Ecuadorian–Peruvian War

War of 1941
Part of the Ecuadorian–Peruvian Conflicts
Peru tomando posecion de mar ecuatoriano.jpg
A ship of the Peruvian navy in Ecuadorian waters during the conflict.
Date5 July 1941 – 31 January 1942
Ecuadorian-Peruvian border; Ecuadorian Provinces of El Oro, Loja, Sucumbios, and Oriente

Peruvian victory

 Peru Ecuador
Commanders and leaders
Peru Manuel Prado y Ugarteche
Peru Eloy G. Ureta
Ecuador Carlos Alberto Arroyo del Río
Ecuador Luis Rodríguez
Units involved

Agrupamiento del Norte

  • Group Headquarters
    • 5th Cavalry Regiment
    • 7th Cavalry Regiment
    • 6th Artillery Group
  • Army Tank Detachment
  • 1st Light Infantry Division
    • 1st Infantry Battalion
    • 5th Infantry Battalion
    • 19th Infantry Battalion
    • 1st Artillery Group
    • 1st Engineer Company
    • 1st Antiaircraft Section
  • 8th Light infantry Division
    • 20th Infantry Battalion
    • 8th Artillery Group
    • 8th Engineer Company
  • Army Detachment Chinchipe
    • 33rd Infantry Battalion
  • Army Jungle Division
Cayambe Battalion
Montecristi Battalion
5 July 1941:
11 tanks
24 guns (from the Agrupamiento del Norte)
Later on:
24 tanks
120 guns
132,000 parmilitary and militia
In Amazonia:
8 guns
In Quito:
At the beginning of offensive, numbers have been estimated between 15,200 and 30,000.

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 and Peru during the 20th century. During the war, Peru occupied the western Ecuadorian province of El Oro and parts of the Andean province of Loja. Although the Ecuadorian–Peruvian War occurred during World War II, it was not part of the conflict; Ecuador and Peru were neither affiliated with nor supported by the Allies or the Axis.

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 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.[1]



The dispute between Ecuador and Peru 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 fought against the Gran Colombia (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 Spanish colonial viceroyalties of Nueva Granada and Lima.

Subsequently, Ecuador contended that the Pedemonte-Mosquera Protocol was signed in 1830 as a continuation of the Gual-Larrea Treaty. Peru 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 the Gran Colombia were rendered void upon the dissolution of that federation.

During 1859 and 1860, the two countries fought over disputed territory bordering the Amazon. However, Ecuador was in a civil war that prevented diplomatic relations with the rest of Latin America, including Peruvian 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 would only ratify the treaty after introducing modifications. Ecuador then withdrew from the process in protest at the Peruvian 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 and Peru, which at that time was ruled by Augusto B. Leguía. The treaty, which was kept secret, set the boundary between Peru and Colombia 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 the Peruvian population, which perceived that the treaty awarded Colombia a section of Peruvian 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 Peruvian and Colombian colonists, was resolved after Sanchez Cerro was assassinated and the new Peruvian 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 and Peru.

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

Preparing for war

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

However, by 1938 both nations were once again holding minor border skirmishes. That same year, the entire 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 Ecuadorian Army. Meanwhile, in Quito, there were public demonstrations of people chanting "Down With Peru! Long Live Ecuador!."[2]

Peru'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."[2] The social situation of Peru 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 claimed to be attempting to run on a balanced budget, but Peru still held a large debt in spite of its positive foreign trade.[2] However, despite these claims, Peru also began to mobilize its troops to its border with Ecuador in order to match the Ecuadorian troops which had been deployed to the dispute zone.[2]

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