146. Chronology Prepared for the Washington Special Actions Group1


August 5—Crimmins told Korry over CAS Channels that, as Korry considered the three options transmitted to him over other channels, he should consider the “fourth option”: i.e., the overthrow of Allende or the prevention of his inauguration. Crimmins asked Korry to comment on: the prospect that the Chilean military and police would act on their own to overthrow Allende; their prospects for success if they made such a try; and the importance of the U.S. attitude to the initiation or success of such an operation.

August 11—Korry replied to Crimmins’ 5 August message that he would not regard the fourth option as a very realistic alternative and that it was one that in any event could be considered only as part of “Phase II”; i.e., after the general elections and prior to inauguration. If Allende were inaugurated by constitutional process, it was highly unlikely that there would be conditions for a military overthrow; only a condition of chaos could be an effective impulse for army intervention once congress elected Allende. Any military effort after inauguration would be almost impossible. Korry went on to say that it was doubtful that there would be any effective army move to block Allende. The idea of a military golpe without the blessing of Frei and without outside support in the form of technical assistance or political action was a non-starter. Korry, speculating on the possible scenario of an Alessandri rejection of a narrow popular-vote win and subsequent election with Frei as a candidate (President of the Senate acting as interim President) and Frei election, said that such a progression would work only with military support. Korry added that he could not conceive of any supportable scheme for a U.S. role strictly limited to the military. In Phase II, he said, the U.S. would have an opportunity to play a constructive role in which the military would be included.

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Sept. 8—40 Committee agreed there was little likelihood of success in buying congressional votes. Helms said that a military golpe (which he noted he was not advocating) would have little chance of success unless undertaken soon. Packard agreed and said he hoped that the Chilean military would undertake such action soon on its own initiative. Johnson and Meyer noted that if Allende’s election were frustrated by a military take-over, a full scale civil war would result. Allende was probably the lesser of the two evils. The chairman called for an assessment of the pros and cons involved in the organization of a Chilean military coup with U.S. assistance.

Sept. 9—CAS Headquarters, in a message to Santiago, asked for an assessment of the possibility of any action by the Chilean military. In introducing its message, CIA stated that the 40 Committee on 8 September, in considering “the possibility of manipulation of Chilean Congressional and military action, decided to give serious consideration only to the latter possibility.” CAS was authorized to make appropriate contacts to obtain information but was instructed not to incite or organize at this point.

Sept. 12—Korry, presumably replying to same (8 September) query, said that it was clear that the Chilean military would not move, barring national chaos and wide spread violence. He said that if the Alessandri/Frei gambit were to be undertaken, the military would have no part to play in it until the final act. Here, he said, Frei was the problem. The success of the enterprise would depend on Frei’s will and skill. Korry summed up by saying that opportunities for further significant U.S. action with the Chilean military were non-existent; they knew they had U.S. blessings for any serious move against Allende but, while the message could be repeated if circumstances so dictated, it would be imprudent and unreasonable to go further.

Sept. 14—The 40 Committee, through Johnson, instructed Korry to find out from Frei to what degree he was committed to the gambit of a congressional election of Alessandri with a subsequent Alessandri resignation that would leave Frei free to run for the Presidency. Suitable and discreet U.S. support was to be indicated for this effort if Frei wished it. The Committee further requested military contacts by all appropriate mission members on an intensified basis in order to assure that the USG had the requisite intelligence to permit independent assessment of the military determination to back the Frei reelection gambit. In the course of this message, Korry was reminded of his contingency fund of [dollar amount not declassified] that had been made available for covert support of projects that Frei thought important. Korry was told that his role was a very delicate one requiring him to walk a fine line.

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Sept. 16—Korry, in the course of his reply, said that the Committee instructions regarding the military would be applied by him in a manner best designed to obtain optimum political mileage and the necessary intelligence on military plans. He said there was little hope that the military could be galvanized into action by anything the USG might do; they were a union of toy soldiers.

