The Ecuadorian-Peruvian War known locally as the War of '41 (Spanish: Guerra del 41), was a South American border war fought between 5–31 July 1941. It was the first of three military conflicts between Ecuador-iconEcuadorball and Peru-icon Peruball during the 20th century. During the war, Peru-icon Peruball occupied the western Ecuador-icon Ecuadorian province of El Oro-icon El Oroball and parts of the Andean province of Loja-icon Lojaball. Although the Ecuadorian–Peruvian War occurred during War-Template-1 World War II War-Template-2, it was not part of the conflict; Ecuador-icon Ecuadorball and Peru-icon Peruball were neither affiliated with nor supported by the USA-icon (soldier) UK-icon (soldier) Allies France-icon (soldier) Soviet-icon (soldier) or the Nazi-icon (soldier) Kingdom of Italy-icon (soldier) Axis Japanese Empire-icon (soldier)

A ceasefire agreement between the two countries came into effect on 31 July 1941. Both countries signed the Rio Protocol on 29 January 1942, and Peru-icon (soldier) Peruvian forces subsequently withdrew. The enmity over the territorial dispute continued after 1942 and concluded following the Cenepa War of 1995 and the signing of the Brasilia Presidential Act agreement in October 1998.



The dispute between Ecuador-icon Ecuadorball and Peru-icon Peruball dates from 1840. It revolved around whether Ecuador's territory extended beyond the Andes mountain range to the Marañon Amazon river, including the Amazonian basin.

As early as 1829, Peru-icon Peruball fought against Gran Colombia-icon Gran Colombiaball (a large loose state encompassing most of northern South America), of which the disputed lands were a part. After a series of battles, the war ended in what is known as the Battle of Tarqui (or Portete de Tarqui). The Gual-Larrea Treaty was signed on 22 September 1829 ending the war. This treaty, better known as the Treaty of Guayaquil, specified that the Gran Colombian-Peruvian border was to be the same border that had existed between the Spain-icon Spanish colonial viceroyalties of Spanish-Empire-icon Nueva Granadaball and Spanish Peru-icon Limaball.

Subsequently, Ecuador-icon Ecuadorball contended that the Pedemonte-Mosquera Protocol was signed in 1830 as a continuation of the Gual-Larrea Treaty. Peru-icon Peruball disputes the validity of this and even questions its existence, since the original document cannot be found. Furthermore, Peru argues that the treaties signed with Gran Colombia-icon Gran Colombiaball were rendered void upon the dissolution of that federation.

During 1859 and 1860, the two countryballs fought over disputed territory bordering the Amazon. However, Ecuador-icon Ecuadorball was in a civil war that prevented diplomatic relations with the rest of Latin America, including Peruball's president Ramón Castilla.

In 1887, a treaty signed by both nations established that the King of Spain would act as an arbitrator. The resulting Herrera-García Treaty was expected to resolve the conflict permanently. However, the Parliament of Peru-icon Peruball would only ratify the treaty after introducing modifications. Ecuador-icon Ecuadorball then withdrew from the process in protest at Peru-icon Peruball's modifications, and the king abstained from issuing a decision.

Salomón–Lozano Treaty

Another dispute was created after the signing of the Salomón–Lozano Treaty in March 1922 by the governments of Colombia-icon Colombiaball and Peru-icon Peruball, which at that time was ruled by Augusto B. Leguía. The treaty, which was kept secret, set the boundary between Peru-icon Peruball and Colombia-icon Colombiaball as the Putumayo River, with the exception of a small strip of land controlled by the city of Leticia that would connect Colombia to the main flow of the Amazon River. With that, Colombia effectively recognized Peruvian control of the rest of the disputed region south of the Putumayo River.

Following the coup d'état of Leguía by troops under the command of Luis Miguel Sánchez Cerro, the treaty was made public and caused much anger among Peru-icon Peruball's population, which perceived that the treaty awarded Colombia-icon Colombiaball a section of Peru-icon Peruball's territory. This dispute over the Amazon region controlled by Leticia would eventually cause a [short war between Colombia and Peru during 1932 and 1933. The conflict over Leticia, which was populated by both Peru-icon Peruball and Colombia-icon Colombian colonists, was resolved after Sanchez Cerro was assassinated and the Peru-icon Peruball's new president Óscar R. Benavides accepted the Rio de Janeiro Protocol which upheld the Salomón–Lozano Treaty and finally put an end to the border disputes between Colombia-icon Colombiaball and Peru-icon Peruball.

The Salomón–Lozano Treaty was unpopular in Ecuador-icon Ecuadorball as well, which found itself surrounded on the east by Peru-icon Peruball, which claimed the territory as an integral part of its republic. Further adding to Ecuador-icon Ecuadorball's problems, Colombia-icon Colombiaball's government now also recognized Peru-icon Peruball's territorial aspirations as legitimate.

Preparing for war

An agreement was signed in 1936 which recognized territories in de facto possession by each countryball. The resulting border is known as the 1936 status quo border line.

