Memorandum of Telephone Conversations by the Acting Secretary of State

Subjects: Invitations for United Nations Conference;
Announcement of Voting Procedure
Participants: Mr. Alger Hiss;
Acting Secretary, Mr. Grew
Secretary Stettinius;
Acting Secretary, Mr. Grew

I telephoned Mr. Alger Hiss at Mexico City and said that with regard to the question of issuing invitations to the United Nations for the forthcoming conference at San Francisco, we had gone into it very fully. I stated that, in the first place, it would have been physically impossible to have gotten clearance from London and Moscow for a deadline for the announcement. I added that the White House had received word from Judge Rosenman that the President does not want the announcements made of the voting procedure until he himself has approved the text of the release. I told Mr. Hiss that the instructions from the President on this point were definite. I said that I had been in touch with the French Ambassador regularly and had been doing everything in my power to get an answer; France had asked for certain clarifications, to which I had gotten out a reply in 24 hours,32 and we were hopeful that we would get a definite answer in the next day or so. I said that if we went ahead with the invitations, I did not believe France would come in at all. To begin the United Nations Conference in this way would, I thought, be almost fatal. I went on to say that I had gone over the matter with Justice Byrnes, who stated he was not one hundred percent but one thousand percent in favor of our position. I told Mr. Hiss when he inquired if we could get an answer by February 22 that I did not think we would be able to get an agreement from London and Moscow by that date. I said that I was going to send to the President a message suggesting that if France does not reply before March 1, then we ought to select that date to issue the invitations whether she comes on board or not. Mr. Hiss thought that this would be a good idea. He wondered, however, if we ought not hold up the transmission of the Secretary’s message to the President. I replied that if he were referring to the message sent from Guatemala,33 I was afraid that it had already gone out. Mr. Hiss thought it would be a good idea to send a follow-up and then go on with the recommendation about March 1. [Page 78] When I asked Mr. Hiss if he thought the Secretary would approve this, he replied that he was sure of it. If he did not call right back, Mr. Hiss said it would mean that the Secretary approved. I told him that, naturally, I wanted to come along with the Secretary on everything possible, but I did not want the conference started with a black eye.

(It was ascertained that this telegram had not yet been transmitted to the President, and it was accordingly withheld.34)

When Mr. Hiss telephoned later, he said that with regard to France, the Secretary was glad that his message had gone straight through to the President and the Secretary did not want to countermand it. Mr. Hiss said that the Secretary wanted me to call Ambassador Caffery in Paris as soon as possible and say that France must agree within the next twenty-four hours. I stated that this was impossible since we had no direct telephone communication with Paris. Mr. Hiss added that the call could be made through SHAEF35 from the Pentagon Building. Mr. Hiss added that the Secretary thought it was essential at the outset of the conference that the whole thing be made clear and public along the lines indicated in the telegram which reached the Department today. Mr. Hiss said that he had told the Secretary what I had said about France, but the Secretary had said that we had given the French Government all this time, and they could come along whenever they made up their mind. I told Mr. Hiss I did not see how we could deliver such an ultimatum in the light of instructions received from the President and that since I was in charge of the foreign affairs of this Government, I would not take this responsibility. Mr. Hiss asked if I would like to speak with the Secretary and I said I thought I had better.

I told Mr. Stettinius that I was faced with a very difficult problem; that while I knew he wanted to issue the invitations to the nations assembled at Mexico City, and disclose the voting procedure, the President’s instructions, through Judge Rosenman and also Justice Byrnes were quite explicit. If we put France in a hole and delivered an ultimatum, de Gaulle would almost certainly refuse, and we would have a black eye at the very outset of the United Nations Conference.

The Secretary asked how long it would take France to comply, to which I replied that I had been at the Ambassador constantly trying to get an answer. Mr. Stettinius said that when they left the Crimea, it was understood that an answer would be forthcoming within forty-eight hours, and nearly a week had elapsed since that time. I stated that France had asked for certain clarifications on six points, I had [Page 79] answered these points and the French Government had perhaps received our answer today. I added that we expected a reply within the next day or two. The Secretary said that representatives of twenty republics were meeting in Mexico to discuss the world security organization, and the first question which would be asked would be with regard to the voting procedure. He said that it would be most helpful if we could say that France was going to be a sponsoring member in issuing the invitations to the United Nations for the San Francisco conference, and could make our voting procedure public forty-eight hours hence. I asked the Secretary if he could not make known the voting procedure quietly by talking to the delegates there, but he replied that he did not think he could do that. I asked the Secretary how we could get around making our proposal to France not appear as an ultimatum, to which the Secretary replied that he thought France could be persuaded calmly that the three powers hoped that she could comply in the interest of harmony among the United Nations. I said that I had repeatedly put all this to the French Ambassador and the Ambassador had stated that while he realized the situation perfectly, it was very difficult to proceed since the Ministers on the Council did not know anything about the matter and it would take a little time. The Ambassador had stated further that he hoped very much to get an answer any minute.

The Secretary then said that he would leave the entire matter in my hands for me to work out in any way I felt best, adding that I should ignore the wire he had sent to me this morning regarding an ultimatum to France, and that anything I did would be entirely satisfactory to him.

I asked Mr. Stettinius again why he could not get in touch with the various delegations there and tell them confidentially about the voting procedure rather than make the announcement in his speech. Mr. Stettinius said that this would detract tremendously from the value of his speech.

I told the Secretary that if France comes through I would immediately give him a flash, but I added that we would have to consult with London and Moscow or they would be perfectly furious. The Secretary said that I should advise him of any formula that I worked out and he would abide by it.

Joseph C. Grew
  1. See footnote 29, p. 74.
  2. Telegram 128, February 29, 9 p.m., from Guatemala, p. 75.
  3. The telegram was sent to President Roosevelt. For his reply, see memorandum of February 22, p. 85.
  4. Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force.