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To Jefferson Caffery
August 11, 1939 [Washington, D.C.]
My dear Mr. Caffery:
I am enclosing a clipping from last evening’s Star, on the question of the joint resolution for the sale of munitions to South American Republics. I thought it would interest you, and encourage you—even though it will irritate you in spots.1 Confidentially, I am under the impression that we will get very prompt action on the resolution on the reconvening of Congress. It is already through the House, is on the Senate calendar but has never been voted on. I understand it was not brought to a vote because a filibuster was threatened at the time, but it could have been passed with a large majority had the end of the session not been in sight.
I hope the failure of the passage of this legislation has not been a tragic disappointment in Brazil, and I feel reasonably certain that they can count on our getting matters straightened out at a fairly early date.2
With warm regards,
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, General Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter.
1. Preston Grover’s “Washington Daybook” column in the Washington, D.C., Evening Star of August 10 (p. A-11) noted that “the last-minute legislative jam in the Senate stopped the War and Navy Departments from extending our hemispherical defense network down along the coasts of South America.” After discussing the Roosevelt administration’s support for the bill and the measure’s opponents’ views, he concluded that “the thing will come up again next session and probably will skid through like a wet duck.”
2. The Latin American nations’ interest in securing arms became a major problem in United States relations with that region in the late 1930s. German and Italian influence among high-ranking military officers in several nations in the area was aided by arms shipments, and this was an important factor in President Roosevelt’s decision in mid-1938 to change United States arms sales policies and to seek new legislation to support that change. In March 1939 the Pittman Resolution (a joint resolution which would have ended the arms embargo provisions of the Neutrality Act of 1937 and permitted limited sales of military equipment to Latin American nations) was introduced in Congress. In the face of considerable opposition, a modified version of the proposal passed the House of Representatives on June 30, 1939. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted on July 11 to postpone until 1940 any consideration of neutrality legislation. However, even if the Pittman Resolution had been adopted, it would have limited the army’s disposal of surplus materiel to Latin America to coast artillery and antiaircraft guns. (This subject is examined in Conn and Fairchild, Framework of Hemisphere Defense, pp. 207-10. See also Foreign Relations, 1939, 5: 1-14, and the minutes of the Standing Liaison Committee meetings in NA/RG 319 [WDCSA, SGS].)
Recommended Citation: ThePapers 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), p. 33.