MannWoodward files, lot 57 D 598, “Colombia”

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


The Colombian Minister of War is in Washington and has indicated that he does not intend to leave until he gets a definitive answer to his request for equipment needed to round out the equipment needed by thirteen infantry battalions. Attached is a note dated June 19, 19522 from the Colombian Embassy which lists the equipment desired. Also attached is Ambassador Waynick’s despatch of June 133 recommending that “friendly and helpful consideration be given to the current request for small arms and other equipment for the infantry battalions.” The Colombian Minister of War and his staff have already had some informal conversations with our Department of Defense, and it is our understanding that the list which we have received from the Colombian Embassy was approved by our people as suitable equipment for them to obtain although we are informed that no commitment was made by the Pentagon on availability.

OSA and I would like to turn the Colombians down on their request for all of this equipment, since it is pretty obvious that the Colombian Government wants this to “maintain internal order” with all that this implies in the present state of Colombian affairs. Unfortunately, however, if we were to do this we would risk antagonizing the Colombian Government to the point where they might resurrect their proposal to withdraw their battalion in Korea on the ground that the battalion and its equipment are needed at home in view of their inability to obtain equipment from the United States. We would like at least to minimize this risk to the extent that it is possible for us to do so.

Probably the best solution would be to offer the Colombians as attractive a package as possible on their overall military requirements while attempting to reduce as far as possible equipment of anti-personnel character which is likely to be used primarily against the Colombian opposition. The package which we have tentatively in mind is the following:

The best official assurances we can give the Colombians on the question of reimbursement. This question has been hanging fire as it were for many months and it would be helpful from a number of standpoints to get it resolved favorably during the visit of the Minister of War.
Informal but firm assurances that Colombia’s allocation under the FY 1953 MSA will be substantially increased. In this connection, I think that Colombia’s participation in Korea entitles them to a larger share, and the equipment which they would receive under the grant program would be committed to a definite task in hemisphere defense. Presumably a substantial part of this would not be equipment designed for maintenance of internal order.
Approval on this request of some useful equipment which they desire but scaling down all equipment which is primarily anti-personnel in nature to a minimum, say enough for approximately one battalion. In that connection, we might find a way to imply to the Colombians that, while we are prepared to assist Colombia strengthen itself on the defense of the hemisphere, it is not the policy of our Government to furnish armaments to be used against an opposing Colombian political party.
Approval of the transfer to Colombia of certain training aircraft and naval equipment which they have requested but which have not for various reasons been immediately available.

Before proceeding with any recommendation to Defense on the details of this package, I believe that you should discuss the problem with General Bolte informally to get his agreement to this line of approach.

  1. Drafted by Deputy Assistant Secretary Mann.
  2. No attachments were found with the source text; the referenced Colombian Embassy note no. 699 is not printed (722.5 MSP/6–1952).
  3. Reference is to despatch 1110, from Bogotá, not printed (721.5 MSP/6–1352).