A.E.C. Files (Historical Doc. No. 168)

Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (Bush)1


Sequence of Events Concerning Interchange With the British on the Subject of S–1

Before I left for England I lunched with the President on June 24, 1943. In the course of this conversation he asked me how interchange with the British was proceeding. I reviewed the situation for him, stating our policy of transmitting information wherever it could be used by the recipient for the purposes of this war, and reviewed my memory of the series of communications by cable which had occurred in the course of which the British had stated that they did not feel that any agreement was being violated but placed the matter on a more general basis. I also asked him if Mr. Hopkins had reported the conversation which he and I had with Lord Cherwell, and much to my surprise the President told me he had not had any report concerning that conference. I thereupon told him the substance, and a more extensive treatment of the matter occurs in the memorandum I wrote immediately after the conference with the President.2 I was certainly left with the impression that the President felt that the subject of post-war relationships on this matter was the subject at issue and that this required careful study.

On proceeding to London I was invited to attend a meeting of the War Cabinet Anti-U–Boat Committee. Sir Stafford Cripps and I went to that meeting on July fifteenth. Just prior to the meeting Sir Stafford took me in to see the Prime Minister. At this session the Prime Minister stated very positively that he was not satisfied with the American-British arrangements for interchange. He stated that the President had given him his word of honor that the two nations would share equally in the effort. He stated that he felt that he and the President were in agreement, but that every time an attempt was made to modify the present arrangements it was knocked out by somebody in the American organization. I raised the point that one of the difficulties was the transmission of commercial manufacturing information, and the difficulties involved in doing this without violating security, and I also stated that I thought it was unfortunate that the war and post-war aspects of the subject were being approached together, resulting in some confusion. The Prime Minister stated very [Page 643] positively that he did not care about any post-war matter in connection with this subject and that he wanted to be in shape to handle the affair in this war and that alone. I told him that I felt that if it was approached fully on that basis there would be no disagreement and that I felt that the policy we had adopted, properly interpreted, was adequate for such a purpose. During the conversation it was evident that the Prime Minister was very stirred up on this subject, and it was also evident that he had not been fully advised as to all of the facts. For example, he did not know that the principal contribution on the heavy water aspect was an American one. I did not correct him at this time on some of his facts. I pointed out to him that the American policy had been approved by the policy determining committee including the Secretary of War, the Chief of Staff,3 and the Vice President4 before being approved by the President. I stated that the Secretary of War was in London and suggested that the matter should be taken up with him, as he is decidedly senior to me in the organization in this country, to which the Prime Minister agreed.

I then reported to Mr. Bundy the general nature of the conference in order that he might inform the Secretary and in order that several important points might be clearly in the Secretary’s mind before possible contact.

The Prime Minister and the Secretary had a conference on this subject at some time that I do not have definitely recorded.5

On July twenty-second Mr. Bundy and I had a long talk with Secretary Stimson at Claridge’s. I outlined the American position and the Prime Minister’s points. It was quite evident that the Secretary felt that the Prime Minister had a strong case for altering the present situation. The matter revolved about the post-war relationships. I agreed with the Secretary that good relationships between the U.S. and the U.K. subsequent to the war on this subject are essential, but I took the point of view strongly that these should be approached on their merits, and that the present difficulty arose by reason of the fact that they were being treated as a part of the war effort. The Secretary took the point of view that it was quite impossible to completely separate the two in consideration.

