Memorandum of Conversation, by Albert H. Gerberich of the Office of South American Affairs



  • Replacement of Colombian Battalion in Korea
  • Participants: Ambassador Cipriano Restrepo-Jaramillo
  • Minister-Counselor Misael Pastrana
  • Assistant Secretary Edward G. MillerARA
  • Mr. WainhouseUNP
  • Mr. GerberichOSA

The Ambassador said he had received instructions from his Government to ascertain whether it would be possible to withdraw the Colombian battalion of infantry which has been fighting in Korea beside the United Nations forces and substitute for it a battalion of artillery. He said that Colombia would like to have an opportunity to train artillerymen as well as footsoldiers at the front. He also mentioned that rumors had reached him from various sources that the Colombian battalion was to be withdrawn entirely. He said such rumors are entirely without foundation, and he had been instructed by his Government to say that no one is authorized to make any statements regarding the battalion except the Foreign Minister in Bogotá or the Colombian Ambassador in Washington.

Mr. Miller said he wanted to state at the outset that we are all proud of the brilliant account the Colombian Battalion has given of itself in Korea. We are also proud of the brilliant intervention of the Colombian Ambassador at the United Nations in the discussions regarding Korea, and he wanted to thank the Ambassador personally and in the name of the United States Government. Regarding the change from an infantry to an artillery would have to be taken up with the appropriate Defense authorities. However, he thought that it would be unwise to make the change in the immediate future, as it could easily be misinterpreted and distorted during the present debate on Korea at the United Nations.

He asked the Ambassador if the present request was tied up with the question of reimbursement for logistic support, which the Ambassador has discussed frequently with the Department of late. The Ambassador said that whether Colombia maintained an infantry or an artillery battalion at the front would have no effect on Colombian Korean policy. Mr. Miller said we have been hoping all along to be ready to begin negotiations with the Ambassador on the subject of reimbursement, but in spite of our best efforts the preliminary interdepartmental discussions have not yet been completed. He could only say that he [Page 790] hoped to be able to tell him very shortly that we are prepared to meet with him. The Ambassador thanked Mr. Miller and said he would be glad at any time to sit down with us.

Mr. Miller asked Mr. Wainhouse if he had anything to add to what had been said. Mr. Wainhouse said he thought the effect of a change in the Colombian contribution to the UN effort in Korea might have a bad psychological effect on the other nations who are also contributing. He said he also hoped that the Ambassador would not bring this matter directly to the attention of the United Nations, as he understood he had planned to do; he said the United Nations is merely a “post office” in this matter, and all discussions should be with the Unified Command. The Ambassador said he did not believe the change from infantry to artillery would have a bad psychological effect; the Colombians would not pull out their troops, and all the allied units would see that they were still out there fighting beside them. He added he had no intention of taking the matter to the United Nations; that immediately upon receipt of his instructions he had gotten in touch with Mr. Bernbaum at the United Nations only for advice as to how to proceed.

Mr. Miller at this point alluded to the fact that casualties amongst foot soldiers are some 40 percent higher than in the other line components.

He handed Mr. Miller a formal note1 requesting authorization to withdraw the infantry battalion and substitute for it a battalion of artillery, and said he would appreciate it if Mr. Wainhouse made the necessary arrangements for bringing the subject to the attention of the military technicians.2

  1. Reference is to Colombian Embassy note no. 1377, dated Nov. 25, 1952, not printed (795B.5/12–452).
  2. In Colombian Embassy note no. 796, dated Aug. 26, 1954, the Colombian Government proposed as a basis for conversations concerning readjustment of its participation in Korea that it withdraw the Colombian Battalion, but maintain its frigate Captain Tono under UN Command (795B.5/8–2654).

    In a memorandum, dated Sept. 9, 1954, the United States informed the Colombian Government that the UN Command in Korea had been requested to discuss with the Commander of the Colombian Battalion the necessary arrangements for the withdrawal of Colombian ground forces (795B.5/8–2654).