15. Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation, January 21, 19551


  • Situation in Guatemala after January 20 Incident2


  • The Honorable Norman Armour, American Ambassador, Guatemala
  • Mr. Thomas C. Mann, Counselor, American Embassy, Guatemala
  • MID—Mr. Leddy

Ambassador Armour and Mr. Mann stated the Embassy wished to bring the Department up to date on the immediate situation; I assured them that Embassy cables 447–454,3 all dated on the 20th, had been received and gave very clear and complete information; that the incident had been reported here in the press as front page news but describing the incident as terminated, the Government in full control and the situation calm.

Mr. Mann said that it is yet early to form any positive opinion; it appears that some attempt against the Government was scheduled, [Page 50] to be kicked off in the near future, and the incident yesterday may have been precipitated by the Government in order to test the strength of its opponents. At this moment it cannot be said what the result will be. The present reaction could extend into a sweeping purge, as it reopens a basic issue which existed at the time compromise was made last summer. The policy of conciliation seems temporarily suspended in favor of one of force and strength.

I said that newspaper accounts here indicated very few to be involved and that eight or ten of them had been forcefully dealt with. Mr. Mann said that it is not clear what the scope of the action was or [was] meant to be and that the whole reaction might be delayed a week or a month. Meanwhile, he and the Ambassador reported the present situation as apparently calm and wanted the Department to have all of the foregoing, as well as to receive any inquiries from the Department.

I told Ambassador Armour that as a result of discussions here on the evening of the 19th and morning of the 20th a cable had been drafted but had not yet gone to the Embassy, indicating the usefulness of a review of what might be considered our total position, and I suggested that the Ambassador’s careful advice, in review with his staff, would be very helpful at this time. I emphasized that this was in preparation before anything happened yesterday in Guatemala and that the incident of the 20th had not sparked the inquiry, though it does highlight its importance. Ambassador Armour said that he and his staff would give very prompt and thorough action to the cable when received.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 714.00/1–2155. Confidential. Drafted by Leddy.
  2. According to telegram 454 from Guatemala City, January 20, a force led by Colonel Francisco Cosenza Galvez attempted to occupy the airport and military base at La Aurora near the capital. The attackers were repelled by troops loyal to the government of President Carlos Castillo Armas. (Ibid., 714.00/1–2055) In despatch 602 from Guatemala City, January 25, the Embassy offered a summary and interpretation of the events of January 20. The despatch, prepared by John Calvin Hill, Jr., Second Secretary of the Embassy, reads, in part: “It now appears to be generally accepted that there was no actual attack on the airport or Base Militar and the general impression among informed people is that the government learned a plot was about to break out and simply moved first by seizing those responsible and executing them.” (Ibid., 714.00/1–2555)
  3. Ibid., 714.00/1–2055.