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



  • Action to Prevent Delivery of Czech Arms to Guatemala
[Page 1112]


The S.S. Alfhem, a Swedish-owned and Swedish flag vessel, arrived at Puerto Barrios, Guatemala on May 15, 1954 from Stettin with 2,000 tons of Czechoslovak arms for delivery to the Guatemalan Government. Unloading (estimated at five to ten days) was commenced on Saturday and renewed on Monday, the 17th; 1800 tons being still aboard last night. The dock area was heavily guarded by Guatemalan soldiers, and high military officers, including the Minister of War,2 were present. The first train load from the cargo reached Guatemala on seven flat cars and three box cars last night. The kind and quantity of arms is yet unknown. Crew members report two more ships will come from Stettin for Guatemala.

Because predominant military power in the hands of the Guatemalan pro-Communist Government would threaten the peace of Central America, we moved at once to prevent delivery. I telephoned Ambassador Cabot3 in Stockholm on the 16th, but the Swedish Government then stated the ship was chartered to E. E. Dean of London. Mr. Butterworth4 asked the Foreign Office yesterday to have the ship ordered to leave port at once without further unloading, and Sir Roger Makins5 was informed yesterday afternoon. In London we offered to indemnify the charterer against loss. Dean is now disclosed as a dummy in the transaction, holding a “straw charter” in order to justify transfer of Czech sterling funds to Sweden. One Christensen of Stockholm, agent for Czekofracht, the state transport monopoly, holds control over the charter, and Dean has no control, according to the British and our Embassy in London.

I have again asked our Embassy in Stockholm to get the Swedish Government to get the captain to stop unloading, and meanwhile to have the insurance cancelled as a means of getting the ship out of port. Christensen has stated his bill of lading was for “laboratory equipment and optical supplies” and that he did not know of any arms cargo. I have also asked Acting Defense Secretary Anderson to institute action to identify the two additional ships.

  1. The source text bears the following handwritten notation initialed by Assistant Secretary Holland: “Discussed orally with Sec’y on 5–18–54.”
  2. Apparent reference to Col. José Angel Sanchez, Guatemalan Minister for National Defense.
  3. Mr. Cabot was appointed Ambassador to Sweden on Mar. 1, 1954; he arrived in Stockholm on Apr. 29, and presented his credentials on May 6.
  4. W. Walton Butterworth, U.S. Minister, London.
  5. British Ambassador to the United States.