Truman Papers

No. 1200
Prime Minister Attlee to President Truman 1

Memorandum From the Prime Minister to the President Dated About 31st July, 1945

I have received your memorandum of 23rd July, 1945,2 in which you propose to abolish the Munitions Assignment[s] Board, Washington.

As you say, the Munitions Assignment[s] Boards in Washington and London were established to operate the common pool of production for war purposes of the United States and Great Britain. Their duty was to study the combined resources and to assign the output under directives from the Combined Chiefs of Staff in accordance with strategic needs. It was the wholehearted pooling of resources which governed the production programmes of the two countries and led to the concentration of production of certain items in one country or the other. Under the Boards was established a considerable machine for the collection and presentation of information, and for carrying out the detailed work of assignment.
I am in full agreement that the end of the German war and the consequent reduction in the scope of combined business in the munitions assignment field requires a scaling down of the machinery. 1 am not sure whether your proposal is merely to abolish the Boards while leaving the subordinate committee structure more or less intact, or whether you had in mind the abolition of the whole of the combined munitions assignment machinery. There are a number of considerations which require to be taken into account before any drastic reduction is decided upon. The following are some of these considerations:—
While it is true that in general the combined munitions resources of the United States and the United Kingdom are sufficient, there is still a number of items which are in overall short supply.
This being so, it would appear that some machinery is necessary to apply operational priorities to the distribution of the items which are in short supply. This machinery must give effect to the strategic decisions of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. There must be provision for reference to the Combined Chiefs of Staff when there is disagreement.
It would seem desirable that arrangements for the interchange of information about the availability and disposal of munitions should be maintained.
There is a good deal of work to be done in ascertaining the status of Lend-Lease and British surpluses and on the disposal of these surpluses. This is at present being carried out through the medium of the Sub-Committees of the Boards.
The Boards have a responsibility in connection with the disposal of captured war material which is still a considerable problem.
The relation to the Boards of the Allies and Dominions requires study.
The above considerations prompt me to suggest that before any decision is taken it would be desirable to know in more detail the exact scope of your proposal, and how you would propose that the remaining functions of the assignment machinery should be carried out. Perhaps the best plan would be for the American and British representatives in Washington to be given this interchange of memoranda and to be instructed to work out, in consultation with any other interested parties, concrete proposals for the future of the Assignment Boards and their subordinate structure, which could then be presented for our approval. A similar examination could be carried out in London and the scope of the London machinery could be adjusted to conform to what is eventually decided about the machinery in Washington.
  1. Printed from a mimeographed copy of a text supplied by the British Joint Staff Mission at Washington in September 1945. The index to the folder in which the source copy was found contains the following entry: “5. About 31 July 1945. Text of a memorandum prepared by Attlee regarding Munitions Assignment[s] Board, in answer to the President’s memorandum to Churchill of 23 July. The President states that he received no memorandum from Attlee on this subject but he discussed it with him. The text as herein given was furnished by the British Joint Staff Mission in Washington in September, 1945.”
  2. Document No. 1199.