[N.B.: In the introduction to this message, Korry said that he was “extremely grateful for the confidence and support of President Nixon and the 40 Committee”. It will be recalled that it was at this time that Korry is reported in the Anderson papers to have said that he had a “green light” from the State Department and the White House. Both Korry’s expression of gratitude in his 16 September reply and his “green light” statement appear disproportionately exuberant when compared to the license extended him in the 15 September message (which makes no mention of the President), or in any other communication to him that we know of. It thus appears possible that another communication to Korry than the ones we have triggered his reaction in this message and the statement he was reported in the Anderson papers to have made.]

Sept. 21—Korry reported that he had asked USCINCSO for support in his intended move to tell the Chilean military that all MAP military training was to be suspended in order to bring about an awakening of the Chilean military.

Sept. 21—USCINCSO recommended against the proposed suspension of MAP training.

Sept. 21—Korry reported over CAS Channels that Minister of Commerce Figueroa had not challenged his observation that General Schneider should be informed that Frei felt that a parliamentary solution was no longer feasible. Korry urged the Minister to persuade Frei to talk with Schneider and put the rest of the military in the picture.

Sept. 21—Korry reported over CAS Channels that Minister of Defense Ossa had agreed with the Ambassador that it was necessary to bring home to the military that inactivity in the face of threatening Allende victory would open a “highly damaging reorientation” in US-Chilean relations. The Ambassador noted that he had told Ossa that oral messages should be sent to General Schneider and other Chilean officers to the effect that all MAP support trips to the U.S. would have to be suspended. Ossa also agreed, according to Korry, to pursue actively the Ambassador’s suggestion that Frei be persuaded either to quit the country or to invite military participation in the cabinet in such a way as to offer Chile an option other than Allende. “If necessary, General Schneider would have to be neutralized, by displacement if necessary”.

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Sept. 22—Johnson informed Korry that today “we (apparently the 40 Committee) considered the concept the military take over the government, control the militant leadership of the UP, and offer a general election with Frei as candidate.” Korry was authorized to let Frei know that if such a course—which must be entirely Chilean—was taken, Frei could count on U.S. financial support and that, if Allende were blocked from office, the Chilean military could continue to count on U.S. support and maintenance of its close relationship with the U.S. Korry was requested to keep his profile low and operate strictly within his instructions.

Sept. 23—Meyer, over CAS Channels, said that Washington was unclear as to the relationship of the new Chilean military awareness of the danger of Allende to the scenario which would result in an entrance of military officers into the cabinet.

Sept. 24—Korry reported that Frei had ruled out cabinet resignations with military replacement, on the pretext that this would do nothing more than assure a constitutional election of Allende. He said also that Frei had informed Schneider that the congressional formula was out and that it was the military or nothing and that a Marxist government would probably end U.S. military aid. Korry said that, according to his informant, Schneider had interpreted Frei to mean support for his [Schneider’s] constitutionalist doctrine.

Sept. 24—Johnson told Korry over CAS Channels that Korry’s message was puzzling; Washington had assumed that the offer of financial support to Frei would encourage him to take whatever action was necessary to block Allende and also that the assurances to the Chilean military of continued support if they participated in this effort would also encourage them. Korry was told that he should be clear that the USG hoped the Chileans would find a way to block Allende from taking office. If Korry did not believe that the assurances he had been authorized to give were sufficient, he should let Washington know as soon as possible.

Sept. 24—Korry, apparently [“apparently” because relevance of reply is dubious] replying to Johnson’s 24 September message, said there was no necessity of his giving assurances of any kind to Frei since he had emphasized from the start that whatever Frei did would be Chilean and only Chilean.

Sept. 25—Korry reported over CAS Channels that in his view Frei would welcome the U.S. doing his dirty work for him by seeking to provoke a military takeover but that he, Korry, was convinced that we could not provoke one and should not run any risk simply to have another Bay of Pigs. Hence, he had instructed his military and CAS very strongly to engage in no encouragement of any kind.

