2-018 To Jefferson Caffery, July 24, 1939

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: July 24, 1939

To Jefferson Caffery1

July 24, 1939 [Washington, D.C.]

My dear Mr. Ambassador:

General Monteiro sailed from New York on Saturday, having completed his long tour and many engagements apparently in a better state of health than when he arrived. Of course the State Department has, or will, inform you of their view as to the results of the visit, but I thought you would be interested to get my personal reactions as I gathered them from General Monteiro himself, from Colonel Miller who seemed to be on a more intimate basis with him than his own staff officers, and from other officials throughout the country.

On his arrival he got a rather nasty write-up in Time directed against his appearance.2 I seized upon a rather amusing incident at Gettysburg—for he appealed to me to find out if the officer lecturing was not wrong about the designation of a certain army corps—to give the press a basis for writing him up as being a man of great intellectual abilities and having a remarkable familiarity with American history. This got about the country generally, and he was received as such practically everywhere he went.

General Monteiro carried himself very well, considering the limitations on language and the lack of a dashing appearance. He really made a splendid impression, however, better than I anticipated; and while we did not get the public reaction of the people in the street and the children, such as developed in Brazil, yet he was given a really remarkable reception. I do not think any other individual has ever had quite the view of America in a short time that this man did. No officer in our Army has ever had the same opportunity to see our country as did Monteiro; and I think you will find that he was profoundly impressed and carried away with him the feeling that the potential power of this country is so great that, as he roughly phrased it to me, in the end we could lick the world.3 He was not only impressed tremendously with the appearance of our men, as to physique and intelligence, but especially with their great technical skill and high state of discipline. I think he had in mind that we were rather careless people in a military way, and he found in these concentrated garrisons that quite the opposite was the case. The initial demonstration, which was the bombing from high altitudes, and some machine gunnery, rather took his breath away; as a matter of fact, the accuracy was a marvelous display of efficiency. From an airplane he saw the Fleet with its 100 or more vessels steaming into the Golden Gate. I doubt if there could be a similar display of power in the world, considering the setting.

I suppose you will hear all this at first hand, but I am going to have Colonel Miller write a confidential report on his estimate of General Monteiro’s reactions, and I will see that you receive a copy. Miller, incidentally, while self-effacing and modest to a remarkable degree, played the leading role in this affair. He made a profound impression everywhere he went—with the newspaper people, the public, and with our Army officials, who are rather hard-boiled in such matters. As a matter of fact, in some places he was written up almost as much as Monteiro, but he never pushed himself forward in the least. I mention this because he is a man of great value to us in connection with Brazil. I have changed his setting here and am sending him to the War College in September with a view—most confidentially—to his possible appointment as the next head of our Mission in Brazil. He seems to have Monteiro’s confidence to a remarkable degree.4

On my departure from Rio I wrote you rather formally to express my very genuine appreciation of your courtesy to me, your hospitality, and wise guidance. I want to tell you again how very much I did appreciate all that you and Mrs. Caffery did for me, for I fully realize the vast importance you played in making it possible for me to carry through our mission to Brazil. Will you please present my compliments to Mrs. Caffery and give her my warm regards.

Faithfully yours,

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. Caffery, career diplomat and Latin American specialist, had been appointed ambassador to Brazil in July 1937.

2. Time magazine called “beady-eyed, flap-chinned General G

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