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Memorandum for Assistant Chief of Staff, War Plans Division
(Attention Colonel Ridgway)1
December 17, 1941 Washington, D.C.
Confirming my telephone conversation with you a few minutes ago, the Under Secretary of State, Mr. Sumner Welles, informed me by phone that the State Department had received word direct from our Ambassador in Brazil that Mr. Vargas did not interpose any further objection to the Marines for Belem, Natal and Recife arriving in uniform. He, Mr. Vargas did request that the machine guns and principal weapons should be unloaded in boxes or otherwise concealed during the first period of Marine establishment adjacent to air fields. The President (Vargas) thought that otherwise the Nazi propaganda agents would flare up Brazil, utilizing the excitement of the first appearance of the Marines. He, Mr. Vargas thought that after a few days other arrangements could be made.2
Arrange details with Gen. Holcomb.3
G. C. Marshall
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Record of the War Plans Division (WPD), 4224-204, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.
1. Colonel Matthew B. Ridgway, a member of the Latin American Section of the War Plans Division, had assisted Marshall on Brazilian affairs since 1939. See Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #1-576 [1: 716-7].
2. The airfields that a subsidiary of Pan American Airways had been building in northeast Brazil (under a secret contract with the War Department) were part of the South Atlantic supply route which had rapidly gained in importance in late 1941, particularly as winter weather threatened the North Atlantic air route and the Japanese threatened the Pacific routes. War Department planners believed that Brazil’s army was insufficiently armed and trained to guarantee protection of these vital bases, and they proposed to send United States troops to do the job—initially three fifty-man Marine Corps provisional companies. After considerable negotiation, President Get