271. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson1


  • Ralph Dungan and Chile

I have talked to both Dungan and Dean Rusk about this, and Rusk plans to talk to Tom Mann.2 You may want to speak to Mann about it yourself on the El Paso trip.

Everyone agrees that the job of Ambassador in Chile is now highly important. Frei plans to embark on a course of anti-Communist reform which will involve important negotiations with major American copper interests. We need an Ambassador who is fundamentally sympathetic to the cause of democratic reform, but realistic on the need to meet the fair interests of our businessmen.

Rusk and I both believe that a progressive and imaginative Ambassador will be needed as a counterweight, and that Dungan would be an excellent choice. This situation is much like that in Panama, where Vaughn is doing an excellent job of producing new ideas, while Tom Mann keeps an eye on the brakes.

Ralph Dungan is a liberal Catholic with strong convictions on the need for progressive policies. He is also a realist. He is a good friend of Frei, with whom he has been in close touch for years. I am convinced that he wants to do this job because it engages all his own convictions, and not because he wants the empty pleasure of being called Ambassador.

[Page 596]

Ralph is not absolutely ideal for this job—it would be better if he had some business reputation, and better also if he spoke Spanish (although he is prepared to work on that passionately). But against any presently available businessman, Ralph has the great advantages of prestige in your Administration, proven sympathy for the progressive anti-Communist effort in Latin America, and a close personal relationship with Chile. He has the confidence of the Secretary of State, and he will be an energetic and loyal Ambassador for you personally.

Dean Rusk thinks we should send Cole’s successor to Santiago very promptly. I myself do not believe that is very important. If you now make clear your intention to send Dungan at the right time, he could readily stay here until Thanksgiving or even New Year’s. An able Chargé can easily keep house between now and then.

What is needed is a decision. It will not be good for the Frei administration to believe that we are unable to pick a man for this crucial job during the next six weeks. We have twice delayed Cole’s resignation, and we have now run out of spare time.

If you do designate Dungan, I think we can get cordial and responsive notices from the Times and the Post, and also from other less doctrinaire observers of the Latin American scene.3

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. VI. No classification marking. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. Rusk raised the issue with Mann on September 3, the day before the presidential election. “The Sec asked if he [Mann] had a good man for Chile; we should have a name available soon. Mr. Mann said he had called [Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration] Tom Beale and had pointed out the urgency. Mr. Mann said they had cleared through Ralph Dungan who had been mentioned as a chief candidate. Sec asked if Mann had any suggestions personally. Mann said we should take one of our better ambassadors out of the field—someone strong on economics. Assuming Frei wins, we will be faced with an economic problem. Mann said he did know someone else but had not yet had an answer. Mann suggested the Sec sound out the President. Mann thought the candidate should also know the language. Sec said let us give some thought to the matter; we should move fairly fast.” (Rusk to Mann, September 3, 1964, 3:05 p.m., National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Telephone Calls 8/25/64–9/13/64)
  3. The White House announced on October 2 that President Johnson had nominated Dungan as Ambassador to Chile. (Telegram 290 from Santiago, October 2, ibid., Central Files 1964–66, PER Dungan, Ralph) Dungan was officially appointed on November 24, confirmed by the Senate January 15 (Congress had been in recess at the time of his appointment), and recommissioned January 18. He presented his credentials in Santiago December 10.