Observing Our Hermanos de Armas: U.S. Military Attaches in Guatemala, Cuba, and Bolivia, 1950-1964

By Robert O. Kirkland | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER TWO

The Attachés, Their Duties, Responsibilities, Education, Training, and Attitudes, 1945-1964

Probably the most demanding military assignment relative to the execution of United States foreign policy objectives in the post-war period was that of the military attaché. Military attaches, “at the point” of U. S. political-military policy abroad, provided intelligence to multiple U. S. agencies which used this information in the formulation of foreign policy. As a collector of intelligence and a diplomatic representative, the attaché’s job proved complex. Nations whose military was heavily involved in politics required the attaché to report on military equipment, tactics, and techniques and also on the military’s political predilections. Some attachés were unable to cope with the demands. 1

How well was the average attaché trained and educated to do this difficult job? What were his duties and responsibilities at the embassy? Who were his superiors and how was he asked to collect intelligence? How did he interact with the various intelligence collectors at the embassy, such as the CIA and the embassy’s political officers? Once the attaché sent his intelligence to his superiors in Washington, how was it processed and how might it reach the highest levels of government? The purpose here is to answer these questions and ones similar in order to understand the attaché’s role in the post war period and lay the foundation for subsequent chapters which explore individual attaches’ experiences in Guatemala, Cuba, and Bolivia.

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DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE MILITARY ATTACHÉ

According to the manuals that laid out the duties of attachés, it is clear that they had some of the more unique duties within the military. While the attaché was primarily an intelligence collector, those duties had to be balanced by his ability to work with his civilian counterparts in the embassy.

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