Memorandum by the Officer in Charge of Special Political Problems, Office of Regional American Affairs (Jamison) to the Director of That Office (White)


At the time of the visit of Vice President Oreamuno of Costa Rica in connection with a plan for standardizing the armament of the Guardia Civil, Mr. Miller1 expressed interest in the possibility that legislative authority might be sought for permitting governments which receive equipment from the U.S. to turn in equipment in their possession and [Page 1323] receive credit on the purchase of the new materiel. You will recall that the Chief of the U.S. Military Mission in San Jose had included, in his plan for standardization of Costa Rican arms, the suggestion that old equipment be turned in for credit, and that it was necessary to tell the Costa Ricans that no legislative authority for such a transaction exists.

Although, as you know, our friends in G–3 were reluctant to discuss the idea that legislative authority along the above lines be sought, I have probed into the question in the files and in conversations with various people with the following results:

The Inter-American Military Cooperation Bill which was first proposed in 1946 shortly after termination of World War II hostilities, but which did not progress further than the House of Representatives, contained a stipulation that the benefit to the U.S. which was required might be “…payment or repayment in kind or property or any other direct or indirect benefit which the President may determine to be adequate and satisfactory.” It provided further “…that in arranging the terms and conditions for the transfer of any arms, ammunition, and implement of war, as defined by the President’s Proclamation Numbered 2717, of February 14, 1947,2 or any superseding proclamation, first consideration shall be given to requiring the transfer by the foreign government to the United States of any similar articles, weapons, aircraft, or vessels not adapted to tables or organization and equipment of the armed forces of the United States. The value of such equipment received from the foreign government shall be computed on the same basis as the value of similar equipment disposed of, under existing laws and regulations, by the armed forces of the United States as surplus to their needs, and may be included as part of any compensation required.

It is my understanding that it was expected that large amounts of excess materiel would be transferred article for article under this provision since there were then large amounts of excess which would not have been otherwise valuable except for salvage. I have not been able to find in the files any detailed explanation of the actual procedures contemplated, and no indication of the manner in which other practical problems—such as meeting the cost of our acquiring the materiel turned over to us—would be dealt with.

It appears from the record that the plans for exchange of standard for non-standard materiel provided for under the above bill were contingent upon the existence of considerable amounts of surplus, and that it was deemed that whatever practicable basis may have existed for carrying out such a program disappeared with the disappearance of such excess materiel. It is doubtful that, at present costs, the materiel [Page 1324] we would receive in return for standard equipment could actually be used to produce credit to be applied on the cost new materiel. The expenses involved in our acquiring it would be heavy and might in fact be greater than any value which might be obtained from it. If the primary purpose, therefore, were to be to increase the ability of a recipient government, such as Costa Rica, to pay for equipment obtained from us, it does not appear that this result would be achieved and it would probably be unwise to encourage any such expectation.

While it seems to me that there would be certain political advantaged to requiring a trade-in of old non-U.S. type equipment—such, as the assurance that it would be kept out of hands in which it would be misused and the furtherance of the objective of standardization, I question whether the innumerable practical difficulties are not too great in present circumstances to warrant the effort to convince the Department of Defense and perhaps other geographic Bureaus of the Department that the legislation now proposed should he amended to make this possible.3

  1. Edward G. Miller, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs.
  2. For text, see 61 Stat. (pt. 2) 1051.
  3. At the end of the text of this memorandum appears the following handwritten note initialed by Mr. Heins: “Asst. Sec. Bendetsen offered orally to be of any help possible in connection with new legislation to authorize the U.S. to take old equipment as partial payment.”