The Foreign Relations of the United States series presents the official documentary historical record of major foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity of the United States Government. The Historian of the Department of State is charged with responsibility for the preparation of the Foreign Relations series. The General Editor and the staff of the Office of the Historian, plan, research, select, and edit the volumes in the series. Official regulations codifying specific standards for the selection and editing of documents for the series were first promulgated by Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg on March 26, 1925. These regulations, with minor modifications, guided the series through 1991.

A new statutory charter for the preparation of the series was established by Public Law 102–138, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1992 and 1993, which was signed by President George Bush on October 28, 1991. Section 198 of P.L. 102–138 added a new Title IV to the Department of State’s Basic Authorities Act of 1956 (22 USC 4351, et seq.).

The statute requires that the Foreign Relations series be a thorough, accurate, and reliable record of major United States foreign policy decisions and significant United States diplomatic activity. The volumes of the series should include all records needed to provide comprehensive documentation of major foreign policy decisions and actions of the United States Government. The statute also confirms the editing principles established by Secretary Kellogg: the Foreign Relations series is guided by the principles of historical objectivity and accuracy; records should not be altered or deletions made without indicating in the published text that a deletion has been made; the published record should omit no facts that were of major importance in reaching a decision; and nothing should be omitted for the purposes of concealing a defect in policy. The statute also requires that the Foreign Relations series be published not more than 30 years after the events recorded.

Focus of Research and Principles of Selection for Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, Guatemala

This volume is part of a sub-series of volumes of the Foreign Relations series that documents the foreign policy of the administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower. It is a supplement to the 1983 publication of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952–1954, Volume IV, American Republics. Volume IV covered both multilateral relations as well as bilateral relations for 20 American Republics, including Guatemala. [Page IV] The historian who collected and prepared the volume knew that the compilation on Guatemala as published was incomplete and flawed. The role of the Central Intelligence Agency in the ouster of Guatemala’s elected president, Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, was not documented in the volume.

The historian responsible for the volume gained some access to CIA records of the operation. He inserted references to the covert operation into the Guatemala compilation, but they were denied in the declassification process. Despite internal debate, the Office of the Historian published the volume without the inclusion of a disclaimer indicating that the published documentation on Guatemala provided an incomplete and distorted history. Critical reviews of the compilation appeared in academic journals and major newspapers.

Partly in response to these criticisms, in 1991 Congress passed legislation that the President signed affirming that the Foreign Relations series “shall be a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of major United States foreign policy decisions and significant United States diplomatic activity” and requiring U.S. Government departments and agencies to provide Department of State historians with “full and complete access to the records pertinent to United States foreign policy decisions and actions.” To help ensure that future volumes meet these legislative standards, the same law also gave the Department of State’s Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, consisting of six academic historians as well as a political scientist, an archivist, and an international lawyer, authority to advise and make recommendations to The Historian of the Department on “all aspects of preparation and publication of the FRUS series.”

In the early 1990s, Directors of Central Intelligence officially acknowledged eleven covert actions during the early cold war years, including Guatemala. At the same time, Department of State historians gained fuller access to the CIA’s files on Guatemala. This volume is a product of improved access. The Central Intelligence Agency has reviewed the volume for declassification in coordination with its review of documents on the Guatemala operation being released to the National Archives.

This volume fills in many details about the role of the United States in Guatemala in the early 1950s. The CIA operation in Guatemala is an important instance of the use of covert action to implement U.S. foreign policy, and this volume provides a detailed account of that action. Because the focus of this volume is on a covert program, the documents published in the 1952–1954 American Republics volume are not reprinted here, but footnotes and editorial notes refer back to the more significant overt aspects covered in the volume published in 1983. The two [Page V] volumes complement each other and should be read together for a full and comprehensive account. To facilitate research the Guatemala compilation from Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, Volume IV, is available on the Office of the Historian website.

The Office of the Historian is convinced that the Central Intelligence Agency has made all relevant documents available for this publication. Bracketed insertions in italic type are used to indicate omitted text that remains classified after declassification review in accordance with E.O. 12958.

