Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs ( Miller ) to the Secretary of State 1



  • Request for cooperation of the Department of Defense and of the Treasury in negotiations with the Colombian Ambassador for reimbursement of the logistical support furnished Colombian Armed Forces in Korea


The Department has been informed by the Colombian Ambassador that his Government will not be able to reimburse the United States for the logistic and other support furnished the Colombian battalion and frigate which have been serving with the United Nations Forces in Korea since June 16 and May 9, 1951, respectively. He intimated that our insistence upon reimbursement would force the withdrawal from Korea of these units for lack of resources with which to maintain them, but impliedly left the door open for negotiation as to amount.

The interested areas of the Department agree that the withdrawal of the Colombian contingent might have such a damaging effect upon the concept of collective security through the United Nations as to justify the acceptance of less than full payment. Oral assurances of our eventual willingness to accept less than full payment had, as a matter of fact, been made to the Colombian Ambassador during the latter part of 1950 by Generals Ridgway and Bolte.

Negotiation to arrive at a settlement on such terms is authorized by the directive dated September 1, 19502 of the Secretary of Defense to the Armed Services approved by the President, which states, in part, that “To the extent that the foreign Government cannot make prompt reimbursement in U.S. dollars, the U.S. Government and foreign Government will negotiate the terms of settlement”. We believe that the directive constitutes sufficient authority for the immediate initiation of negotiations designed to insure continued Colombian cooperation in Korea on the best possible terms consistent with that country’s ability to pay. The Department of Defense has agreed that less than full payment may be acceptable in cases involving our general foreign policy, but proposed in a letter dated March 4, 19523 that such cases be referred to the National Security Council For decision.

The Department’s response of May 29, 1952,3 to the above letter stated that the National Security Council was not regarded as the appropriate [Page 770] mechanism for the consideration of such financial questions and invited proposals for alternative inter-agency arrangements. However, I believe that negotiations with Colombia should not await resolution of this procedural problem, and that we should seek to obtain the concurrence and cooperation of the Departments of Defense and of the Treasury in the prompt initiation of negotiations with the Colombian Ambassador.


  • That you:
  • sign the attached letters to Secretaries Lovett and Snyder,4 and,
  • discuss the matter with Secretary Lovett with a view to obtaining a prompt and favorable response.


Draft Letter From the Secretary of State to the Secretary of Defense ( Lovett )5


My Dear Mr. Secretary: The Department of State is in receipt of a note dated March 31, 1952,6 from the Colombian Embassy regarding the problem of reimbursement for the logistical and other support furnished the Colombian ground and naval units in Korea. The note pointedly stresses the importance of Colombia’s contribution to the United Nations, Forces as an example for other countries, particularly Latin American; refers to its initial preoccupation over the cost of maintaining the two units; emphasizes the increasing concern of the Colombian Government over the unanticipated scope and duration of the operation; and concludes that except for its support in men, as well as in supplies and equipment belonging to it that the Colombian troops are using in Korea, it is able to bear the cost only of the pay and benefits of personnel assigned to that theater and not of other expenses which such collaboration involves.

In discussing the matter on May 14, 1952,7 with Mr. Edward G. Miller, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, the Colombian Ambassador reaffirmed his Government’s inability to reimburse the United States for the logistical and other support furnished the Colombian units in Korea. While not stated in so many words, he conveyed the impression that United States insistence on full reimbursement would lead to the eventual withdrawal from Korea of the Colombian units for lack of resources with which to maintain them. [Page 771] However, he impliedly left the door open for further consideration regarding the extent to which his Government might find it possible to meet the costs of the participation of the Colombian ground and naval units in Korea.

In these circumstances it is not realistic to expect that the United States will be able, either now or in the foreseeable future, to obtain full dollar reimbursement from Colombia. Moreover, if the United States allows the matter to rest, Colombia may assume that the continued, and perhaps the past, participation of the Colombian units in Korea will not involve any payment for logistical support. A prompt negotiation with Colombia to arrive at terms for past and future logistical support provided by the U.S. is, therefore, indicated. The United States should be prepared in these negotiations to consider a settlement that provides for less than full reimbursement, or reimbursement other than in dollars, or a combination of the two, but should also seek to obtain the best possible terms of settlement that are commensurate with Colombia’s financial position.

While the Colombian note has, at least by implication, associated the continued participation of the Colombian units with concessions by the United States on terms of settlement that may go as far as a complete waiver, the Ambassador’s remarks provide a basis for believing that some formula of settlement, short of complete waiver, will be acceptable to Colombia and consequently insure continued Colombian participation in Korea.

The Department believes that continued participation of Colombia in Korea is in the national interest of the U.S. If this proves not to be possible without a complete waiver, the matter will have to be given further consideration within the Executive Branch.

In its preparation for and conduct of the negotiations, the Department of State will, of course, welcome the cooperation and assistance of the Department of Defense. I would appreciate the designation of one or more persons to represent your Department in this regard.

Since further delay in resolving the reimbursement question with the Colombian Government would be undesirable, it is hoped to start the negotiations shortly. It would be useful for the Department of State to have data to support the United States claims for reimbursement well in advance of the initiation of the negotiations.

I am sending a similar letter to Secretary Snyder with a request for the cooperation and assistance of his Department in this matter.8

Sincerely yours,

  1. Drafted by Mr. Bernbaum.
  2. A copy of the referenced directive is attached to a memorandum by Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Thorp to Under Secretary Bruce, dated May 12, 1952 (795B.5/3–452).
  3. Not printed (795B.5/3–452).
  4. Not printed (795B.5/3–452).
  5. Draft letter to Secretary Snyder is attached to the source text, but not printed.
  6. This is an unsigned draft by Mr. Bernbaum. No copy of the original, signed by Under Secretary Bruce and sent under date of June 25, 1952 (bearing file number 795B.5/3–3152) was found in Department of State files. The original as received by the Department of Defense is in JCS files, CD 092 (Korea).
  7. Reference to Colombian Embassy note no. 380, not printed (795B.5/3–3152).
  8. A memorandum of the referenced conversation, dated May 14, by Mr. Bernbaum, is contained in Miller files, lot 53 D 26, “Colombia.”
  9. In a letter dated July 18, 1952, the Secretary of Defense informed Secretary Acheson that two representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Lt. Col. Craig C. Davis and Robert E. O’Hara) had been designated to work with representatives of the Department of State to prepare for eventual negotiations with Colombia (795B.5/7–1852).