Memorandum of Conversation, by the Officer in Charge of Brazilian Affairs (Kidder)


Subject: Discussion with General Goes Monteiro on His Mission to U.S.

Participants: Brazilians:
General Goes Monteiro, Chief of Staff of Armed Forces; Colonel Sardenberg,1 Aide to General Goes Monteiro; Colonel Coelho2
General Sibert,3 Inter-American Defense Board; Mr. William Sanders, UNA; Mr. Kidder, OSA

This morning at 10 o’clock General Sibert and Messrs. Sanders and Kidder called on General Goes Monteiro at his home in Bethesda. The meeting had been arranged on our initiative. General Goes was assisted by the two Colonels listed above.

The first third of the conversation was of a general nature. General Goes reiterated some of the statements which he had made in earlier conversations during his visit and discussed his activities on the Political Defense Committee4 in Montevideo, where he and Mr. Sanders were colleagues. General Sibert brought the conversation around to the business which we wished to discuss. He informed General Goes that we were fully authorized to discuss with the General matters which had brought him to the United States. He said that he would like to explain our position from the military point of view and that either Mr. Sanders or Mr. Kidder could discuss any political or economic aspects of matters relating to General Goes’ mission.

Goes Monteiro produced a lengthy document, apparently his written instructions received from President Vargas. He read to us an 8-point resume of the instructions included in the body of the document. He is instructed as follows:

To make clear that Brazil’s first priority is the securing of its internal stability. Until Brazil’s internal security is assured, it would not be possible to send troops to Korea.
Brazil’s second priority is its economic development. Brazil must develop itself industrially and problems of transportation and power must be solved. Solving of these problems is of direct interest to the United States as regards the supplying by Brazil of scarce strategic minerals.
This point in its first section merely amplified the need for development of transportation and power. A second section related to the need on the military side of the improvement of air and naval bases.
The General was to make clear that Brazilian assistance in Korea and in defense of the free world if a third world war should break out would depend upon the amount and speed of the economic and military assistance received from the United States. The greater the help received from the United States, the sooner Brazil could act. As of the moment, the Brazilian Government is unable to determine the date when it can carry out its obligations to the United Nations as that date will depend upon the speed of its preparations.
The General was to emphasize that failure to secure Brazil’s internal situation (i.e., control Communism) and to build up its industrial strength would jeopardize not only Brazil but the security of the whole continent.
In case of war Brazil could, if given assistance as of now, defend itself and its coastline.
The General was to demand for Brazil the right to be charged with the full defense of its own coastline. (He expressed the personal view that if war should break out within a year Brazil, even with help, could not take responsibility for the defense of its coast and of lines of communication in the South Atlantic. This is particularly true because Brazil has no details as to the capacity of the enemy in, for example, submarine warfare. He believes that Soviet strength in submarines will be at least as great as that of Germany during the last war.)
The above points are to be stressed so as to show that President Vargas’ primary interest is to guarantee the internal situation of the country. That is his first consideration which must be met before he can meet external obligations. Nevertheless, Brazil intends to meet its UN obligations and will bend every effort in that direction.

General Sibert thanked Goes Monteiro for his extreme frankness and for his clear exposition of his instructions. He said he would like to speak every bit as frankly in an effort to make clear the reaction both of the U.S. Government and of U.S. public opinion. He then outlined the military priorities assigned by Defense to the principal geographic areas of the world: (1) Korea; (2) Europe; (3) Far East and Southeast Asia; (4) Middle East; (5) Northern part of the Western Hemisphere; (6) Latin America: (a) Caribbean area and (b) the rest of Latin America. Goes Monteiro said he fully understood the reasons for the assignment of the priorities and, in fact, could himself make a good argument in support of them.

General Sibert then made the following points:

We can do a great deal to assist Brazil through the provision of equipment to strengthen its potential for police action to guarantee its internal security.
We cannot, however, provide the crucial weapons of modern war which are already in such short supply that we do not have enough to meet the needs of the first three categories under our priority setup.
Brazilian participation in Korea would lift Brazil from category 6 to category 1.
The United States hopes that Brazil will be able to provide troops, preferably a division, for Korea. We will be able to supply a division with everything that it needs and to provide technical assistance and training. We would provide transportation to pick the troops up at Brazilian ports and would provide fully for their care until they should be returned to Brazil. We would provide everything except replacement of personnel, which Brazil would have to organize in such a way that there would be a constant flow of replacements from Brazil to keep the division at full strength. We would provide for the return of the wounded and disabled to Brazil.
Our help would be on the basis of a loan to be negotiated for future payment. Terms for that loan would have to be realistic.
The $40,000,000 which we are asking from Congress for military aid to Latin America5 is not in any way related to participation in Korea but only to continental defense. Whether or not $40,000,000 is granted is a matter which is entirely up to Congress. If we do receive that sum, it will be the only military aid at our disposal which is not related to Korea. The distribution of the $40,000,000 will be in the hands of the Defense Department. Even so, public opinion must influence the distribution of those funds. General Sibert added that he need not point out the effect that Brazilian participation in Korea would have on public opinion.

Following the above points, General Sibert said he would like to make a few general observations about public opinion. He pointed out that there are large segments of public opinion in the United States which are opposed to our continued involvment in Korea. The Korean war is becoming increasingly unpopular with those persons and another winter campaign will increase impatience. Participation by other nations would have a valuable psychological effect and as well would enable us to follow a system of rotation which would have a favorable effect on American public opinion. The General added that our resources are limited and that we are near the bottom of the barrel.

Immediately before adjourning the meeting, General Sibert said that an immediate offer of participation by Brazil would have an important psychological effect upon the United States, but he added that we would understand if the Brazilians felt it necessary to keep any preparations or agreements secret. General Goes Monteiro replied that, for various reasons which he had mentioned during his conversation, particularly the formation of favorable public opinion in Brazil, it would be necessary for any arrangements to be kept completely secret for not less than six months.

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The meeting concluded with agreement to meet again at 10 o’clock on Monday, August 20.

  1. Idalio Sardenberg.
  2. Lt. Col. Mario Perdigão Coelho, Brazilian Air Force.
  3. Brig. Gen. Edwin L. Sibert, Director of the Staff, Inter-American Defense Board.
  4. Reference is to the Emergency Advisory Committee for Political Defense, established by Resolution XVII of the Third Meeting of Consultation of the Foreign Ministers of the American Republics, which met at Rio de Janeiro, January 15–28, 1942; for text of the resolution, see Department of State Bulletin, February 7, 1942, p. 128. For documentation on the Third Meeting of Consultation, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. v, pp. 6 ff. For documentation on the Committee for Political Defense, see ibid., pp. 74 ff. and 2 ff.; and ibid., 1944, vol. vii, pp. 1 ff.
  5. For documentation pertaining to the military grant aid program for Latin America, see pp. 985 ff.