Memorandum by the Secretary of State to the President 1

top secret

Subject: Mission to Ethiopia Concerning Military Assistance

Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia has sought military assistance from the United States sufficient to equip two or three divisions. He has also sought a limited number of combat planes.

The Department has considered the possibility of assisting Ethiopia, but under the terms of the Mutual Defense Assistance Act, as amended, Ethiopia is not eligible for grant assistance. Moreover, even if a Presidential determination indicated the advisability of extending reimbursable aid to Ethiopia, which existing circumstances would hardly justify, our present requirements and prior commitments might preclude delivery within the foreseeable future. With respect to combat planes, other requirements have also precluded their sale to Ethiopia.

An American adviser to the Ethiopian Foreign Office has indicated that the Emperor intends to renew his plea for military assistance. The Emperor feels keenly the criticism by the younger elements of his country regarding Ethiopia’s military deficiencies. Despite the limited and underdeveloped resources of his country, the Emperor has carried out his strong belief in collective security by sending to Korea an Ethiopian expeditionary force of 1,158 officers and men, which departed on April 15, 1951.

In order to forestall this renewed plea by the Emperor in a manner which will not embarass him vis-à-vis his domestic critics, I recommend that Lieutenant General Charles Lawrence Bolte, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, United States Army, be sent to Addis Ababa, as your personal representative, to: (1) explain to the Emperor why the United States cannot provide Ethiopia with military equipment; (2) encourage the Emperor to avoid large disbursements for military purposes of funds needed for economic development; (3) assure the Emperor, if the question is raised, that the United States takes seriously its obligations under the UN Charter to support the United Nations in effective collective measures for the suppression of acts of aggression; and (4) explain, if the question is raised, why the United States would be unable to send a military mission to Ethiopia. The Secretary of Defense concurs in this recommendation. Attached is a draft of a personal letter from you to the Emperor which General Bolte could deliver.

[Page 1257]

If you approve the foregoing recommendation, a carbine equipped with a telescopic sight will be provided General Bolte to be given to the Emperor as a gift from the President of the United States.

Dean Acheson

President Truman to the Emperor of Ethiopia (Haile Selassie)2

top secret

Great and Good Friend: Recently I received with considerable satisfaction and appreciation reports of the departure for Korea of nearly 1,200 officers and men of the Ethiopian Expeditionary Force in accordance with the pledge of Your Imperial Majesty to support by acts, as well as words, the principle of collective security through the United Nations. As stated by Your Imperial Majesty in the address to the troops departing for Korea, we are engaged in a “crusade in defense of that very principle for which we have so long fought—freedom and respect for the freedom of others.”

This message of friendship is being carried by my personal representative, Lieutenant General Charles L. Bolte, who has had a long and distinguished career and who now holds the important position of Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans, United States Army. General Bolte participated in World War I as a company grade officer and was wounded in action. He commanded an infantry division in World War II and has been awarded several decorations for gallantry in action and for meritorious service to his country.

General Bolte is authorized to discuss with Your Imperial Majesty general matters involving the defense of the free world of concern to your Government and to the Government of the United States, as well as related problems of military assistance. General Bolte carries the best wishes of the Government of the United States on this mission and, on my behalf, a small token of regard for Your Imperial Majesty.

With the most sincere desire for the continuation of the excellent relations existing between our countries, I remain with great respect,

Your Good Friend,

Harry S. Truman
  1. This memorandum was drafted by Cyr and Hemba between April 10 and May 9. It was attached to a memorandum from McGhee to the Secretary, dated May 2, drafted by Cyr and Hemba. McGhee recommended that the Secretary sign the memorandum to the President, and noted that S/S–PR, S/ISA, UNA/UNP, A/PER, and the Department of Defense concurred. (775.56/5–1651)
  2. This letter was drafted by Cyr on April 26.
  3. A memorandum to the Secretary of State from William D. Hassett, Secretary to President Truman, dated May 17, reported that the President had approved his memorandum of May 16 regarding a military mission to Ethiopia and had addressed the source text for delivery to the Emperor by General Bolté. General Bolté presented the letter to the Emperor on June 13. (Report by General Bolté to the Secretary of State of his Activities on his Visit to Ethiopia, July 5, 1951, 711.5875/7–551)