On July twenty-second, later in the day, there was a meeting at 10 Downing Street at which the Prime Minister, Sir John Anderson, and Lord Cherwell were present for Great Britain, ‘and the Secretary of War, Mr. Bundy, and myself for the United States. Mr. Bundy has [Page 644] written a memorandum summarizing the discussion at this meeting6 which I have read and consider to be accurate. There are one or two points, however, that are not included in that memorandum. The Prime Minister presented as the American position a document sent to Mr. Akers by Dr. Conant which was a very positive affair.7 I pointed out that this was simply an aide-mémoire, exchanged at the time the matter was under discussion and that the actual document approved by the Policy Committee and by the President presented the subject in a different light.8 I reviewed this from memory, emphasizing that the American position was that we wished to make interchange wherever it would help the war effort, that this was the policy, and that we felt that the provisions we had made properly implemented that policy. I also took occasion to correct the idea which was apparently present in the Prime Minister’s mind that they had started this whole affair and that we had come in later, pointing out that our work had been early and of very large magnitude. I also mentioned the fact that on the heavy water procedure British work was aimed at power development and that the subject became one concerned with explosives on the making of an American contribution. The most important matter of this conference was the statement by the Prime Minister that he would write a letter.

The Secretary left for Africa. Shortly after that I had a cable from the United States stating that I had a letter from the President9 and that this letter instructed me to open up the entire question of interchange. I cabled this to Mr. Bundy.10 At the same time I was visited by Mr. Barnes on behalf of Sir John Anderson, who told me that the President had cabled the Prime Minister.11 I did not see the cablegram at this time but did see it later in Washington when it was shown to me by Sir John Anderson and it was a general cablegram indicating that it was hoped that the whole matter could be straightened out and suggesting that someone be sent to this country to make new arrangements. I told Mr. Barnes to tell Sir John Anderson that while I did not have any definite information to that effect it would seem to me that the Secretary must have cabled the President concerning our conference with this resulting cable from the President to the Prime Minister expressing the hope that negotiations would arrive at a solution which would be satisfactory to all concerned. On returning to this country I found out that this was not the case and that the [Page 645] President’s cable and letter were apparently spontaneous. There was a very strange bit of confusion at this point. When I received the cable from the United States it had of course been coded and paraphrased. I thought I was instructed to review with the British the matter of interchange. On receiving the President’s letter on returning to the United States I found that the wording was definitely “to renew full interchange”. I thereupon visited Mr. Bundy and the Secretary and explained of course that I could not renew except as the method of renewal was agreeable to the Policy Committee. It was agreed that we should have discussions concerning the method of renewing.

On August third, therefore, Dr. Conant and I visited Sir John Anderson at the British Embassy. We again outlined the American position and had a long discussion on the whole matter. The upshot was that we asked Sir John to indicate explicitly how he would like to have the present American policy modified in order that the objective should be attained, namely to provide interchange which should to the best advantage aid in the prosecution of the war effort along these lines. After this conference I sent to Sir John the policy as it appeared adopted in the report, a copy of a letter from Conant to MacKenzie, and also a technical memorandum for transmission to the British authorities.12 In a note13 I reminded Sir John that he agreed that he would study this matter and indicate how he would care to have the procedure modified in order to meet the British views.14

V. Bush
  1. The source copy bears the typed notations “Memorandum for the File” and “Made as original only”.
  2. See ante, p. 631.
  3. General George C. Marshall.
  4. Henry A. Wallace.
  5. For a reference to Stimson’s conversation with Churchill on July 17, 1943, see ante, p. 447.
  6. Ante, p. 634.
  7. The reference is presumably to Conant’s memorandum of January 7, 1943. See Hewlett and Anderson, p. 268; Gowing, pp. 155–156.
  8. See the enclosure to Bush’s letter to Anderson of August 3, 1943, supra.
  9. Ante, p. 633. The cable received by Bush in London is not printed.
  10. Cable not printed.
  11. See ante, p. 636.
  12. Bush’s letter to Anderson and the first enclosure are printed supra. Concerning the other enclosures, see ante, p. 640, fns. 2 and 3.
  13. Supra.
  14. At the end of this memorandum appear two handwritten notes by Bush:

    “Note. The President was out of town when Sir John & I both came to the U.S., so that I could not make immediate contact with him to clarify the somewhat general instructions in his letter to me. Aug 4 V.B.”
    “Letter from Sir John received Aug 4 [infra]. Arranged to discuss with Mr. Stimson.”