795B. 5/8–1651

The Under Secretary of State (Webb) to the Secretary of Defense (Lovett)1

top secret

My Dear Mr. Secretary: I refer to that portion of the letter of August 16, 19512 of the Acting Secretary of Defense3 which sets forth the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff regarding Latin American military participation in the Korean operation. This letter states:

“The JCS consider that Latin America is probably the most promising source of substantial contributions. They recommend that efforts be continued to obtain forces from the nations reported on by the Secretary [Page 1023] of State, including Mexico, and that Argentina be requested to make a substantial contribution. It is considered that offers by Argentina and Brazil should be in the order of a division each.”

As stated in Mr. Matthews’ letter of September 27, 19504 to the Secretary of Defense, the Department of State agrees that it is desirable that Latin American forces participate in the Korean military operations. Since the date of this letter, a Colombian battalion has reached Korea and a Colombian frigate has participated in naval operations off the Korean coast. The Department of State will continue to make every practicable effort to increase Latin American participation.

As you know, representatives of the Department of Defense have been negotiating in Washington with General Goes Monteiro of Brazil concerning the despatch of Brazilian troops to Korea. The Department of State considers the negotiations with Brazil on this matter to be most important not only because that country currently represents our best chance of obtaining additional Latin American troops but because it is believed that active Brazilian participation will make it more difficult for other and more reluctant Latin American states, including Mexico, to postpone making similar contributions.

While there are a number of important questions raised by the negotiations with Brazil, I wish in this letter to direct your attention to the question of reimbursement for the assistance we give to countries sending units to Korea. General Goes Monteiro has been informed, in general terms, that Brazil is expected to agree to reimburse the U.S. for the cost of assistance provided, and that the terms of such reimbursement will be negotiated in the future. I believe it is essential for our two Departments to be in agreement as to the meaning of this stipulation and the procedures to be followed in the negotiations referred to, and for the Brazilians to be informed as soon as possible in order to avoid possible misunderstanding.

Specifically, it is suggested that the Brazilians should be informed: (a) that we expect Brazil to agree in advance, by an exchange of notes, to reimburse the United States for the assistance it receives from the United States; (b) that shortly after a Brazilian contingent enters into active participation in the UN operation, the United States Government will begin to keep the Brazilian Government currently informed of the cost of assistance rendered; (c) that, at that time, Brazil will be requested to indicate whether it is in a position to begin immediately to reimburse the United States for the assistance received.

Should it become apparent, at any stage in the negotiations with Brazil, that they will not make a firm offer of troops for Korea if they must accept an obligation, immediately after the arrival of the Brazilian contingent in Korea, to maintain full dollar reimbursement or some other form of settlement on a current basis, it is recommended [Page 1024] that the Brazilians be informed that we are prepared to accept the offer of troops and to defer further negotiations with respect to payment.

While this approach differs in some respects from that which has been followed in the negotiations initiated with certain of the governments contributing forces to the Unified Command, it is believed that its acceptance will offer a practicable basis for negotiations with Brazil and other Latin American governments. If it is acceptable to the Department of Defense, I recommend that it be followed with Brazil and the other Latin American governments from which we seek troops for Korea. Similarly, I recommend that if the Government of Colombia indicates that it is unable to maintain full dollar reimbursement or some other form of settlement on a current basis, we agree to defer reimbursement negotiations with Colombia.5


James E. Webb
  1. Drafted by the Director of the Office of Regional American Affairs (Cale) and Mr. Jamison; cleared by the Bureaus of United Nations Affairs and Far Eastern Affairs, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Economic Affairs, and the Offices of South American Affairs and Middle American Affairs.
  2. For text, see volume VII.
  3. Robert Lovett.
  4. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. i, p. 664.
  5. For additional documentation relating to this question, see pp. 1291 ff.