However, by 1938 both countryballs were once again holding minor border skirmishes. That same year, the entire Ecuador-icon Ecuadorian Cabinet, which was composed of high-ranking army officers who served as advisors for General Alberto Enríquez Gallo (who had taken charge of government after a military coup d'état), resigned from government in order to take command of the Ecuador-icon (soldier) Ecuadorian Army. Meanwhile, in Quito-icon Quitoball, there were public demonstrations of people chanting "Down With Peru! Long Live Ecuador!."

Peru-icon Peruball's response to the events taking place in Ecuador was provided by foreign minister Carlos Concha, who stated, "In Peru we have not yet lost our heads. Our country is in a process of prosperous development and the Government heads would have to be completely mad to think of war."

The social situation of Peru-icon Peruball at that time was undergoing major changes, with the social reforms begun by president Augusto B. Leguia (which were aimed at improving roads, sanitation, industrial development, and promoting the general welfare of Peru's indigenous population) being continued by president General Oscar Benavides. Economically, Peru-icon Peruball claimed to be attempting to run on a balanced budget, but Peru-icon Peruball still held a large debt in spite of its positive foreign trade. However, despite these claims, Peru-icon Peruball also began to mobilize its Peru-icon (soldier) troops to its border with Ecuador-icon Ecuadorball in order to match the Ecuador-icon (soldier) Ecuadorian troops which had been deployed to the dispute zone.

On 11 January 1941, alleging that the Ecuador-icon Ecuadorians had been staging incursions and even occupations of the Peru-icon Peruball territory of Zarumilla, Peru-icon the Peruvian president, Manuel Prado, ordered the formation of the North Grouping, a military unit in charge of the Northern Operational Theatre.

Forces involved


According to the testimony of Col. Luis Rodríguez, the Ecuador-icon (soldier) Ecuadorian forces at the disposal of the Army Border Command in El Oro-icon El Oroball (Lieutenant Colonel Octavio A. Ochoa) after the incidents of 5 and 6 July were as follows:

  • Forces deployed along the Zarumilla river: 3 superior officers, 33 officers, and 743 men, organized as follows:
    • "Cayambe" Battalion: 2 superior officers, 22 Officers, 490 soldiers.
    • "Montecristi" Battalion: 1 superior officer, 11 Officers, 253 soldiers.
  • Forces deployed in the immediate rear: 4 superior officers, 40 officers, 28 soldiers, 93 volunteers, 500 carabineros (a paramilitary Government force), organized as follows:
    • At Arenillas: 2 superior officers, 3 Officers, 14 soldiers.
    • At Santa Rosa: 2 superior officers, 1 Officer, 18 soldiers, plus the 93 volunteers, and the 500 carabineros.


As a result of the rising tensions on the border during 1939 and 1940, the Peru-icon Peruvian President Manuel Prado authorised in December 1940 the creation of the Agrupamiento del Norte (Northern Army Detachment). By July 1941, this unit was ready to begin active military operations.

Peruvian order of battle

Order of Battle, Agrupamiento del Norte, July 1941

  • Group Headquarters (Commander in Chief: Gen. Eloy G. Ureta; Chief of Staff: Lieut. Col. Miguel Monteza)
    • 5th and 7th Cavalry Regiments
    • 6th Artillery Group (8 105 mm guns)
    • Army Tank Detachment (12 Czech Tanks LTP)
  • 1st Light Infantry Division (Col. Luis Vinatea)
    • 1st, 5th, 19th Infantry Battalions
    • 1st Artillery Group (8 guns)
    • 1st Engineer Company
    • 1st Antiaircraft Section
  • 8th Light infantry Division (Col. César Salazar)
    • 20th Infantry Battalion
    • 8th Artillery Group (8 guns)
    • 8th Engineer Company
  • Army Detachment "Chinchipe" (Lieut. Col. Victor Rodríguez)
    • 33rd Infantry Battalion (2 Light Infantry companies)
  • Army Jungle Division (Northeast) (Gen. Antonio Silva)

Figures for total strength of the Agrupamiento del Norte at the beginning of offensive operations have been put at 11,500 to 13,000 men.


The accounts as to which side fired the first shot vary considerably to this day. According to Peru-icon Peruball's version Ecuador-icon (soldier) Ecuadorian troops invaded Peru-icon Peruvian territory in the Zarumillaball province, which started a battle that spread to a zone known as Quebrada Seca (dry creek). But Ecuador-icon Ecuadorball's version is that Peru-icon Peruball took a series of incidents between border patrols as a pretext to invade Ecuador-icon Ecuadorball, with the intention of forcing it to sign a clear border agreement. They argue that the clear disparity of military presence in the region between the two countries supports this version.

The first clashes occurred on Saturday, 5 July 1941.

