Thomas C. Mann

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Thomas C. Mann
Chamizal convention 1963 Mann Tello.jpg
United States Ambassador to Mexico, Thomas C. Mann, left, August 29, 1963.
Thomas Clifton Mann

(1912-11-11)November 11, 1912
DiedJanuary 23, 1999(1999-01-23) (aged 86)
Resting placeLaredo City Cemetery
Alma materBaylor University

Thomas Clifton Mann (November 11, 1912 – January 23, 1999)[1] was an American diplomat who specialized in Latin American affairs. He entered the U.S. Department of State in 1942 and quickly rose through the ranks to become an influential establishment figure. He worked to influence the internal affairs of numerous Latin American nations, typically focusing on economic and political influence rather than direct military intervention. After Lyndon B. Johnson became President in 1963, Mann received a double appointment and was recognized as the U.S. authority on Latin America. In March 1964, Mann outlined a policy of supporting regime change and promoting the economic interests of U.S. businesses. This policy, which moved away from the political centrism of Kennedy's Alliance for Progress, has been called the Mann Doctrine. Mann left the State Department in 1966 and became a spokesperson for the Automobile Manufacturer's Association.

Early life[edit]

Born in Laredo, an American city on the border with Mexico, Mann grew up speaking English and Spanish. His father was a lawyer and a Southern Baptist.[2]

He attended Baylor University and Baylor Law School, both in Waco, Texas, where he met his wife, the former Nancy Aynesworth. He graduated from law school in 1934 and took a job at his father's law firm.[3] He held various posts, as a lawyer in Laredo, in 1934 to 1942.

Early career[edit]

Mann was rejected from the Navy due to poor vision. He joined the Diplomatic Service, United States Department Of State in 1942, and was deployed to Montevideo in Uruguay to investigate Nazi shipping. In 1943, he was promoted to do this job across Latin America. He was involved in creating the 1945 Act of Chapultepec treaty for mutual defense of trans-American nations.[3]

Truman administration[edit]

After unsuccessfully coordinating US opposition to Juan Perón in the 1946 Argentine election, he directed US diplomats in Latin America to avoid supporting particular candidates in elections—lest they suffer due to the perceived association. He commented during the 1950 Guatemalan election:[4]

At election time it is just political suicide to try to defend the United States... I think on the whole people in the other American Republics understand and support us, but it isn't good politics to say so at election time. We are a sort of punching bag during elections. Everybody likes to take a swing at us, and makes sure he does every time you say something.

Mann sought military assistance from Latin American countries during the Korean War, commenting "that if the Bolivians were complaining about spilling their blood for Yankees, a lot of Yankees were also complaining about American blood already being spilled in Korea for Bolivia and other countries of the hemisphere".[4]

Mann believed that nationalism and Communism were related problems, and sought to prevent both as part of efforts to prevent Latin nationalization of resources.[5] In a surprise to many observers, he agreed to secure US aid for Bolivia following the 1952 Bolivian revolution, partly as a reward for the new government's agreement to compensate US tin companies for nationalized assets.[6]

Eisenhower administration[edit]

Policy shift[edit]

In 1952, Mann welcomed the incoming Eisenhower administration with a 42-page memo on US relations with Latin America.

The memo argued that the main issue for the US in this region was not a Communist invasion, but the problem of US control over "readily accessible essential strategic materials". These included vanadium as well as crude petroleum, resources which the US imported mostly from Latin America. Mann advocated swift US intervention to retaliate against nationalizations, as a show of force to deter similar actions by other countries. This memo was a source for NSC 144/1, representing the incoming Eisenhower administration's new policy on Latin America.[7]


In Guatemala, Mann attended the inauguration of President Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán and pronounced him a communist. Although he resisted early overtures by United Fruit representatives to intervene, he opposed Árbenz's land reform law, fearing that Guatemala would provide a test case for other nations. After the CIA-backed military coup in 1954, Mann was recalled from Greece to Guatemala. He established Norman Armour as the US ambassador and sought to bolster the new military government of Castillo Armas. Mann reportedly gained de facto veto power over Guatemalan policy; after Mann had rejected a new oil law, Armas said he would come to "no final decision without consulting with Mr. Mann."[8]

Mann later reflected that US operatives in Guatemala had an "illusion of omnipotence", saying in 1975:[9]

We were on the crest of a wave and nobody, literally nobody on the Hill or anywhere else ever questioned our ability to do anything if we wanted to do it [and] if we were willing to spend the money and the effort to do it.

