Memorandum by the Secretary of State to President Truman


Subject: Allocation of Section 303 Funds to Provide Police Equipment for the Indonesian Constabulary

The Department of State and the Department of Defense have agreed that a program of military assistance for the new Indonesian State is needed for purposes of providing military equipment to maintain the internal security of that country against communist encroachment. (Annex A, attached, gives supporting background prepared by the Department of State.) The staffs of the two Departments have estimated that the initial amount of funds required for this purpose is approximately $5 million. The Department of State believes that for urgent political considerations this equipment should be made available as quickly as possible, and proposes that the funds be obtained under authority of Section 303 of the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949.

While the general objectives of the proposed program of military assistance to strengthen the Indonesian constabulary have been jointly agreed upon between the two Departments, the exact content of the program has not yet been formulated by the staffs of the interested agencies. Therefore, it is requested that the President at this time approve a program of military assistance to Indonesia, and that $5 million be reserved for this purpose, under Section 303 of the Mutual Defense Assistance Act. As in the case of assistance to other countries under the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949, it is proposed that this assistance be administered by the Secretary of State in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the appropriate agencies.2

Dean Acheson

Annex A

We are recommending immediate aid to Indonesia because that country is facing serious internal Communist threat which can best [Page 965]be dealt with by strengthening the Indonesian constabulary. The program requested by the Indonesian officials would provide necessary police equipment for 20,000 members of the constabulary. This was considered to be the irreducible minimum for maintenance of law and order in the new republic. The equipment proposed under this program together with their own resources and what we understand the Netherlands Government will provide would give the Indonesians an equipped constabularly of 100,000 men.

The Indonesian Nationalist movement, both Federalist and Republican, is at present non-Communist in character. The Indonesian Republic successfully liquidated a full-scale Kremlin-directed Communist revolt in September and October of 1948. During the disorder which followed the Netherlands police action in December 1948, however, large numbers of Communist operatives imprisoned by Indonesian Republic authorities regained their freedom and presumably are prepared to resume activities in the near future. Present Indonesian Nationalist leadership, having taken a strong anti-Communist line, is regarded as a dangerous enemy by world Communism which will spare no effort to destroy this leadership and to replace it by leadership which will respond to Communist direction.

Since Indonesia is separated from the Asiatic mainland by water, the immediate Communist threat to the Archipelago is internal in character. Therefore, the type of assistance which the Republic of the United States of Indonesia will need is characteristic of police equipment traditionally used in a jungle country. The Indonesia Communist movement is in possession of Japanese arms; it probably receives arms from Communist centers on the mainland and it has in the past manufactured its own ammunition. It can be assumed in any event that Communist forces in Indonesia will be at least as well armed in the future as they have been in the past. Their activities will, of course, increase as Communist forces in other parts of Asia are increasingly successful.

The political, strategic and economic importance of Indonesia to the United States is well known. This vast Archipelago, supporting a population of some 75 million people, lies athwart the principal lines of communication between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. It produces commodities necessary to American industry, some of which are requisite to the United States strategic stock-pile program. Because of the dynamic character of its Nationalist movement, because of its great wealth and because it is the second largest Moslem country in the world, its political orientation has profound effect upon the political orientation of the rest of Asia.

As the Communist gains on the Asiatic mainland increase, the importance of keeping Indonesia in the anti-Communist camp is of greater and greater importance. A continuation in power of the present [Page 966]anti-Communist leadership in Indonesia will have a most profound effect upon leadership elsewhere in Asia. The loss of Indonesia to the Communists would deprive the United States of an area of the highest political, economic and strategic importance and would doubtless result in economic difficulties in the Netherlands which would be unable to retain its beneficial interests in Indonesia on the basis of the Hague agreements of November 2, 1949.3 This development would have a serious effect upon Benelux and consequently upon our North Atlantic arrangements.

Dean Acheson
  1. Next to Secretary Acheson’s signature on the source text was the handwritten notation “Approved 1/9/50 Harry S Truman.” A memorandum of the Secretary’s meeting with President Truman on January 9 at which he approved this memorandum, not printed, is in file 856D.10/1–950.
  2. For documentation on The Hague Round Table Conference, August 23–November 2, 1949, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. vii, Part 1, pp. 474 ff.