534. Letter From the Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Mutual Security Affairs (Barnes) to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Sprague)1

Dear Mr. Sprague: The Peruvian Government, in note No. 5–3–M/101 of April 11, 1957, from the Peruvian Embassy, has revived its request for a cruiser. Peru asks that the cruiser be made available on a loan basis. It will be recalled that the Peruvian Government previously sought to obtain a cruiser from the United States in 1951 when two cruisers each were sold to Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. We were unwilling at that time to sell Peru a cruiser and Peru purchased three destroyer escorts that had been offered.

I understand that the Department of the Navy has recently resubmitted legislation to the Congress for authorization to dispose, among others, of two light cruisers of the Brooklyn class and seven heavy cruisers of the Chester and New Orleans class and that a cruiser could therefore probably be made available to Peru.

This Department does not consider, unless there are military reasons to the contrary, that this Government should make a cruiser [Page 1075] available to Peru either on a sale or loan basis. Our position is based primarily on economic grounds. It is our understanding that the cost of a cruiser including the cost of reactivation would be at least $5.8 million and, depending on the nature of repairs and improvements required, that the cost could be much higher. While the Department of the Navy has no current figures available, it is our further understanding that maintenance and operations costs would be several million dollars annually.

Although Peru’s present financial position is satisfactory, it is not such that Peru could assume these added costs without the probability that it might seek additional financial assistance from the United States for its economic programs. Also, a cruiser seems a particularly unnecessary financial burden for Peru to assume because it is our understanding that a cruiser is not needed by Peru to perform any hemispheric defense task. The Peruvian note frankly admits that the cruiser is desired for reasons of national pride.

We anticipate political problems with Colombia and Ecuador, and possibly Chile, if Peru’s request is granted. The denial of the request would have adverse effects on our political relations with Peru. We recognize that Peru may seek a cruiser in Britain if unsuccessful here and, in accordance with NSC 5613/1, are considering the advisability of discouraging such a sale by Britain.

At the time that the Peruvian Ambassador presented his Government’s request, he was informed that this Government had endeavored to cooperate effectively with Peru on military matters and that we would continue to do so. With regard to the request for a cruiser, however, we had serious reservations on both military and economic grounds and did not anticipate that our response would be favorable but would nevertheless give the request prompt consideration.

I should appreciate being informed whether your Department considers that there is any military requirement for providing Peru a cruiser and, if so, if that military requirement is of such priority as to override the economic considerations I have mentioned above.2 In this connection, one of the arguments cited by Peru in support of the request for a cruiser is that we are supporting a cruiser in Chile. It would therefore be helpful for us if, in considering the Peruvian request for a cruiser, the Department of Defense would also review [Page 1076] the military justification for the retention in the MAP force objectives of the cruisers for Brazil and Chile.


Robert G. Barnes3
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 723.5621/4–3057. Secret. Originally drafted by Sayre on April 19; the last paragraph was redrafted by David de Lima, of the Office of the Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Mutual Security Affairs, on April 29. Cleared by ARA, OSA, E, and U/MSA.
  2. In the draft version of the letter, the rest of the last paragraph reads: “I should also like to suggest, in considering the Peruvian request for a cruiser, that the Department of Defense review the military justification for the retention in the MAP force objectives of the cruisers for Brazil and Chile.”
  3. Printed from a copy which bears this stamped signature.