in discussions between himself, Mr. Miller, and Mr. Dreier. (796B.00/8–850)
  2. In a memorandum of August 7 to Mr. Matthews, Mr. Miller said in part that the Bureau of United Nations Affairs had suggested the best way to have the memorandum considered would be to have Mr. Matthews send it to General Burns rather than submit it to the NSC. (796B.00/8–850)
  3. For the overall policy of the U.S. Government regarding contributions to the UN Command in Korea by other UN members, see volume vii .
  4. In a memorandum of August 5, 1950, to Mr. Miller and the other geographical bureau chiefs, Mr. Merchant said in part that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had stated it was desirable that units offered for Korean duty should be of battalion strength, fully equipped, and supplied for at least 60 days upon arrival in a zone of operations. (795B.5/8–550)