795B.5/6–2751: Circular airgram

The Secretary of State to Certain Diplomatic Offices in the American Republics 1


Untrue Rumors Regarding Desertions From Batallón Colombia

The Department is informed that false and defamatory rumors are being circulated in Colombia concerning the Batallon Colombia, which embarked from the port of Buenaventura on May 21 and is now in Korea. Current stories are to the effect that more than half of the battalion deserted en route from Bogotá to Buenaventura, only about 300 men having actually embarked. It is probable that Communist propaganda throughout the Continent will seek to spread this and [Page 1306] other destructive reports designed to detract from the effect of Colombia’s cooperation with the UN in combatting Communist aggression in Korea by 1) indicating determined popular resistance in Colombia to participation in the Korean war; 2) creating the impression that Colombian troops in Korea are the reluctant victims of “Yankee imperialism”; 3) undermining public respect for the Batallon Colombia.

The following facts, supplied by Embassy Bogota, are for guidance and discretionary use in correcting false impressions on this subject:

The Batallon Colombia left Buenaventura for Korea with a total of 1045 men. Authorized strength was 1083. The battalion sailed below authorized strength (by 38 men) not because of any lack of volunteers but because of bureaucratic difficulties and delays. For example, a number of soldiers who were actually in hospitals were retained on its rolls, and were not ready for duty in time for the departure date. Soldiers and civilians continued to volunteer for service in Korea until the very day the battalion left Buenaventura; most of them, of course, could not be accepted.
FYI There were some desertions from the battalion, as there are from all Colombian military units. These were due principally to 1) extremely cramped and poor living conditions in Bogota; 2) the fact that some unit commanders throughout the country, instead of sending the soldiers who volunteered for Korea, retained them and sent men of whom they wished to rid their units. End FYI
The combat units of the battalion were up to full strength when it sailed.
As an index of the enthusiasm of the troops, during the crossing of the Quindio Pass, one truck in the military convoy slid off the road. Eleven soldiers sustained injuries including broken ribs, cuts, a broken collar bone, etc., requiring 24-hour hospitalization. All of the eleven insisted on sailing with the battalion and did sail.
The unit had more men by the time it reached Buenaventura than when it left Bogota. Several who had deserted decided to rejoin as the convoy passed through their home towns; two soldiers stationed in garrisons en route requested transfer to the Batallon Colombia and were accepted; also accepted were two civilians who volunteered as one of the trains passed through Cali.

In combating derogatory rumors, the fact that Communist propagandists are even willing to impugn the honor, courage, and devotion to freedom of Latin American soldiers should be pointed out as evidence of their denationalized, perverse state of mind.

The Department is arranging special coverage of the Batallon Colombia at the front. While avoiding any appearance of officious proprietary interest, USIE should use local facilities, where available, to disseminate the resultant material with a view to encouraging constructive interest in Colombia’s representation in the UN forces.

  1. Sent to all missions in the American Republics, except Bogotà; sent to Bogotà for information only; sent also to the Consulates at Recife, Sao Paulo, and Porto Alegre, Brazil; Monterrey and Guadalajara, Mexico; and Guayaquil, Ecuador