2-061 To General Pedro Góes Monteiro, October 5, 1939

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 5, 1939

To General Pedro Góes Monteiro

October 5, 1939   Washington, D.C.


My dear General Monteiro:

Please accept my sincere thanks for your gracious letter of September 8th.1  My reply has been delayed longer than I had intended, but I had hoped to hear the result of the inquiry made by your Embassy here regarding certain ordnance I had informed them we could furnish Brazil.  For convenience and better understanding, I have had Colonel Miller handling these matters, and I also requested him to “write direct to you.”2

It is unfortunate that the war in Europe has interfered with your contemplated visit abroad, because it would have given me the pleasure of greeting you here in the United States and renewing our pleasant association.

With regard to the question of the furnishing of armament and materiel by the United States Government to Brazil, Colonel Miller has given you detailed information.  In order to clarify the matter, I shall explain the present status of the possibilities.

Under existing law, we have the authority to sell to a friendly government any materiel which is surplus and no longer needed for military purposes.  I am sorry that this surplus materiel is limited in quantity and quality, because of our deficiencies in war materiel.  However, there is armament on the list, mailed to you by Colonel Miller, which should be of considerable value to the Brazilian Army.  The 6-inch mobile guns would be of special value in coast defense, and many of the guns of larger caliber could be modernized by the manufacture of suitable carriages in commercial factories.  The principal deficiency in harbor defense armament is the lack of ammunition, of which we have a shortage.  If this cannot be manufactured in Brazil, it could be procured from private manufacturers in the United States.  The Secretary of War has approved the sale of surplus materiel to Brazil at nominal prices, and I am awaiting your decision in this matter, before asking the approval of the President.  But it appears reasonably certain that he will give this authorization.

The present law does not permit us to sell new equipment manufactured in our government arsenals.  The bill to authorize this failed to pass the Senate during the last session of Congress.  It will be re-introduced and probably will be favorably acted upon at the regular session of Congress convening in January.  However, we cannot place much dependence upon this source of procurement, even if the bill becomes law, because our government arsenals have insufficient capacity to meet our requirements in the present emergency.

Our program of ordnance procurement, just recently authorized, is designed to remedy the existing deficiencies in manufacturing facilities by giving priority to the purchase of such equipment from commercial firms in the United States.  I think the same procedure should be developed in Brazil.  As our procurement program progresses, we shall be able to declare surplus more materiel, such as 75 mm field and anti-aircraft guns.  Such pieces, though not quite as efficient as more recent models, nevertheless would serve a very important immediate need in Brazil.

This, my dear General, is the situation in brief with regard to procurement.  As Colonel Miller has suggested, it would be advantageous for you to send to the United States, a qualified officer who is authorized to represent you in matters of procurement.  He could select, on the ground as it were, the surplus equipment desired by Brazil, as this materiel becomes available, and could place orders with commercial firms after obtaining plans from our War Department.  It seems to me that this procedure would facilitate matters.

The general plan of the organization of your military forces, as outlined in your letter of August [September] 8th, appears sound, and I am glad to see that you contemplate the establishment of air bases in northeastern Brazil.  Our General Staff is re-studying this question of the air bases, and I shall be glad to transmit to you information on the technical requirements.

It is very gratifying to learn that your government has tentatively approved certain measures for the increased effectiveness of our military cooperation, such as the strengthening of the United States Military Mission, the sending of Brazilian officers to this country, and the employment of technicians to orient your war industries.  You may be assured that we will make available to you our most efficient personnel.  This matter can be decided upon in later correspondence.

With reference to your question on the attitude of the American Congress on neutrality legislation, I might state that whatever action is taken regarding the present law it should not create obstacles to your procurements in the United States, as the neutrality legislation is directed toward belligerent nations.

With reference to the acquisition of Brazilian manganese by the United States and the methods of exchange, I shall make this the subject of later correspondence, after our requirements and funds available have been definitely determined.

Our present plans provide for the sending of the “flying fortresses” to Brazil, so that they may participate in the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic.3  I am not yet able to state whether or not any of our government officials will accompany this flight, but will notify you later regarding this point.  It will be convenient for the planes to transport to the United States a few officers of the Brazilian Army, the number being determined by the limited seating capacity of these bombers.  I will give you more exact data on this point later.  Incidentally, we carried your Ambassador from Cuba to Panama in a flying fortress last week.

In conclusion, I wish to assure you, my good friend, of my desire to cooperate to the full extent of my authority in all measures which will better prepare your country for its own defense, and that of the American continent.  At this time of serious possibilities, we both have difficult problems to solve, but if I can be of any assistance to you, please do not hesitate to write to me direct, or to Colonel Miller, if you so desire, who will keep me in formed.

With my compliments and respects to Senhora Monteiro, and with affectionate regards to you and best wishes for your health, I am

Faithfully yours,


Document Copy Text Source:  Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), War Plans Division, 4224, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format:  Typed letter.

1. General Góes Monteiro had written:  “Brazil had purchased from Germany some material for the Army:  field artillery, motorization and anti-aircraft equipments.  It is natural that these orders are virtually cancelled and arrested.  For that reason I should like to ask my friend to inquire the possibility for the United States to supply us with identical material with extreme urgency.” (Monteiro to Marshall, August [September] 8, 1939, NA/ RG 165 [WPD, 4224].)

2. Lieutenant Colonel Lehman W. Miller had been a student at the Army War College since September 1, 1939. (See note 4, Marshall to Caffery, July 24, 1939, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-018 [2:  22–3].)

3. A flight of seven B-17s, with fifty-seven crewmen under the command of Major General Delos C. Emmons (U.S.M.A., 1909), left Langley Field, Virginia, on November 10.  Marshall delivered a brief radio address at the field before take-off.  The trip, he said, was not only “an aerial goodwill mission to our great sister republic of Brazil,” but also another demonstration of “the high state of development of our air vessels, the performance and reliability of American aircraft, and the excellence of the training of our airmen.” (GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Speeches].)  The flight’s operations officer, First Lieutenant Curtis E. LeMay, comments on the trip in Mission with LeMay (Garden City, N.Y.:  Double day and Company, 1965), pp. 175–82.

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. 72–75.

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