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Sept. 26—Korry reported over CAS Channels that Ossa had told him that Frei had explained to Schneider the consequence of an Allende victory but had said that he did not ask Schneider to change his constitutionalist doctrine because, even though Frei believed the military could block Allende, he could not ask the military to do what he himself would not do. Korry noted that Ossa had also, in pursuance of Korry’s suggestion, met separately with other military leaders to explain that there was no hope of a political solution and the military was the last resort.

Sept. 28—Korry reported hearing indirectly from an Anaconda representative that a group of military persons (below the top level) was prepared to launch a coup if they could get certain assurances from the USG. Korry reported that he had given no answer to this indirect approach other than to remind his interlocutor that Allende’s adherents might be attempting to provoke an abortive action that would seal his victory.

Oct. 1—Johnson informed Korry of the 40 Committee decision of 30 September that MAP training and travel should be suspended and that the Chilean military might be so informed.

Oct. 5—Korry suggested that MAP deliveries should be described as “held in abeyance” since the term “suspension” might cause a reaction favorable to Allende.

Oct. 6—In a message to Korry, apparently from Johnson, the Ambassador was notified of the Committee’s concurrence to hold Chilean military training and travel in abeyance and of its concurrence in a recommendation that delivery of military equipment to the Chilean Armed Forces should also be held in abeyance and that it should be made known to those forces that the USG would not discriminate against them in the event of a non-Allende Government.

Oct. 7—In another message to Korry, this time from Kissinger and Johnson, the same points were made except that the point about discrimination was made a little more explicit. “You have also previously been authorized to inform the military that if the effort to block Allende from taking office is successful, the Chilean military will not be ostracized, but rather can continue to count on us for MAP support and maintenance of our close relationship”. The message went on to say that Korry was now authorized to inform discreetly the Chilean military that, if a successful effort were made to block Allende, the USG would reconsider its cuts in ChileanMAP and would otherwise increase programmed MAP for the Chilean Armed Forces. Increased ship loans were also a possibility. “If any steps the military should take should result in civil disorder, we would also be prepared promptly to deliver support and material that might be immediately required. Obviously we cannot, and we assume Chilean Forces do not want, sup[Page 752]port of American personnel in such a contingency”. The message concluded by saying that the USG would not want the Chilean military to be deterred by what they might feel was ambiguity with respect to the U.S. attitude toward the election of Allende. It was left to Korry’s discretion on how all this could best and most promptly be communicated to the military.

Oct. 9—In response, Korry said that he had taken every appropriate measure to make known to the Chilean military the points aboutMAPsuspension and how the Chilean military could count on continued MAP support and a close relationship with the U.S. should a successful effort be made to block Allende. He went on to say, however, that as far as a coup was concerned, he was unalterably persuaded that the U.S. could and should do nothing to encourage such an action. He said as well that any effort to block Allende by offering more MAP would be totally ineffective and might even produce a contrary reaction. He said that his own view and that of his senior State associates was that the odds were overwhelmingly against a successful coup without Frei and/or Schneider. In sum, he said, any attempt on the part of the U.S. activity to encourage a coup could lead the U.S. to a Bay of Pigs failure. An abortive coup (and this, he said, was what was under discussion) would be an unrelieved disaster for the U.S. and for the President that would do the gravest harm to U.S. interests throughout Latin America. There was no basis, he said, for any hope that there was a reasonable chance of success for any action program.

  1. Summary: This chronology, titled “Washington–Santiago Exchanges Bearing on Role of Chilean Military in Allende Election,” listed the key events in 1970 pertaining to the Chilean military’s response to Allende’s 1970 election.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–94, WSAG Meeting, Chile, 9/14/73. Secret. Marginalia for September 14 is not declassified. A marginal notation next to the bracketed paragraph for September 16 reads, “See cable in SS—it mentions President—so is probably the one on Kerry’s mind.” All brackets except those noting text not declassified are in the original.