McGhee Files: Lot 53 D 468: “Eritrea through Ethiopia”

Memorandum of Conversations, by Alfred Wellons of the Office of African Affairs

top secret

Subject: Lieutenant General Bolte’s Mission to Ethiopia

Participants: Lt. Gen. Charles L. Bolte, Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans, U.S.A.
Lt. Col. William J. Gallagher, Executive to Lt. Gen. Bolte
Lt. Col. Thomas R. Davis, Mediterranean & Middle East Branch, Op. Div. G–3
Mr. George C. McGhee, Assist. Sec. State, Near Eastern, South Asian & Af. Aff.
Ambassador George Merrell, Former Ambassador to Ethiopia
Mr. Elmer H. Bourgerie, Director, Office of African Affairs
Mr. Leo G. Cyr, Officer in Charge, Northern African Affairs
Mr. Alfred E. Wellons, AF

General Bolte visited Mr. McGhee by appointment this afternoon to discuss the subjects to be covered in his conversation with the Emperor during his forthcoming visit to Ethiopia. Mr. McGhee gave the General a copy of the draft instructions, prepared by the Department in consultation with the Department of the Army, which he read.1 The chief matters discussed are summarized below.

The General commented that in view of the fact that Ethiopian troops will soon arrive in Korea, the Emperor will have a good case for requesting military assistance from the United States. Since Ethiopia has suffered greatly from aggression and is now contributing a significant proportion of the national army for the cause of collective security, the general felt that the Ethiopian government would be justified in expecting some further assistance. He thought this assistance should probably be limited to the training of replacements for the casualties suffered by the Ethiopian forces in Korea. General Bolte expected that this would involve providing certain types of equipment for training purposes and perhaps several officers and men from the United States Army to assist in training the Ethiopian replacements in the handling of certain modern weapons.

General Bolte wondered whether it would be wise to give a completely negative answer if the Ethiopians should request a military mission. Mr. McGhee mentioned that the British military mission had just been [Page 1255] withdrawn after some unfortunate experiences when their advice had not been taken or acted upon and he thought that in such circumstances an American military mission would be confronted with serious difficulties. Mr. Bourgerie concurred and expressed the view that it would be best not to send a mission but to assign any men that would be needed for training the Ethiopian replacements to the office of the Military Attaché in Addis Ababa. General Bolte thought this would be a good way to handle the immediate problem. However, he foresaw the possibility that the Ethiopians might need some equipment to maintain internal security, particularly in Eritrea where important American military facilities are located. Mr. McGhee agreed and added that the Emperor required armed forces for maintaining law and order within Ethiopia itself since some of the tribal chiefs in some of the remote areas were inclined to be rebellious. Therefore, Mr. McGhee suggested that after the completion of his mission, General Bolte might wish to make further recommendations on what, if any, further military assistance should be granted to that country by the United States. The General said that in other low priority cases such items as armored cars and tear gas grenades had been made available and he thought similar arrangements might be made for Ethiopia.

With regard to military equipment for training replacements for Korea, General Bolte was confident that authority existed for providing equipment for such purposes. Mr. McGhee agreed that General Bolte should give the Ethiopians assurances in regard to whatever he thought could be provided within the framework of present legislation and regulations. General Bolte said that his staff would draft an additional paragraph for the instructions on this matter and would inform the Department within two or three days. The instructions otherwise are acceptable to the General, who hoped he would not have to give a definite no to the Emperor’s request to visit the United States.

May 7, 1951

Colonel Davis telephoned Mr. Cyr this morning that they had decided not to draft an additional paragraph, but to leave the instructions unchanged. Colonel Davis explained that on further consideration in the Department of the Army it was thought best to obtain the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the question of providing any training equipment or other assistance to Ethiopia. He said that they would present this problem to the JCS immediately with the hope of getting a decision prior to the General’s visit to Ethiopia. Mr. Cyr stated that this would be agreeable to the Department and that we would proceed with some minor modifications on other points before sending the official instructions to General Bolte.

  1. Not printed, but the final copy of the instructions is on p. 1258.