60. Memorandum of Telephone Conversations Between the Ambassador in Cuba (Smith) in Havana and the Officer in Charge of Cuban Affairs (Leonhardy) in Washington, June 3,1958 [1]


Washington Post Article on use of MAP Unit in Oriente Province

Mr. Leonhardy called Ambassador Smith this morning and read to him the significant portion of the UPI article appearing in the Washington Post this morning[2] to the effect that the United States-equipped battalion of the Cuban army was taking part in the large-scale offensive being launched by the Cuban Armed Forces in Oriente Province. He told the Ambassador that the Department felt that it was important to obtain from the Cuban Ministry of State a statement relative to this report as soon as possible today in view of the Amendment which had been offered by Senator Proxmire to the Mutual Security legislation which would, if voted on favorably, terminate both military and economic assistance to Cuba. He also mentioned to the Ambassador that Mr. Rubottom was testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee this morning on our policy towards Latin America and that it was possible that the matter of Cuban use of "grant" equipment would come up for discussion. He suggested to the Ambassador that in his discussions with Minister Guell he remind him that we had not received a reply to our note of March 3 [3] on this same subject. The Ambassador stated he thought that the question of a reply to the note was a dead issue in view of our suspension of arms shipments to Cuba. Mr. Leonhardy reminded the Ambassador of Mr. Rubottom s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in March[4] in which this subject was discussed and the Committee was informed that we had made inquiry of the Cuban Government on this reported use of this equipment in violation of the bilateral agreement. Also, Mr. Leonhardy called to the Ambassador's attention Mr. Rubottoms discussion with Ambassador Arroyo on this same subject. Ambassador Smith said he understood and would immediately take the matter up with Minister Guell in an attempt to get a denial of the press report.

A short while later Ambassador Smith called Mr. Leonhardy to get a rereading of the UPI article and at that time Mr. Leonhardy suggested that in his discussions with Minister Guell he might suggest to him that in view of the relatively small amount of the equipment supplied to Cuba under "grant" aid that it would be to the advantage of both Governments if the GOC could announce publicly that neither the U.S.-trained battalion or the equipment supplied to it were being used or would be used in the Sierra Maestro campaign.

After the Ambassador had consulted with members of our Military and Air Missions in Habana and had called Minister Guell he called Mr. Leonhardy again to report that the Minister was bringing this matter to the attention of the President but that meanwhile he had learned from our Army Mission Chief, Col. Lynn, that 750 out of 800 men in the U.S.-trained battalion in question presently were in Oriente along with MAP-supplied equipment. He indicated that he thought that he might obtain the removal of this unit from active combat if he had something to offer in exchange. Mr. Leonhardy pointed out that the whole fate of our aid program to Cuba could easily hinge on what action was taken to remove this unit and its equipment from use in internal hostilities and that he suggested that this be emphasized to the GOC in his talks with the Minister. Mr. Leonhardy also implied that the use of this battalion in Oriente could place the continuance of our military missions in jeopardy.

With respect to a reply to the Department's note of March 3 on this subject, the Ambassador said he was informed by Minister Guell that the Embassy had received the instructions on which to base the reply several weeks ago and could not understand why the Department had not received it. Mr. Leonhardy expressed some surprise at this statement and remarked that he had talked to Dr. Nunez within the last three days on this matter and he had answered that no instructions had yet arrived from Habana.


1. Source: Department of State, ARA Special Assistant Files: Lot 60 D 553, Cuba. Official Use Only. Drafted by Leonhardy.

2. Washington Post, June 3,1958, p. 1.

3. See footnote 2, Document 27.

4. See footnote 4, Document 29.