2-414 Memorandum for the Secretary of War, April 4, 1941

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 4, 1941

Memorandum for the Secretary of War

April 4, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]


Subject: Supply of Munitions to American Republics.

1. For a long time the War Department has been under considerable pressure from Latin American Republics to supply certain munitions. It will be many months before we would be able to supply the particular items, in the quantities desired. These Republics have been so informed, but with few exceptions they have been given a frank statement of our reasons.

They doubt our sincerity.

2. The officers of the War Department who have been in conference with these various representatives during a long period of weeks feel that the present demands and unfavorable reactions could largely be dispelled by an authoritative statement on the subject and they propose the following:

[“]The United States is making a great national effort to equip its tremendously expanding armed forces. In addition, it must supply large quantities of munitions to the British.

As long as British resistance continues, there will be no major menace to this hemisphere. If British resistance collapses, we will all be in danger.

The national safety of all countries of this hemisphere demands that the British be supplied as fully and as rapidly as possible. The United States is doing this even to the extent of delaying the equipping of its own troops, but it is doing so in the common defense of all the Americas.

Subject to agreement upon details, the American Republics can be assured that they may begin procuring their armaments in the United States as soon as our production will meet these vital prior requirements. Their armies could thus commence to receive arms only a short time after the armies of the United States have received theirs.

This frank statement is made in order that each may understand the problem facing all, and with the hope that each will continue to contribute full cooperation to the common purpose.”

Whether these statements should be made, and if so, whether publicly, or confidentially to the several governments concerned, would seem to be matters for decision by the Department of State. It is suggested this matter be formally considered by the President.1

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. Lieutenant Colonel Matthew B. Ridgway of the War Plans Division drafted this statement because he believed that it was necessary to inform Latin American governments that substantial deliveries of munitions were impossible in the near future. In his preparation of the statement, Ridgway secured the advance approval of several officials at the Department of State before Stimson sent the draft to the secretary of state. The State Department, however, refused to issue the statement. (Conn and Fairchild, Framework of Hemisphere Defense, pp. 220-21.)

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. 465-466,

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