The Chargé in Cuba (Elbrick) to the Department of State

No. 2535

Subject: Campaign To Register Cuban Volunteers for Service With United Nations Forces

The Embassy has for some time viewed with concern the failure of the Cuban Congress to act favorably on the Executive message transmitted [Page 1348] by President Prio requesting authorization to send Cuban troops outside of the country for service with the United Nations forces. The session of Congress to which the message was sent terminated in the last days of May with little indication that the issue would be brought up at any time in the near future. The Embassy, therefore, has considered ways and means of encouraging the Government to take action to implement its support in the United Nations of the decision to resist the Communist aggression in Korea.

It was decided that possibly the most effective means of encouraging Government action in the matter would be to assist Cuban patriotic organizations in carrying out a register of volunteers for service with the United Nations forces. This matter was followed up by the Embassy’s Information Officer, Mr. R. C. Salvatierra,1 who arranged with the Cuban Veterans of World War II and the Comité Nacional de la Acera del Louvre to sponsor their conduct of the campaign with the cooperation of the friendly Cuban press.

A memorandum2 prepared by Mr. Salvatierra on the subject is enclosed.

It was decided that publicity for the campaign would be inaugurated June 22 and that the actual registration would be started in a downtown headquarters especially rented for the purpose on June 25, anniversary of the aggression against the Republic of Korea. The initial announcement coincided with General Ridgway’s3 appeal to the United Nations for more volunteers to light Communist aggression in Korea. Announcement of the campaign appeared in a majority of Habana newspapers on June 22. The greatest publicity was given by Prensa Libre which announced the campaign in multi-colored streamer headlines at the top of page 1. These headlines were as follows: “Cuban Volunteers—to fight against the Communists—register opens in Habana on June 25.”

June 29

Since writing the above, information has been received to the effect that the campaign has gone very well so far (June 28). It is reported that over 500 volunteers have already registered and the drive has received increasing publicity in the press, on the radio, and in the movies since its inception. The Minister of Defense, Ruben de Leon,4 has sent a telegram to the organizations sponsoring the drive, congratulating them on their efforts, which would indicate that the Cuban Government is in complete accord with the drive’s objective, namely, to force appropriate action in the Cuban legislature to provide the [Page 1349] troops which the Cuban Government had previously offered to the United Nations.

In assisting the organizations in question in preparing the drive, the Embassy has, of course, been extremely careful to avoid any possible implication on its own part which might have been seized upon by political opposition leaders to discredit the United States. The Embassy took a calculated risk in this case, and believes that the results already achieved have justified that risk. The fact that the Cuban Government in the person of the Minister of Defense is now openly supporting the drive should serve further to divert any possible suspicion of Embassy involvement in this matter.5

Press clippings are being assembled and will be submitted in a later despatch.6

C. Burke Elbrick
  1. Richard C. Salvatierra.
  2. Dated June 20, not printed.
  3. Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, Supreme Commander, Allied Powers, in Japan; U.S. Commander in Chief, Far East; Commander in Chief, United Nations Command in Korea.
  4. Rubén de León y Garcia.
  5. Airgram 25, to Habana, dated July 17, 1951, reads in part: “Dept commends Embassy upon its imagination, initiative, and resourcefulness in suggesting and stimulating campaign … for registration of Cuban volunteers for service with United Nations Forces, with practical objective of encouraging Cuban Government to implement its support in United Nations of decision to resist aggression in Korea by following through with its proposal to offer battalion of troops to Unified Command.” (795B.5/6–2551)
  6. Not printed.