Economic aid[edit]

In late September 1957 Mann moved to Washington, D.C., to become Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs. Trans-American economic problems had created dissatisfaction and threatened to push Latin American countries away from the US. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles blamed an "economic war" waged by Moscow. Vice President Richard Nixon was mobbed by angry protestors in Venezuela and elsewhere.[10] Mann advocated policies of robust economic assistance, establishing the Inter-American Development Bank and promoting low-interest loans financed by the US government. Mann pushed for "a Marshall Plan for Latin America" which would also include private finance. Eisenhower concurred, and appointed Mann as Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs in August 1960.[11]

Kennedy administration[edit]

President John F. Kennedy promoted the Alliance for Progress, a centrist initiative to support Latin American economies and stave off communism through moderate reform.

Mann did not support the Bay of Pigs invasion, which had been planned by the CIA before Kennedy took office. He doubted the possibility of a popular uprising and, with Kennedy, opposed involvement by the US Air Force. He resigned his position at the State Department just weeks before the invasion took place in April 1961.[12][13] In general, Mann felt that military action against Cuba would be too damaging for the US image.[14] Instead, he supported economic sanctions to create suffering and dissatisfaction among the Cuban poor.[15]

Kennedy appointed Mann United States Ambassador to Mexico where he successfully negotiated a settlement of the Chamizal border between the US and Mexican governments, caused by a shift in the Rio Grande.

Johnson administration[edit]

On December 14, 1963, new President Lyndon B. Johnson re-appointed Mann Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs. On December 21, Johnson also made Mann the head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), an organization created by President Kennedy two years earlier. The double-appointment was opposed by the Kennedys and their liberal supporters, including Senator Hubert Humphrey and advisor Arthur Schlesinger Jr.. Schlesinger wrote that Johnson's appointment of Mann constituted "a declaration of independence, even perhaps a declaration of aggression against the Kennedys."[16] Members of the United States corporate establishment, generally felt they had a good relationship with Mann and supported the appointment.[17][18]

Mann Doctrine[edit]

In March 1964, the new Johnson administration held a three-day policy conference for all U.S. diplomats in Latin America. On March 18, Mann gave a secret speech to U.S. officials which laid out the administration's policy for the region. Mann did not discuss the Alliance for Progress. His policy called for non-intervention against dictators if they were friendly to US business interests, but intervention against Communists regardless of their policies. The content of Mann's speech was leaked to the New York Times. His comments were interpreted as prioritizing US economic interests over political reform, and the thrust of this policy became known as the "Mann Doctrine".[19][20]


Later that month, Mann supported the military overthrow of the democratically elected government in Brazil, claiming a victory against Communism. Mann assisted this takeover directly by diverting US aid to Brazil away from the Goulart's central government.[21][22] US operatives interpreted the March 18 Mann Doctrine as a "green light" for the coup to go forward.[23] After the coup, Mann stated that "the frustration of Communistic objectives in Brazil was the single most important victory for freedom in the hemisphere in recent years".[24]


In Chile, Mann ordered an intensive and coordinated campaign in favor of Eduardo Frei against Salvador Allende in the 1964 elections. In a May 1 memo to Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Mann wrote:[25]

Clearly, the September election will be determined by factors which are deeply rooted in the political, economic, and social fabric of the Chilean scene and by the campaign abilities of the major contenders. Given the consequences, however, if this major Latin American nation should become the first country in the hemisphere to freely choose an avowed Marxist as its elected president, the Department, CIA, and other agencies have embarked on a major campaign to prevent Allende's election and to support Frei, the only candidate who has a chance of beating him.

Mann described a ten-point plan, which included:[26]

  • threats of economic retaliation against Chile if Allende won;
  • CIA and USIA production and dissemination of unattributed propaganda against Allende;
  • $70 million in emergency loans to prop up the economy and reduce unemployment before the election; and
  • secret contacts of US government and businesses with Chilean business, military, police, clergy, trade unions, and Masons, for the purpose of opposing Allende.

These efforts were successful in 1964 but reversed in 1970.[27]


In Bolivia, when General René Barrientos Ortuño led a takeover of the popular Revolutionary Nationalist Movement (MNR) government, which had been in power for twelve years, Mann secured aid for the new military government.[28]


Mann later served in Panama during a period of intense agitation waged by Panamanians against the Panama Canal Zone. Mann began some successful negotiations with Panama, but was undercut by Johnson, who did not want to capitulate for political reasons.[29]

Dominican Republic[edit]

