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Memorandum for General White
April 27, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]
In connection with the great desire of Latin American countries to play some part in the war effort, particularly as they are worried now over the reported purpose of Great Britain, the United States and Russia to manage world affairs, Mr. Rockefeller brought up a number of propositions, most of which were not workable. He mentioned one, however, that offhand might be acceptable.1
Mr. Rockefeller said he was certain that in a number of the countries, notably in Brazil, Chile and Colombia, there were a large number of young men of the better families who would welcome the opportunity to be allowed to volunteer for enlistment in our forces. Rockefeller thought that if we would accept such volunteer enlistments of non-citizens in a statement which implied that we would greatly appreciate such assistance, it would have a tremendous effect throughout Latin-America in giving them an outlet for their zealous desire to do something. He also thought that we could have the pick of very fine young men, the examinations, physical and otherwise, being made at our consulates in those countries.
Let me have your views. Is it legal? Is it desirable?2
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed memorandum.
1. Nelson A. Rockefeller, coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, had met with General Marshall in the chief of staff’s office on the morning of April 27.
2. On May 1 White responded negatively: it would be difficult to recruit only members of better families; there would be no prospect of recruiting only English-speaking individuals; racial distinctions were often blurred in Latin America; arguments would surface to create formations raised entirely of members of one Latin American country; as there were definite pro-Axis leanings in some Latin American countries it would be difficult to exclude potential or real enemy agents; recruitment would place the American armed forces in competition with Latin American military forces, and accepting such individuals into American military service would send the message that America was not satisfied with current Latin American support in the war. (White Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, May 1, 1944, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 327.31].)
Handy likewise responded negatively on May 2, and he added to White’s list of disadvantages: that Latin Americans as a group were “apathetic toward active participation in combat”; should large numbers of Latin American volunteers be killed in combat then the United States would be accused of deliberately sacrificing them to save American manpower; transportation of such individuals from Latin America to the United States would be difficult; the general lack of education in Latin America would make such men difficult to train under American methods; legal difficulties would ultimately arise from the fact that some Latin American countries removed citizenship from individuals serving in the armed forces of another nation; this would seriously affect industrial manpower in the Latin American countries concerned; there would be some individuals who would enlist under the program simply to escape poor conditions in Latin America, get a free trip to the United States, and then have no real interest in serving in combat; and the ultimate difficulties that would arise after the war with regard to disabilities and death benefits from the United States government. Handy therefore concurred with White’s recommendation of “no action.” (Handy Summary Memorandum, May 2, 1944, ibid.)
Deputy Chief of Staff McNarney reported on May 5 that of responses from sixteen military attachés to various Latin American countries, eight were favorable, six were unfavorable, and two were noncommittal. McNarney concurred with the recommendations that no action be taken. (McNarney Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, May 5, 1944, ibid.) For information regarding the Brazilian Expeditionary Force, see Marshall Memorandum for the President, July 5, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-437 [4: 507].
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981– ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943–December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 438–439.