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Memorandum for the Commanding General, Army Ground Forces, G-1, G-2, G-3, OPD
May 6, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]
The Ambassador from Venezuela called on me this morning and made some interesting suggestions, which may have possibilities.1 His thesis was that if we could in any way bring Latin-Americans into the war it would be very helpful in the future. What he most hoped was that within our operations we could get a few Latin-American heroes.
He had these specific suggestions:
He said he had lived in the high altitude of Bolivia and become accustomed to a 10,000-foot level. He feels that this creates a very special state of physiological adjustment within the body and that it might be possible to utilize this in employing some Bolivians as gunners for high altitude planes, men who are accustomed to high altitude and extreme cold and who are hardy and courageous.
He had a somewhat similar suggestion regarding the Altiplano Indians, that is, the high plain men of Bolivia and Ecuador. They are a courageous lot and are accustomed to the altitudes of the Andes and extreme cold. He thought they might be worked into the picture.
He had a further suggestion regarding the Guarani Indians of Paraguay. Paraguay is not in the war. He states that these Indians are the greatest jungle fighters in the world, utterly courageous and immensely skilful; that it was their work that stalled the Brazilians and others in the jungle fighting in that region.
Dr. Corrigan made the proposal that we should take these men somewhat in the manner perhaps as we did the early Philippine Scouts who were carried on the Quartermaster rolls as employees, or that in the case of Bolivia, which is in the war with the Axis, they could enlist them in their Army, send them up and we could put them on our payroll. He had in mind that we should take a few, say a dozen, and try them out as to gunnery and as to their reactions at high altitudes in planes and see if there was a possibility that they might be able to handle themselves with more efficiency than our people who are not accustomed to such high altitudes and maybe are somewhat softer.
He thought that as to the Guarani Indians, the jungle fighters, we could very easily arrange through our diplomatic channels in Paraguay to get a small group of these fellows, bring them up here and give them a little training and experiment with their use for scout and small detachment work with our troops in New Guinea.
The Ambassador’s great hope was that by employing little groups like this in some way or another, we would get a few so-called heroes out of the proceedings which would have a tremendously beneficial effect throughout Latin-America.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. Francis P. Corrigan, surgeon and diplomat, had been appointed United States ambassador to Venezuela in January 1939.
2. A copy of this memorandum was sent later to Army Air Forces. Army Ground Forces, Air Forces, G-2, G-3, and O.P.D. agreed that such use of Latin Americans “would be undesirable from a purely military standpoint due to numerous difficulties resulting from differences in nationality, habits, language, educational and social background.” To discipline soldiers from a foreign culture would present problems. (Brief, June 11, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OPD, 336 Latin America].) Army Air Forces replied that the physiological adaptations of the Andean people was of little appreciable value at really high altitudes and the ability to withstand cold and altitude would not offset their lack of technical background. “The inclusion of one or more Latin-American gunners in combat crews would result in a loss of essential team spirit and mutual confidence, doing more harm than good to Latin-American relations.” (Brigadier General Thomas J. Hanley, Jr., Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, May 30, 1943, ibid.)
Even though all replies cited more disadvantages than advantages, for political reasons and in the interests of postwar benefits and good will, suggestions were offered. Lieutenant General Ben Lear (Army Ground Forces) suggested that a small organized unit of the Bolivian Army composed of Altiplano Indians qualified for extremely high altitude service could be brought to the United States for further training and then employed in mountainous terrain in the China-Burma-India Theater. A small number of Guarani Indians qualified for jungle fighting could be enlisted as individuals in the U.S. Army under the oath of obedience and trained for jungle warfare for action in the South Pacific. (Lear Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, May 8, 1943, ibid.) G-3 Division responded that a small number accustomed to extreme cold and high altitudes could be trained as aircraft gunners and that a platoon or company of Guarani Indians could be trained in jungle warfare, both as experimental units. (Colonel Henry J. Matchett Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, May 14, 1943, ibid.) Major General George V. Strong (G-2) wrote that in the near future the United States would be able to “point out heroic deeds performed by representatives from the Latin American Republics who are on duty with our forces in North Africa.” Therefore he recommended that the ambassador’s suggestion not be adopted. (Strong Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, June 7, 1943, ibid.) Operations Division suggested that the Joint Chiefs of Staff direct the Joint Staff Planners to prepare a comprehensive study and submit recommendations for an overall policy concerning the use of Latin Americans. (Brigadier General John E. Hull Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, May 15, 1943, ibid.)
Recommended Citation: ThePapers 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. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 682-683.