In the Dominican Republic, Mann labeled democratically elected President Juan Bosch a communist and supported the US invasion in 1965. In April 1965, Mann personally insisted on the production of a cable which would describe danger to American citizens in the Dominican Republic. At the same time, Mann pressured the military government to crack down on insurgents in Santo Domingo. Mann described the popular rebellion as Communist infiltration enabled by Castro and supported the U.S. invasion as a necessary response.[30]

Promotion and resignation[edit]

Mann became the Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs in 1965. He resigned from the State Department in 1966 and served as President of the Automobile Manufacturer's Association from 1967 through 1971.[31]

Personal life[edit]

Thomas C. Mann grave marker at Laredo City Cemetery

Mann was a brother of the late Laredo attorney Samuel Edward "Ed" Mann, a 1923 graduate of the University of Texas Law School and an inductee into the prestigious legal honor society, Crossroads .[32] He died on January 23, 1999 in Lubbock, Texas.

Mann Road in Laredo is named for the Mann family. Thomas Mann is interred at Laredo City Cemetery.

His surviving son is an Episcopal priest in Lubbock, Texas.[12]


  1. ^ "Social Security Death Index". Retrieved July 21, 2009.
  2. ^ LaFeber, "From the Good Neighbor to Military Intervention" (1993), p. 167.
  3. ^ a b LaFeber, "From the Good Neighbor to Military Intervention" (1993), p. 168.
  4. ^ a b LaFeber, "From the Good Neighbor to Military Intervention" (1993), p. 169.
  5. ^ LaFeber, "From the Good Neighbor to Military Intervention" (1993), p. 170.
  6. ^ LaFeber, "From the Good Neighbor to Military Intervention" (1993), p. 172. "After six months of careful watching, the United States recognized the new government, then stunned observers by actually giving economic aid, especially through tin purchases. Mann privately explained why aid could be sent to supposed revolutionaries: Bolivia had agreed to compensate former tin owners, especially the relatively few American owners, through arbitration; such arbitration could be an important precedent elsewhere in case of other nationalization; if Washington did not help, it would be charged with 'trying to bring chaos and starvation to Bolivia'; and U.S. bargaining leverage over Bolivia was great because of its purchasing power in the tin markets."
  7. ^ LaFeber, "From the Good Neighbor to Military Intervention" (1993), pp. 172–174.
  8. ^ LaFeber, "From the Good Neighbor to Military Intervention" (1993), pp. 176–177. The final quotation comes from Memorandum of a Conversation Between the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Holland) and President Castillo Armas, Guatemala City, February 14, 1955.
  9. ^ Brockett, "An Illusion of Omnipotence" (2002), pp. 91, 117.
  10. ^ LaFeber, "From the Good Neighbor to Military Intervention" (1993), p. 178.
  11. ^ LaFeber, "From the Good Neighbor to Military Intervention" (1993), p. 179–180.
  12. ^ a b LaFeber, "From the Good Neighbor to Military Intervention" (1993), p. 184.
  13. ^ Irving Molotsky, "T. C. Mann, 87, a Maker of U.S. Latin Policy", New York Times, January 30, 1999.
  14. ^ Pérez, "Fear and Loathing of Fidel Castro" (2002), pp. 236. "Considerable attention was given to the repercussions of unilateral action against Cuba in Latin America. Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Mann was not alone in his early opposition to unilateral US efforts to remove Fidel Castro. '[I]f we were to go all out to get Castro,' Mann cautioned, 'it would obviously be what we would do. What would the effect be in the other Latin American countries? [W]e have to maintain a steady pressure and keep our motives well disguised in this business.' "
  15. ^ Pérez, "Fear and Loathing of Fidel Castro" (2002), p. 241. "Thomas Mann agreed, predicting that sanctions would 'exert a serious pressure on the Cuban economy and contribute to the growing dissatisfaction and unrest in the country'."
  16. ^ Stephen G. Rabe, The Most Dangerous Area in the World: John F. Kennedy Confronts Communist Revolution in Latin America; University of North Carolina Press, 1999; p. 173.
  17. ^ LaFeber, "From the Good Neighbor to Military Intervention" (1993), p. 186. "The Kennedys and their supporters were stunned and bitter. Key liberals such as Senator Hubert Humphrey (D.-Minn.) tried to prevent the appointments. LBJ paid no attention. U.S. corporations operating in Latin America were delighted. 'The news of Tom Mann's appointment created more favorable reaction in Latin America than the launching of President Roosevelt's Good Neighbor policy,' cabled the vice president for Brown and Root Overseas, Inc., a powerful Texas firm with close ties to Johnson. 'I know him well and consider him the greatest.' Some liberals, including Senator Ernest Gruening (D.-Alaska) applauded the appointments in the hope that Mann could finally make Latin American policy work."
