Memorandum by the Director of the Mutual Defense Assistance Program (Ohly) to the Director of the Office of Regional American Affairs (Dreier)


Subject: Proposed Letter to General Burns1 With Respect to Raising and Equipping a Latin American Force for Eventual Participation in the Korean Conflict

Although I have several serious reservations with respect to the attached proposed letter to General Burns and the enclosure thereto,2 I am concurring therein for S/MDA because of my understanding that you wish to get this matter urgently to Defense for further consideration. The nature of my comments and reservations are set forth in the two succeeding paragraphs, and I would appreciate their being brought to the attention of Mr. Matthews when the proposed letter is submitted for his signature.3
I think it is imperative that before any commitments are made, there should be consultation with the appropriate Congressional leaders. Such consultation should be directed toward determining whether this rather calculated and long-range program should (a) be undertaken at all; and (b) if undertaken, should be so undertaken with or without legislation. The attitude of many Congressmen toward grant aid to Latin American countries has been such that any significant step in this direction would be ill advised unless the circumstances thereof were made known and fully discussed with key Congressional leaders. In the event that legislation should be recommended, this office would like to give consideration as to whether or not it should be in the form of an amendment to the UN Participation Act4 or the Mutual Defense Assistance Act. Our present thinking, and we understand the thinking of Defense, is to the effect that an amendment to the UN Participation Act would probably be preferable.
My gravest concern about this proposal is the fact that however desirable from a political standpoint, it will result in the diversion of substantial quantities of equipment urgently required for a large number of other programs which would appear to have a very much higher priority. Unless the long-range political advantages of [Page 648] creating such a force are very great and unless such force will, in fact, augment tremendously the military potential of the free world, I am quite clear that the need for the equipment which it would require is much greater in the case of the forces of other nations. I recognize that a variety of considerations must be weighed in reaching a final judgment on this subject, but I want to emphasize that before such judgment is reached, the impact of this equipment diversion on other programs should be thoroughly explored and taken into account.5
  1. Infra.
  2. Supra
  3. Mr. Dreier submitted Mr. Ohly’s memorandum to Deputy Under Secretary Matthews with a brief covering memorandum of August 8, 1950. (796B.00/8–850)
  4. Of 1945; see 59 Stat. 619.
  5. A penciled marginal note reads: “I’m sure the factors stressed by Mr. Ohly will be thoroughly aired in future discussions with Defense Dept. J[ohn] C D[reier]”