533. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, April 12, 19571


  • Peruvian Request for a Cruiser


  • Ambassador Berckemeyer, Embassy of Peru
  • Admiral Llosa, Naval Attaché, Embassy of Peru
  • ARA—Mr. Rubottom
  • REA—Mr. Sayre
  • OSA—Mr. Pringle

Ambassador Berckemeyer said that he was presenting a note requesting a cruiser, that the reasons for the request were fully [Page 1072] explained therein,2 and that there was really not much for him to add.

Mr. Rubottom said that the Department would consider the note, consult with Defense, and reply promptly. He added, however, that the Peruvian cruiser request had been under careful study by the U.S. ever since Ambassador Berckemeyer and Admiral Llosa had presented it orally on February 8, 1957, and that he wished to express frankly some of the considerations which weighed in our thoughts. From the military standpoint, he said, the U.S. had demonstrated its desire to assist Peru in developing a modern navy capable of effective anti-submarine warfare, and he cited examples such as the credit for the two submarines soon to be delivered. He added that modern concepts of naval warfare had made cruisers outmoded and that they were being converted to missile vessels. From the economic standpoint, he pointed out that, even were a cruiser available, (and he understood none was), it could not be loaned. The cost plus rehabilitation of a cruiser would be from $5.8 million up, while a rough estimate of the annual maintenance would be about $5 million. Mr. Rubottom said that the U.S. had repeatedly shown its interest in Peru’s economic development, that we were aware of some of the economic problems caused by the drought in the south and by inflationist tendencies, and that we felt the purchase and maintenance of a cruiser might place a serious burden on the economy.

Ambassador Berckemeyer replied that the desire for a cruiser involved the very strong national sentiment and pride which the Peruvian nation felt for its navy. He added that he was well aware of the economic implications but that there were various offsetting factors. For example, the two antiquated cruisers being maintained by Peru as a matter of national pride could be scrapped when a modern one was acquired, and he expressed the opinion that Peru’s maintenance costs would be considerably lower than the $5 million it would cost the U.S. to maintain one. He also said that the Peruvian Navy had its own receipts from special taxes which it would use to pay for the cruiser and that the Embassy would present a study regarding the economic aspects if the Department desired.

Mr. Rubottom said that the Embassy could, of course, present such a study if it wished. He said that he understood the Peruvian nation’s pride in its navy as so ably described by Admiral Llosa in their previous conversation but that he thought national sentiment could be guided if the people were made aware of the fact that big [Page 1073] ships, except for super carriers, were outmoded. He pointed out that far-reaching changes had been made in the U.S. military establishment, changes which had affected many careers and military units, but that the American people had understood the necessity for them. He said he believed that Peruvian public opinion could be made to understand that a cruiser would not really be an asset to its navy and that it would continue to take pride in having a sharp, efficient navy of small vessels.

Berckemeyer said he wanted to clear up one point. In various conversations with officers of the U.S. Navy during Admiral Barron’s visit3 and subsequently, Peruvians had gained the impression that the Navy was disposed to grant Peru’s request for a cruiser if State agreed. He inquired whether the viewpoints expressed by Mr. Rubottom also represented those of Defense.

Mr. Rubottom said he believed that State and Defense were in agreement regarding the military and economic considerations which he had presented above. He said that he felt Peru was entitled to a written answer to its note which would express the agreed-upon viewpoint of the U.S. Government and that State would consult with Defense and prepare a prompt reply.

Admiral Llosa said he wished to make some observations concerning the national and international political aspects of the cruiser request. He made some of the same points that he had on February 8 concerning the importance of the Peruvian Navy as a democratic institution and source of national pride. He said that the Peruvian people and government wanted the cruiser and that the request was one which should be considered in the whole context of the very friendly relations between Peru and the United States. He observed that the Department did not have to worry about the maintenance costs, that Peru was able to support a cruiser and would not have asked for one if it had not examined that point. (He did imply, however, that the acquisition cost should be suitably low.) Summing up, he said he believed that, if State considered the political factors in the light of his explanation and Defense took them into consideration together with the military ones, there would be no reason to refuse Peru’s request.

Mr. Rubottom repeated that the Department would consult with Defense and reply promptly. He emphasized, however, that he wanted to be frank and that he did not want the Ambassador and [Page 1074] the Admiral to be optimistic concerning the answer to be expected on the cruiser request.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 723.5621/4–1257. Confidential
  2. Apparent reference to Peruvian Note 5–3–M/101, dated April 11. (Ibid., 723.5621/4–1157)
  3. Rear Admiral Emilio Barron Sánchez, Peruvian Minister of the Navy, visited the United States November 5–8, 1956.
  4. Telegram 666 from Lima, April 17, reported that the Peruvian Naval Minister had read to Ambassador Achilles a part of Ambassador Berckemeyer’s report of his meeting at the Department of State on April 12. The report stated that the Department told him there were no cruisers available for loan, but one might be bought for $6 million, with an estimated annual maintenance cost of $5 million. Ambassador Achilles replied that the decision on the cruiser would have to be made in Washington on naval grounds. He said he was not sure a decision to sell Peru a cruiser would be in that country’s interest because of the burden in money and men the maintenance would entail. (Department of State, Central Files, 723.5621/4–1757) Telegram 499 to Lima, April 19, informed the Embassy that the Department was “seriously concerned over grossly inaccurate reporting by Berckemeyer and Llosa regarding US attitude on purchase cruiser,” and was sending a copy of this memorandum of conversation to Lima. (Ibid., 723.5621/4–1957)