Memorandum by Robert M. Sayre of the Office of Regional American Affairs to John W. Fisher of the Office of Middle American Affairs



  • Salvador Arms Request.

You will recall that a special delegation1 from El Salvador came to the United States to discuss with the Departments of State and Defense the procurement of arms. The first discussion was held on February 24, at which time the Salvadorans were informed that arms could be obtained in the United States (1) from commercial sources, (2) from the Department of Defense or (3) under the terms of a military assistance agreement with the United States. As to (3), it was made very clear that we could make no commitment on a military assistance agreement under which Salvador could obtain arms on a grant basis. The Salvadoran delegation promised to supply us immediately with a list of the arms desired.

[Page 1010]

We received such a list on February 25 and transmitted it the same day to the Department of Defense. The Department of Defense provided us with estimated prices on February 27, but on such short notice was unable to provide us with any availability data. on March 10 the Department of Defense furnished us with a “refined” price list after they had had an opportunity to study the request further, and this list was furnished the Salvadorans on March 11. They were advised that we could take no further action until we received a firm request from them for arms.

The Army Attaché2 to El Salvador reported on March 2 that the Minister of Defense had requested his assistance in obtaining arms for approximately 10,000 men without going through the Department of State. On March 11, the Army Attaché reported that a delegation was being sent from El Salvador to attempt to obtain arms in the commercial market in addition to those which the United States was being requested to supply.

When on March 26, the Department had received no information from El Salvador as to the action Salvador planned to take on the list of equipment furnished by the Department of the Army on March 11, Mr. Cabot, in a discussion3 with Ambassador Castro on Mr. Cabot’s forthcoming trip to El Salvador, took the occasion to remind Ambassador Castro that we had received no reply on the military equipment list we had furnished and although we did not want to press the matter, we did want to make it clear that we were prepared to help in every way possible.

When Mr. Cabot was in El Salvador, President Osorio gave Mr. Cabot the list of equipment desired and it was transmitted on the same day by Embassy D–679 of April 24, 1953.4 After clarification of some problems which the list presented, the request was approved and transmitted to the Department of Defense on May 12. The request stated that Salvador desired to buy the equipment over a period of four years, but gave no indication as to what part of the equipment was desired each year. When it appeared that the Salvadoran Embassy would be unable to furnish us, in any reasonable time, with information on the equipment from the list that was desired immediately, we advised the Department of Defense in a memorandum of May 255 to make a pricing and availability study and an offer on the entire list and [Page 1011] leave it to the Salvadorans to select those items which they desired immediately. Any other items they desired would then have to be the basis of a further request because prices and availability would change.

The Department of the Army submitted on June 24 to the Salvadoran Ambassador a firm offer to sell the equipment desired at a cost of about $2.3 million.6 At the same time the Department sent a copy of this offer to Embassy San Salvador so that it could be brought to the attention of the Salvadoran Government if the Embassy considered this appropriate. The Army’s offer had a thirty day limit on it, but it was understood that this was a flexible limit and acceptance of the offer within a reasonable time would be satisfactory. Although both the Department and the Embassy have urged the Salvadorans to take action on this arms request, no acceptance of this offer has ever been made.

The Department of the Air Force made an offer on that part of Salvador’s request involving Air Force equipment on July 31, but to date has not received any information from the Salvadoran Embassy regarding acceptance of the offer. We have received information, however, that the Salvadorans are not very happy about the Air Force offer both with respect to the non-availability of F–51’s and the price of T–34’s.

By a note of July 8,7 the Salvador Embassy submitted an entirely separate request8 for a small quantity of machine guns and rockets which would cost approximately $50,000. This request was approved and transmitted to the Department of Defense by a memorandum of July 14.9 This request was modified by a note of July 2410 to drop the machine guns from the list and add steel helmets. This modification was sent to the Department of Defense by memorandum of July 27.11 The Department informally advised Ambassador Castro on August 24 of the total cost of the equipment covered by this request and the Army presented its formal offer to him on August 24.

I am informed by the Army that Ambassador Castro sent the money to cover the cost of this equipment on September 1. Before the Army could proceed with shipping instructions to the depots, etc., it required [Page 1012] instructions for marking the matériel for shipment. This information was received from the Salvadoran Embassy on September 21. The Army has now prepared instructions to its supply people and it is expected that all of the matériel can be shipped from its present location within 60 days upon the basis of shipping instructions furnished by the Salvadoran Embassy.

  1. The delegation consisted of Minister of Labor Salazar, Minister of Economy Jorge Arturo Sol Castellanos, and Chief of Staff Marco Antonio Molina.
  2. Lt. Col. Henry J. Muller, Jr.
  3. A memorandum of the referenced conversation, dated Mar. 26, 1953, is in file 716.5614/3–2653.
  4. Not printed (716.56/4–2453).
  5. Not printed (716.5 MSP/5–2653).
  6. The equipment requested by the Salvadoran Government included rockets and rocket launchers, small arms and ammunition, signal equipment, and quartermaster items.
  7. Reference is to Salvadoran note no. DE–109–A–820, dated July 8, 1953, not printed (716.5 MSP/7–853).
  8. Referred to as El Salvador Case No. 7.
  9. Not printed (716.5 MSP/7–853).
  10. Reference is to Salvadoran note no. DE–118–A–820, dated July 24, 1953, not printed (716.5 MSP/7–2453).
  11. Not printed (716.5 MSP/7–1453).