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January 2, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]
Notes Prepared by the Chief of Staff to be used at [Standing] Liaison
Committee Meeting, Saturday, January 3, 1942.
1. The Under Secretary of State, Mr. Welles, has requested me to present the objectives which the War Department desires the State Department to seek at the Inter-American Conference of Foreign Ministers at Rio de Janeiro on January 15. Briefly, they are as follows:
a. Declaration of war by all the American Republics upon all members of the Axis.
b. Failing this, the severance of diplomatic relations with all the Axis Powers.
c. Agreement to permit the movement of U. S. air power into or across the territory of each of the American Republics, advance notice to be given when practicable, but this not to be an imperative requirement.
d. Agreement by each of the American Republics which has not already so agreed to permit the entrance into or across their territory and the stationing therein of the essential base, maintenance, communications and weather detachments, together with their own equipment and local security elements essential for the logistical support of our operating aircraft.
e. Agreement by each of the American Republics to grant to such U. S. forces as enter or cross its territory in accordance with agreements referred to above, and in the course of operations in the defense of this hemisphere, the use of all facilities which such forces may require, such as electrical and terrestrial communications, the use of airports and their facilities and permission to procure such supplies as are available locally and are required for these forces.
2. The Secretary of War has expressed himself as being opposed to the establishment of an Inter-American Defense Board. He feels that it would involve a military policy which would be gravely dangerous to this country.
I, too, am opposed to the establishment of such a board. I feel that it would be too large to operate with sufficient speed and would lack authority to implement its decisions. The proposed mission of the board, so far as it is attainable, has either been accomplished, or is now in the process of being accomplished.1
Bi-lateral agreements are the best means of obtaining such cooperation as is not yet in effect. Bi-lateral agreements which already exist are reasonably satisfactory if arrangements are made to put them into effect without delay when the need arises.
Other reasons for the War Department’s opposition to the creation of an Inter-American Defense Board are that it would require personnel of the highest caliber which should not be diverted from other more pressing needs. Pressure groups could be expected to operate against United States members which might result in the creation of fertile fields for sowing discord and ill-will by the Axis powers.
For the above reasons I recommend that this plan be abandoned and that any similar plans advanced at the conference in Rio de Janeiro be opposed by this country.2
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Record of the War Plans Division (WPD), 4115-74, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed notes.
1. Prior to United States entry into the war, the army and navy had no uniform method of representation and military negotiation with Latin American nations. After Pearl Harbor, both services sought to use State Department channels as the quickest way to secure permission for bases and the entry of U.S. forces into various Latin American nations. Sumner Welles believed that military coordination could best be facilitated by the creation of an Inter-American Defense Board, which would meet in Washington and consist of military and naval representatives from each nation. War Department planners feared that such a board would be used by the various American republics to press claims for United States military supplies. At the January 2 Cabinet meeting, both Secretaries Stimson and Knox thought that President Roosevelt had agreed to kill the idea. (Conn and Fairchild, Framework of Hemisphere Defense, pp. 192-94, 198.)
2. The State Department believed that the Inter-American Defense Board would be valuable politically to the United States as it would provide a channel through which the American republics could express their views and which would serve as a symbol of hemispheric solidarity. Welles succeeded in getting Roosevelt to reverse his decision against creating the board, and the proposal was adopted at the Rio Conference. Marshall appointed Stanley D. Embick (who was promoted to lieutenant general effective January 15) as the War Department’s delegate to the organization, and he served as its chairman throughout the war, except for a few weeks in September and October 1943. Both Marshall and Stimson delivered addresses at the board’s first meeting on March 30, 1942. (Ibid., pp. 194, 198-99.)
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. 46-48.