Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Milton Barall of the Office of South American Affairs


Subject: Bequest for assignment of Chilean Troops to Korea

Participants: Horacio Walker, Foreign Minister, Chile
Ambassador Nieto, Chile
Admiral Holger,1 Chief, Naval Mission, Chile
Commander Contreras,2 Air Attaché, Chile
Lt. General Bolte,3 Inter-American Defense Board
Brig. General Sibert,4 Inter-American Defense Board
ARA—Mr. Miller
ARA—Mr. White
OSA—Mr. Barall

Mr. Miller opened the discussion by referring to President Gonzalez’s strong interest in the international situation and then stated that at the request of General Marshall5 the State Department was seeking the participation of ground troops of additional friendly nations in the Korean fighting and that, because of its urgency, this matter was now being taken up with Chile despite the delicate political situation of the Chilean president.6

Mr. Miller explained that in this matter he was not acting for the United States but rather for the United Nations, which have had some of their troops in the line for nine months, without rest or relief, and which have suffered heavy casualties, including the wounding of the two sons of General Bolte. In this serious position, the United Nations were seeking additional ground forces. Help of any kind would not be refused but the primary need was for ground troops.

While recognizing the political difficulties of the Chilean Government, and of other countries, Mr. Miller nevertheless felt that he had to explain our point of view and to seek aid—not just nominal aid, but effective aid. Though there would be political difficulties, there would also be political advantages to be derived from positive action and collaboration with the United States and the United Nations. The armed forces of Chile would benefit considerably by the valuable combat [Page 1275] training they would receive. This had been turned to political advantage in Colombia.

Mr. Miller explained that under the present laws equipment could be made available only on the basis of prepayment in dollars but that a request had been submitted to President Truman to have this law amended to allow wider latitude. At any rate, given the scarcity of materiel, any equipment furnished would have to be used for a specific purpose, i.e. training for action. In Korea itself, a different procedure is in effect and the United Nations forces could make up any deficiencies in the equipment of Chilean troops. The United States is offering to train the troops in their own countries, furnish transportation and maintain them in Korea. In principle, this would all be paid for by the Chilean Government but this is in principle only and the actual payment would be the subject of negotiations much later.

The Foreign Minister stated that he had followed with interest Mr. Miller’s objective and clear explanation and that he would report on the situation to President González Videla, who is, of course, very much interested in hemispheric solidarity and in the United Nations efforts to combat communism. The political climate was not yet prepared for Chile to go ahead but he recognized the necessity for greater efforts. The Foreign Minister explained that Chile had its long coast line to defend and had to continue the fight against communism to assure the flow of strategic materials such as copper, nitrates and coal. The Communists were making continuous efforts, sometimes successfully, to disrupt production. Chile doesn’t have large land forces but had tried unsuccessfully to send a naval vessel or an Air Force unit to Korea. Favorable public opinion has still to be built up and if more powerful South American countries such as Brazil would take the first step this would help Chile convince its people of the necessity for active participation in the Korean fighting. The Communists in Chile had been conducting a strong campaign against participation in Korea as well as against production of strategic materials. The Government had taken steps to combat this campaign but in a democratic country it could not be put down so easily as in some of the other countries with regimes based on force. The Foreign Minister explained that the Chilean ground forces were weak and that it would be much harder to send ground troops than to convince the people to send a naval vessel, but a campaign has to be made to change the mentality of the press and public and to win them over to the necessity for action by the armed forces.

The Foreign Minister stated that he recognized the necessity for Chile to make its sacrifices and, with the best of good will, would transmit Mr. Miller’s request to the President and study, with him, the possibility of taking action. However, he again made the point that other countries, which were not facing Chile’s difficult present internal [Page 1276] situation, should take the lead, for their action would have a very beneficial effect on Chile. He stated that a reply to Mr. Miller would be transmitted through Ambassador Nieto.

Mr. Miller stated that he appreciated the Foreign Minister’s remarks with respect to other countries like Brazil and that this matter had been taken up with the Brazilian Foreign Minister,7 whose approach to the problem was very sympathetic and he hoped that there would be a favorable outcome. Mr. Miller thanked the Foreign Minister for his frank exposition of the Chilean point of view and stated that he looked forward to a reply on what could be done. In response to a question by the Ambassador with respect to the names of other countries from whom assistance was being sought, Mr. Miller replied that this had been discussed with those South American countries which were considered to be most capable of helping.

The Foreign Minister said that this was a problem affecting all the democratic nations and western civilization and that it would receive serious consideration.8

  1. Vice Adm. Immanuel Holger.
  2. Lt. Col. Humberto Contreras.
  3. Charles L. Bolté, Chairman, Inter-American Defense Board.
  4. Edwin L. Sibert, Director of the Staff, Inter-American Defense Board.
  5. George C. Marshall, Secretary of Defense.
  6. In a memorandum to the Director of the Office of Regional American Affairs (White), dated April 6, 1951, Mr. Warren had stated in part that he and Mr, Atwood had doubts about the advisability of exerting pressure on the Chilean Government to furnish troops for use in Korea “at this time”, since there was “real opposition in Chile to sending Chilean troops abroad,” and that if President González Videla was forced to make an effort to do so “it may mean the fall of the Gonzalez Government.” (725.5/4–651)
  7. João Neves da Fontoura.
  8. The Chilean Government did not furnish troops for use in Korea in 1951.