Editorial Methodology

The documents are presented chronologically according to Washington time. Memoranda of conversation are placed according to the time and date of the conversation, rather than the date the memorandum was drafted.

Editorial treatment of the documents published in the Foreign Relations series follows Office style guidelines, supplemented by guidance from the General Editor and the chief technical editor. The source text is reproduced as exactly as possible, including marginalia or other notations, which are described in the footnotes. Texts are transcribed and printed according to accepted conventions for the publication of historical documents in the limitations of modern typography. A heading has been supplied by the editors for each document included in the volume. Spelling, capitalization, and punctuation are retained as found in the source text, except that obvious typographical errors are silently corrected. Other mistakes and omissions in the source text are corrected by bracketed insertions: a correction is set in italic type; an addition in roman type. Words or phrases underlined in the source text are printed in italics. Abbreviations and contractions are preserved as found in the source text, and a list of abbreviations is included in the front matter of each volume.

Bracketed insertions are also used to indicate omitted text that deals with an unrelated subject (in roman type) or that remains classified after declassification review (in italic type). The amount of material not declassified has been noted by indicating the number of lines or pages of source text that were excised. Entire documents withheld for declassification purposes have been accounted for and are listed by headings, source notes, and number of pages not declassified in their chronological place. All brackets that appear in the source text are so identified by footnotes.

The first footnote to each document indicates the document’s source, original classification, distribution, and drafting information. This note also provides the background of important documents and [Page VI] policies and indicates whether the President or his major policy advisers read the document.

Editorial notes and additional annotation summarize pertinent material not printed in the volume, indicate the location of additional documentary sources, provide references to important related documents printed in other volumes, describe key events, and provide summaries of and citations to public statements that supplement and elucidate the printed documents. Information derived from memoirs, other first-hand accounts, and monographs has been used when appropriate to supplement or explicate the official record.

The numbers in the index refer to document numbers rather than to page numbers.

Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation

The Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, established under the Foreign Relations statute, reviews records, advises, and makes recommendations concerning the Foreign Relations series. The Advisory Committee monitors the overall compilation and editorial process of the series and advises on all aspects of the preparation and declassification of the series. The Advisory Committee does not attempt to review the contents of individual volumes in the series, but it makes recommendations on problems that come to its attention. The Committee reviews volumes when it considers a review necessary to fulfill its obligations under the statute.

The Advisory Committee has reviewed this volume.

Declassification Review

The Information Response Branch of the Office of Information Resources Management Programs and Services, Bureau of Administration, Department of State, conducted the declassification review of the documents published in this volume. The review was conducted in accordance with the standards set forth in Executive Order 12958 on Classified National Security Information and applicable laws.

The principle guiding declassification review is to release all information, subject only to the current requirements of national security as embodied in law and regulation. Declassification decisions entailed concurrence of the appropriate geographic and functional bureaus in the Department of State, other concerned agencies of the U.S. Government, and the appropriate foreign governments regarding specific documents of those governments.

The final declassification review of this volume, which began in 1999 and was completed in 2002, resulted in the decision to withhold 2 [Page VII] documents in full; excise a paragraph or more from 9 documents and make minor excisions, mostly names and places, in 190 of the 287 documents published. The editor is confident, on the basis of the research conducted in preparing this volume, that the documentation and editorial notes presented here provide an accurate account of U.S. policy toward Guatemala.


The editors would like to acknowledge the valuable assistance of the Historical Staff of the Center for the Study of Intelligence who assisted Gerald Monroe and William Marsh in the collection of the materials for this volume. Susan K. Holly selected and annotated the documentation, under the supervision of David S. Patterson, the then General Editor of the Foreign Relations series. Douglas W. Trefzger provided invaluable historical assistance in the final stages of production. Rita M. Baker and Vicki E. Futscher did the copy and technical editing, and Susan C. Weetman and Steven Glenn coordinated the declassification review. Do Mi Stauber prepared the index.

Marc J. Susser

The Historian Bureau of Public Affairs

April 2003