  18. ^ Walker, "Mixing the Sweet with the Sour" (1994), p. 60.
  19. ^ LaFeber, "From the Good Neighbor to Military Intervention" (1993), pp. 187–188.
  20. ^ Muller, "Dependent Economic Development" (1985), pp. 448–449.
  21. ^ LaFeber, "From the Good Neighbor to Military Intervention" (1993), pp. 190–191.
  22. ^ Walker, "Mixing the Sweet with the Sour" (1994), p. 62. "While plans were underway to condemn Cuba for subversive activities, Secretary Mann announced the doctrine that bears his name. The United States would not inquire into the nature of regimes that were to receive military and economic assistance, an evaluation that several officials in the Kennedy administration had advocated. Support for social reforms had ceased to be a sine qua non for gaining Washington's favor."
  23. ^ Muller, "Dependent Economic Development" (1985), p. 449. "A minority faction within the Army (estimated by one anti-Goulart general to have consisted in early March of about 10 percent of the higher officer corps-see Stepan, 1978: 122), which had favored a coup against Goulart since the beginning of his administration because of his alleged Communist tendencies, now decided to take the offensive. They were encouraged by American policymakers at the highest level in Washington, who gave an obvious and unequivocal 'green light' signal in announcing (but not for public consumption) the 'Mann Doctrine' on March 18,' and by the American Embassy in Brazil, which offered war material in case the coup should lead to civil war."
  24. ^ Rabe, Stephen G. (1999). The Most Dangerous Area in the World: John F. Kennedy Confronts Communist Revolution in Latin America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina press. p. 71. ISBN 080784764X.
  25. ^ 253. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mann) to Secretary of State Rusk, Foreign Relations of the United States 1964–1968, Volume XXXI: "South and Central America; Mexico", Document 253. Cited in Power, "Engendering of Anticommunism and Fear" (2008), p. 934.
  26. ^ Power, "Engendering of Anticommunism and Fear" (2008), pp. 934–935.
  27. ^ LaFeber, "From the Good Neighbor to Military Intervention" (1993), p. 190. "During the 1964 Chilean elections, Mann paid little attention either to that principle or to his lesson, learned during the Argentine election of 1946, that U.S. interference in foreign political campaigns usually backfired. Eduardo Frei, a moderate reformer, ran against Salvador Allende, suspected of Marxist leanings and, as Mann phrased it, 'extremist supporters'. The U.S. economic stake was huge, especially in industry and in copper mines that Washington feared Allende might nationalize if he won. Mann ordered complete support of Frei, threatened economic retaliation of Allende triumphed, and wanted 'no doubt in Chile as to where the United States stands.' Frei won, but the Allende problem was only delayed for six years."
  28. ^ LaFeber, "From the Good Neighbor to Military Intervention" (1993), p. 191. "The generals' success and the Mann doctrine were also played out in Bolivia and Argentina. In Bolivia, Mann (and key U.S. congressional leaders) became critical of, and began distancing the United States from, Paz Estensaro's formerly revolutionary MNR party. When the military seized power in 1964, opened the door to foreign investment, promised agrarian reforms, and smashed urban labor demands, Mann responded with aid."
  29. ^ LaFeber, "From the Good Neighbor to Military Intervention" (1993), p. 192.
  30. ^ LaFeber, "From the Good Neighbor to Military Intervention" (1993), pp. 193–194.
  31. ^ John Henrichs, "Ex-U.S. Ambassador Thomas C. Mann dies", Austin-American Statesman, January 24, 1999. Accessed via ProQuest, October 8, 2013.
  32. ^ "The University of Texas School of Law (Graduates, 1912–1969)". Retrieved July 21, 2009.


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Newspaper articles[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Robert C. Hill
United States Ambassador to El Salvador
November 24, 1955 – September 24, 1957
Succeeded by
Thorsten V. Kalijarvi
Government offices
Preceded by
Thorsten Valentine Kalijarvi
Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs
September 30, 1957 – August 28, 1960
Succeeded by
Edwin McCammon Martin
Preceded by
Roy R. Rubottom Jr.
Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs
August 28, 1960 – April 20, 1961
Succeeded by
Robert F. Woodward
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Robert C. Hill
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico
May 8, 1961 – December 22, 1963
Succeeded by
Fulton Freeman
Government offices
Preceded by
Edwin M. Martin
Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs
January 3, 1964 – March 17, 1965
Succeeded by
Jack Vaughn
Preceded by
George Wildman Ball
Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs
March 18, 1965 – May 31, 1966
Succeeded by
William J. Casey