Editor’s Note

—No official record of the substance of the conversation at this meeting has been found. The Log (ante, page 14) indicates that Truman and Churchill lunched privately at the latter’s quarters, 23 Ringstrasse, Babelsberg, then walked to Eden’s quarters, where they met Eden and Byrnes, and then returned with their Foreign Secretaries to 23 Ringstrasse.

Churchill describes the luncheon meeting as follows in Triumph and Tragedy, pages 631–634:

“On July 18 I lunched alone with the President, and we touched on many topics. I spoke of the melancholy position of Great Britain, who had spent more than half her foreign investments for the common cause when we were all alone, and now emerged from the war with a great external debt of three thousand million pounds. This had grown up through buying supplies from India, Egypt, and elsewhere, with no Lend-Lease arrangement, and would impose upon us an annual exportation without any compensatory import to nourish the wages fund. He followed this attentively and with sympathy, and declared that the United States owed Great Britain an immense debt for having held the fort at the beginning. ‘If you had gone down like France,’ he said, ‘we might be fighting the Germans on the American coast at the present time. This justifies us in regarding these matters as above the purely financial plane.’ I said I had told the election crowds that we were living to a large extent upon American imported food, for which we could not pay, but we had no intention of being kept by any country, however near to us in friendship. We should have to ask for help to become a going concern again, and until we got our wheels turning properly we could be of little use to world security or any of the high purposes of San Francisco. The President said he would do his very utmost; but of course I knew all the difficulties he might have in his own country.

“I then spoke about Imperial Preference, and explained that it might cause a split in the Conservative Party if it were not wisely handled. I had heard that America was making great reductions in her tariff. The President said it had been reduced by 50 per cent, [Page 80]and he now had authority to reduce it by another 50 per cent, leaving it at one-quarter of its pre-war height. I replied that this was a great factor, and would have a powerful influence on our Dominions, especially Canada and Australia.

“The President raised the subject of air and communications.1 He had great difficulties to face about airfields in British territory, especially in Africa, which the Americans had built at enormous cost. We ought to meet them on this, and arrange a fair plan for common use. I assured him that if I continued to be responsible I would reopen the question with him personally. It would be a great pity if the Americans got worked up about bases and air traffic and set themselves to make a win of it at all costs. We must come to the best arrangement in our common interest. President Roosevelt knew well that I wished to go much further on this matter of airfields and other bases, and would have liked to have a reciprocal arrangement between our two countries all over the world. Britain was a smaller Power than the United States, but she had much to give. Why should not an American battleship calling at Gibraltar be able to get the torpedoes to fit her tubes and the shells to fit her guns? Why should we not share facilities for defence all over the world? We could add 50 per cent to the mobility of the American Fleet.

“Mr. Truman replied that all these sentiments were very near his own heart. Any plan would have to be fitted in, in some way, with the policy of the United Nations. I said that was all right so long as the facilities were shared between Britain and the United States. There was nothing in it if they were made common to everybody. A man might propose marriage to a young lady, but it was not much use if he were told that she would always be a sister to him. I wanted, under whatever form or cloak, a continuation of the existing war-time system of reciprocal facilities between Britain and the United States about bases and fuelling points.

“The President seemed in full accord with this, if it could be presented in a suitable fashion, and did not appear to take crudely the form of a military alliance à deux. These last were not his words, but give the impression I got of his mind. Encouraged by this, I went on with my long-cherished idea of keeping the organisation of the Combined Chiefs of Staff in being,2 at any rate until the world calmed down after the great storm and until there was a world structure of such proved strength and capacity that we could safely confide ourselves to it.

“The President was replying to this in an encouraging way when we were interrupted by his officers reminding him that he must now start off to see Marshal Stalin. He was good enough to say that this had been the most enjoyable luncheon he had had for many years, and how earnestly he hoped the relations I had had with President Roosevelt would be continued between him and me. He invited personal friendship and comradeship, and used many expressions at intervals in our discussion which I could not easily hear unmoved. I felt that here was a man of exceptional character and ability, with an outlook exactly along the lines of Anglo-American relations as they [Page 81]had developed, simple and direct methods of speech, and a great deal of self-confidence and resolution.”

The following notes by Churchill (reprinted from Ehrman, Grand Strategy, volume VI, pages 302–303) also relate to the TrumanChurchill luncheon meeting of July 18:

“I said that the Japanese war might end much quicker than had been expected, and that the eighteen months period which we had taken as a working rule required to be reviewed. Also, Stage III3 might be upon us in a few months, or perhaps even earlier. I imparted to the President the disclosure about the offer from the Mikado,4 made to me by Marshal Stalin the night before;5 and I told him he was quite free to talk it over with the Marshal, as I had informed him at the Marshal’s expressed desire.…

“The President also thought the war might come to a speedy end. Here I explained that Marshal Stalin had not wished to transmit this information direct to him for fear he might think the Russians were trying to influence him towards peace. In the same way I would abstain from saying anything which would indicate that we were in any way reluctant to go on with the war against Japan as long as the United States thought fit. However, I dwelt upon the tremendous cost in American life and, to a smaller extent, in British life which would be involved in forcing ‘unconditional surrender’ upon the Japanese. It was for him to consider whether this might not be expressed in some other way, so that we got all the essentials for future peace and security, and yet left the Japanese some show of saving their military honour and some assurance of their national existence, after they had complied with all safeguards necessary for the conqueror. The President countered by saying that he did not think the Japanese had any military honour after Pearl Harbour. I contented myself with saying that at any rate they had something for which they were ready to face certain death in very large numbers, and this might not be so important to us as to them. He then became quite sympathetic, and spoke, as Mr. Stimson had to me two days [one day?] earlier, of the terrible responsibilities that rested upon him in regard to the unlimited effusion of American blood.”6

It also seems probable that the following note by Churchill for the British War Cabinet, dated July 18, and printed in Triumph and Tragedy, pages 640–641, pertains to this meeting:

“The President showed me telegrams about the recent experiment,7 and asked what I thought should be done about telling the Russians. He seemed determined to do this, but asked about the timing, and [Page 82]said he thought that the end of the Conference would be best. I replied that if he were resolved to tell it might well be better to hang it on the experiment, which was a new fact on which he and we had only just had knowledge. Therefore he would have a good answer to any question, ‘Why did you not tell us this before?’ He seemed impressed with this idea, and will consider it.

“On behalf of His Majesty’s Government I did not resist his proposed disclosure of the simple fact that we have this weapon. He reiterated his resolve at all costs to refuse to divulge any particulars.…”

  1. See vol. i, document No. 547.
  2. See vol. i, document No. 550.
  3. i. e., the period of full reconversion from war to peace following the defeat of Japan.
  4. See vol. i, documents Nos. 582 and 586.
  5. For Birse’s record of the ChurchillStalin conversation of July 17, see Ehrman, Grand Strategy, vol. vi, p. 302.
  6. Cf. Churchill, Triumph and Tragedy, pp. 641–642.
  7. Presumably documents Nos. 1303 and 1304, post.