2-019 Editorial Note on Latin American Military Relations, 1938-39

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Editorial Note on Latin American Military Relations


The United States Army framed relations with Latin America within the limits of the president’s Good Neighbor Policy. That policy of restrained interference in the region discouraged private munitions sales and military missions. By 1938, the army had assigned only six military attach_s to the twenty nations. Lieutenant Colonel Joseph B. Pate, residing in Panama, also represented the United States Army in Venezuela, Colombia, and the five Central American republics. Two missions, four men in Brazil and one in Guatemala, rounded out the army presence in Latin America.

When Axis activity in the hemisphere seemed to mount in 1938, the State Department proposed closer cooperation with Latin American governments through admission of officers to United States service schools, visits by Latin American military leaders, and expansion in the number of attach_s and missions assigned to the region. The War Department approved recommendations in 1938 for enlarged missions, military publications for Latin American libraries, and pilot training in the United States.

The army was particularly concerned with the degree of German influence in Colombia’s SCADTA airline, which had flying fields within easy reach of the Panama Canal. In January 1939, Pan American Airways acknowledged that it had owned the company since 1931; for political and financial reasons it had permitted the Germans to continue operating the system. To exclude the Germans, it would be necessary to train Colombian replacements at all levels in the company. (Conn and Fairchild, Framework of Hemisphere Defense, pp. 172-75, 240-41.)

Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 23-24.

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Holding ID: 2-019

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