Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs ( Miller ) to the Under Secretary of State ( Webb )
[Subject:] Cancellation by the Navy of Proposed Transfers of Excess Destroyer Escorts to Certain Latin American Governments.
The decision, which I understand Admiral Sherman2 made yesterday not to go through with the proposed transfer of certain excess destroyer escorts to Peru, Uruguay, Colombia and Venezuela, after the Department of the Navy had completed discussions in this matter with Peru and Uruguay and had, in fact, drawn up in final form the proposed contracts for Admiral Sherman to sign, is a most unfortunate development. Coming as it does just before the Meeting of American Foreign Ministers where the question of military cooperation will figure prominently, it may very well cast serious doubts in the minds of the Foreign Ministers of our sincerity to cooperate in this field, and it may quite likely affect adversely the cooperation of these countries in economic matters, particularly the supply of strategic raw materials.
I believe that with respect to Peru and Uruguay this matter has gone too far for the Navy at this point to cancel indefinitely the transfer of these vessels.
It was my understanding that the House and Senate Armed Services Committees were well aware of the current negotiations with these Latin American countries for the sale of certain excess destroyer escorts, and that as a result of a discussion between Admiral Sherman and Mr. Vinson,3 there was not included in Section 4 of Public Law 3 [Page 1007] (copy attached)4 any mention of destroyer escorts as being in the category of ships for which prior congressional approval would be needed for their transfer. In fact, in connection with congressional attitude on this whole program of excess ships to Latin America, it is noteworthy that, while the further sale of cruisers is precluded by this Act, both the House and Senate reports on the bill state specifically that this section was not intended to cast any reflection on the negotiations and recent sale of light cruisers to friendly Latin American countries.
The Peruvian and the Uruguayan naval attachés,5 after having been told for the past month by the Navy that this bill of Mr. Vinson’s would not affect the sale of these destroyer escorts, learned yesterday that as a result of a last minute opinion of the Navy’s Judge Advocate General6 the term “destroyer” as used in the Act is a generic word which would include destroyer escorts. As a result, they were informed Admiral Sherman would not approve the contracts and no further transfers would take place for the balance of this fiscal year. While the formal offer of sale to these countries has not been made, the foreign naval representatives had been asked formally several months ago by Navy to enter into these discussions with a view to negotiating the technical details incident to the sale. In fact, in the middle of January, all the naval attaches of these countries were taken by the Navy to Coral Gables, Florida, to inspect the ships which they would receive. In anticipation of the proposed sale, the Peruvian and Uruguayan Embassies had, therefore, prepared the way for acceptance by their respective Governments of the transaction and had received appropriations to cover the purchase of the vessels.
I suggest you get in touch with Admiral Sherman as soon as possible and explain the Department’s concern as outlined above. You might emphasize we cannot afford, particularly before an important inter-American meeting, to jeopardize our relations with friendly Latin American Governments whose cooperation in Hemisphere defense we are actively seeking. We therefore urge Admiral Sherman to reconsider his decision. If he feels he cannot do so because of the Judge Advocate General’s decision that destroyer escorts are considered destroyers within the meaning of Public Law 3, you might suggest that officers of Navy and State discuss the problem with the Chairman of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee7 to ascertain [Page 1008] their views on this point and try to work out with them a solution satisfactory to all concerned.8
- Files of Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Edward G. Miller, Jr., for the years 1949–1953.↩
- Adm. Forrest P. Sherman, Chief of Naval Operations.↩
- Carl Vinson (D–Ga.), Chairman, Armed Services Committee, House of Representatives.↩
- Not printed here; for text of Public Law 3, entitled “An act to authorize the construction of modern naval vessels, and for other purposes,” approved March 10, 1951, see 65 Stat. 4.↩
- Commander Juan Manuel Castro, Peruvian Naval Attaché; Capt. Eduardo Beraldo, Uruguayan Naval Attaché.↩
- Rear Adm. George L. Russell.↩
- Senator Richard B. Russell (D–Ga.) was Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.↩
Three destroyer escorts were sold to Peru and three to Uruguay; the transfer of the vessels was authorized in September 1951. For additional documentation, see pp. 1579 ff. and 1611 ff.
In a letter to Secretary Acheson, dated April 24, 1951, not printed, Secretary of Defense Marshall stated in part that in view of the passage of Public Law 3 prior to any firm commitments having been made for the sale of destroyer escorts to Argentina, Colombia, and Venezuela, and the increased need of the United States for anti-submarine vessels, it was the opinion of the Department of Defense that no destroyer escorts should be sold to these governments (720.5621/4–2451); in his reply, dated May 24, 1951, not printed, Secretary Acheson stated that the Department of State concurred (720.5621/4–2451).↩