3. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Middle American Affairs (Wieland) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom)1


  • Arms Shipments to Cuba

You will recall that in my memorandum to you of December 19, 1957, entitled “Policy Recommendations for Restoration of Normalcy in Cuba”,2 it was proposed, on page 4, that “sales of arms to Cuba will continue . . .”3 This proposed course of action was tied to discussions the Ambassador would hold with Batista regarding the creation [Page 6] of a favorable political atmosphere in Cuba, and it was expected that our attitude on arms sales would be used as one of the primary inducements for Batista to take ameliorating steps in this respect.

Attached to this memorandum is a statement4 reviewing the action taken during calendar year 1957 on Cuban requests to purchase arms in the United States. In summary, eleven requests were approved and seven were pending at the close of the year. Of the seven pending cases, four have been recommended favorably by the Embassy and no recommendations have yet been received on the remaining three. In the memorandum it is recommended that three of the four requests which have been favorably recommended by the Embassy be approved. These three requests are for:

100,000 rounds of 20 mm. ammunition for the Cuban Navy. This ammunition would be useful in controlling movements of small boats which are suspected of carrying arms to rebel groups, including that of Fidel Castro.
10,000 hand grenades. It would be expected that these would be largely used in Oriente Province, including combating attempts to burn the cane fields.
3,000–75 mm. howitzer shells and two aiming devices. It is possible that these might be used in Oriente Province.

It is recommended that the above three requests now be approved. It is further recommended that the Department of Defense be advised of these approvals but that the Department of Defense be requested to clear with the Department of State prior to scheduling delivery of these items. It is possible that it would be desirable to space deliveries of these items over a period of time rather than making almost simultaneous shipment of them. Further, clearance of delivery schedules with the Department would permit us to delay or cancel shipments if it later seemed desirable in the light of Batista’s response to the Ambassador’s discussions relating to improvement of the political atmosphere in Cuba. Alternatively, it is recommended that the first two above-indicated requests be now approved and that the third request be approved within a reasonable period of time, say three to four weeks; the same arrangements would be made with Defense covering shipping schedules.

Ambassador Smith will be in the Department for consultation next week. It is suggested that this proposal be discussed with him and, if he concurs, that he be given authorization to use the fact of these approvals as he wishes on his return in discussions with Batista, as factors in achieving the objectives set out in the memorandum of December 19. Ambassador Campa’s comments on the matter of arms [Page 7] sales during his call on you yesterday5 reflect the keen interest of the Cuban Government in this question.

Further recommendations will be made to you on the three remaining pending requests for purchase of arms, on receipt of the recommendations from the Embassy.

  1. Source: Department of State, CCA Files: Lot 70 D 149, Arms. Confidential. Drafted by Little. A copy was also sent to Turkel.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. VI, p. 870.
  3. Ellipsis in the source text.
  4. Not printed.
  5. See Document 1.