The Ambassador in Ethiopia (Childs) to the Department of State1

No. 251


  • Deptel 268 of November 10 [14]2


  • Desire of Emperor for American Military Mission to Ethiopia

The Acting Foreign Minister discussed with me at some length today the question of the sending by the United States of a formal military mission to Ethiopia.

The Minister stated that the Emperor had been informed that the United States Government was considering the sending of a military training assistance mission for the Ethiopian Army and the Emperor had stated it was his impression that the military training mission was a formal military mission such as he had desired since the withdrawal of the British military mission.

I informed the Minister by way of background that when Lt. Gen. Bolte visited Ethiopia in May, 1951 the question of a formal American mission to Ethiopia had been raised with him at that time by the Ethiopian Government. Gen. Bolte had informed the Ethiopian Government of the almost insurmountable obstacles to the assignment of such a mission to Ethiopia and had suggested that it might be possible for a few officers and men to be assigned by the Defense Department to Radio Marina at Asmara and detached from there to the Office of the Army Attaché in Addis Ababa for training and instruction in the use of the new weapons which might be furnished the Ethiopian Government under reimbursable military aid. Even this small training mission had not yet been approved by the Defense Department, although I was hopeful that it would be, but the long delay in the approval of even so restricted a mission, I said, illustrated the difficulties in the way of the assignment of a major formal military mission.

The Minister then asked me if I thought it might be in order for the Ethiopian Government to make a formal request of the United States Government for a regular military mission. I replied that I counseled strongly against this and I gave the following reasons therefor:

Congressional approval would have to be obtained and this would be a long and doubtful process. I recalled that the Congress had not yet even ratified the Treaty of Amity signed with Ethiopia more than a year ago because of the pressure of business.
The United States had very heavy military commitments abroad already. The allotment of the limited military resources of the United States was based on strictly priority considerations. Our first commitments were naturally earmarked for Korea and for those countries under threat of attack by Soviet Russia. Looking at the matter coolly and calculatingly, I did not think our Defense authorities were likely to consider Ethiopia entitled under these considerations to first priority or that it was in danger of imminent attack or of being required to be immediately bolstered against a possible threat of attack.
The strain on our resources was so great that we could not spare first-class officers for such a mission and neither we, nor, I assumed, the Ethiopian Government would want mediocre officers.
I thought the Ethiopian Government should wait and see the results of the small training mission which we hope to send. After these officers had been here and had given the benefit of their advice to the Ethiopian Army, the Ethiopian Government would be in a much better position to consider its future needs as regards military instruction.3

The Minister seemed to consider my arguments sound and he said he would report them to the Emperor.

J. Rives Childs
  1. This despatch was repeated to London.
  2. Supra.
  3. Telegram 304 to Addis Ababa, Dec. 3, reported the Department of State had been informally advised that the Secretary of Defense had signed a letter on Dec. 2 authorizing training assistance for the Ethiopian Army. (775.5 MSP/12–352)