According to Peru-icon Peruvian accounts, some Ecuador-icon (soldier) Ecuadorian troops from the garrison of Huaquillasball, a town on the bank of the Zarumilla river, which then served as the status quo line in the extreme left of the Ecuadorian-Peruvian border, crossed into the Peru-icon Peruvian border post at Aguas Verdes, a town directly in front of Huaquillasball, and opened fire on a Peru-icon Peruvian patrol. These Peru-icon (soldier) troops were then followed by some 200 Ecuador-icon (soldier) Ecuadorian armed men, which attacked the Police station at Aguas Verdes, to which the Peru-icon Peruvians reacted by sending an infantry company to Aguas Verdes and repulsing the Ecuador-icon Ecuadorians back across the Zarumilla. The fighting then spread to the entire border area along the Zarumilla river. By 6 July, the Peru-icon Peruvian aviation was conducting air-strikes against the Ecuador-icon Ecuadorian border posts along the river.

According to Ecuador-icon Ecuadorian Col. Luis A. Rodríguez, commander of the Ecuador-icon Ecuadorian forces defending the province of El Oro-icon El Oroball during the war, the incidents of 5 July started when an Ecuador-icon Ecuadorian border patrol found some Peru-icon Peruvian civilians, protected by policemen, clearing a patch of land on the Ecuador-icon Ecuadorian side of the river. Upon seeing the patrol, the Peruvian policemen opened fire, killing one soldier. This was followed by the widespread exchange of fire between troops on the opposing banks of the Zarumilla, while two Ecuador-icon Ecuadorian officers sent to Aguas Verdesball to speak with the Peru-icon Peruvian local commanding officer were told by Peruvian authorities to go back to their lines.

Regardless, the much larger and better equipped Peru-icon (soldier) Peruvian force of 13,000 men quickly overwhelmed the approximately Ecuador-icon (soldier) 1,800 Ecuadorian covering forces, driving them back from the Zarumilla and invading the Ecuadorian province of El Oroball. Peru-icon Peruball also carried out limited aerial bombing of the Ecuadorian towns of Huaquillasball, Arenillasball, Santa Rosaball, and Machalaball.

The Peru-icon (soldier) Peruvian army had at its disposal a company of armor made up of File:Czechia-icon.png Czech tanks, with artillery and air support. They had also established an air force paratroop detachment in the region and used it to great effect by seizing the Ecuador-icon Ecuadorian port city of Puerto Bolívarball, on 27 July 1941, marking the first time in the Americas that airborne troops were used in combat. Faced with a delicate political situation that even prompted Ecuador-icon Ecuadorian President Carlos Alberto Arroyo del Río to keep a sizable part of the Ecuador-icon (soldier) Army in the capital, Quito-icon Quitoball, Ecuador-icon Ecuadorball promptly requested a cease-fire, which went into effect on 31 July 1941. Yet, Ecuador-icon Ecuadorball still carried out guerrilla attacks upon the Peru-icon (soldier) Peruvian troops.

As a result of the war, Peru-icon Peruball occupied almost the entire Ecuador-icon Ecuadorian coastal province of El Oro-icon El Oroball and some towns of the Andean province of Loja-icon Lojaball, besides driving the Ecuador-icon Ecuadorians back along the whole line of dispute along the Amazonian border.

Ecuador-icon Ecuadorball's government, led by Doctor Carlos Alberto Arroyo del Río, signed the Protocolo de Río de Janeiro on 29 January 1942, and Peru-icon (soldier) Peruvian forces subsequently withdrew. Nonetheless, during the retreat several attacks were made against the Peru-icon (soldier) Peruvian military, and a series of lives were lost during the process.


The placement of the border markers along the definitive border line indicated by the Rio Protocol was not concluded when the Ecuador-icon Ecuadorians withdrew from the demarcation commissions in 1948, arguing inconsistencies between the geographical realities on the ground and the instructions of the Protocol, a situation that according to Ecuador-icon Ecuadorball made it impossible to implement the Protocol until Peru-icon Peruball agreed to negotiate a proper line in the affected area. Thus, some 78 km of the Ecuadorian-Peruvian border were left unmarked for the next fifty years, causing continuous diplomatic and military crisis between the two countries.

In 1960, Ecuador-icon Ecuadorian President José María Velasco declared that the Rio Protocol was void. According to the Dictator-icon Velasco Administration, the treaty, having been signed under Peru-icon (modern soldier) Peruvian military occupation of Ecuador-icon Ecuadorian soil, was illegal and contrary to Panamerican treaties that outlawed any treaty signed under the threat of force.

However, this proclamation made little international impact (the treaty was still held as valid by Peru-icon Peruball and four more countries). Peru-icon Peruvian analysts have speculated that President Velasco used the nullity thesis in order to gather political support with a nationalistic and populist rhetoric.

In 1981, both countries again clashed briefly in the Paquisha War. Only in the aftermath of the Cenepa War of 1995 was the dispute finally settled. On 26 October 1998, representatives of Peru-icon Peruball and Ecuador-icon Ecuadorball signed a definitive peace agreement (Brasilia Presidential Act).

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