Memorandum of Conversation, by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mann)


Subject: Mexican Participation in Korea

Participants: Secretary of State
Maj. Gen. Charles L. Bolte1
ARA:AR—Mr. Ivan White2
ARA—Mr. Thomas Mann
Foreign Minister Manuel Tello
Ambassador Rafael de la Colina
Brig. Gen. Alberto Salinas Carranza3

It was arranged that I would meet with Mr. Tello in my office at the Pan American Union Building to discuss the problem of Mexican participation in military action in Korea.

I commenced the conversation by referring to Mexico’s support, in the deliberations of the United Nations, of the efforts of the free world to resist aggression in Korea and said that I hoped Mexico could, after due consideration, decide to contribute a division of troops. I recalled that in this connection the United States troops had now been fighting continuously for about nine months and that, because of the shortage of men in the United Nations lines, it had not been possible to put into effect the program of rotation which is desirable for several reasons. I said that there was a real need for Mexican troops and that I was confident, if the Mexican Government should find it possible to help, that Mexican troops would demonstrate their well-known fighting qualities.

I also said that Mexico was one of the nations in this hemisphere able to play an effective role in Korea with a minimum of additional training and equipment. In this connection, I explained that under existing United States law, military equipment could be made available only on the basis of payment in dollars and, furthermore, that it was necessary to use the limited amount of military equipment available in Korea and other danger zones. Concerning equipment of forces for action in Korea, a different situation prevails in that it is legally possible for the United States to make up deficiencies in military equipment, [Page 1477] assist in training troops, to transport contingents to Korea, and to maintain them while they are in the field there provided it is agreed that there will be reimbursement. I said that the terms and conditions of reimbursement could be negotiated later.

The Foreign Minister then referred in complimentary terms to the sacrifices being made by the U.S. in Korea and to the motives which prompt those sacrifices and said that he was, therefore, pained to have to say what he was about to say.

Mr. Tello then stressed that public opinion in Mexico was not prepared at this time to send Mexican troops outside of Mexican territory; and he spoke at some length concerning what he described as a similar state of U.S. public mind preceding the First World War and preceding Pearl Harbor in the Second World War. He denied that Mexican public opinion was greatly influenced by communists, saying that there were only “a handful” of communists and their opinions did not amount to much.

He then referred to the discussions with the American Ambassador4 in Mexico City preceding the decision of the Mexican Government to vote in the United Nations in favor of resisting aggression in Korea. He said he made it plain to the American Ambassador at that time— and the American Ambassador agreed—that Mexico’s action in the United Nations would not constitute an obligation on Mexico’s part to furnish troops.

In the course of the conversation, the Foreign Minister also remarked that this is a pre-election period in Mexico and expressed his opinion that Mexico would be unable to bear the cost of maintaining a division in the field.

I agreed that Mexico’s action in the United Nations did not create a legal obligation on Mexico’s part to furnish troops. I said that the problem seemed to resolve itself into one of internal Mexican politics and that it seemed to me the question was one of preparing and leading Mexican public opinion.5

  1. Chairman, Inter-American Defense Board, and Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, Department of the Army.
  2. Director, Office of Regional American Affairs.
  3. Military Attach, Mexican Embassy.
  4. Walter Thurston, Ambassador to Mexico from June 1946 to November 1950.
  5. In telegram 11, from Mexico City, dated July 6, 1951, Ambassador O’Dwyer stated in part the following: “Mexico’s attitude toward collective security cooperation unchanged with no indication Mex intends contribute mil to fight aggression in Korea or elsewhere abroad.” (795.00/7–651)