Memorandum by the Secretary of War (Stimson) to the Secretary of State 50

Here is the list of points I tried to make at our meeting yesterday:51


The Moscow Conference of November 1, 1943, contemplated two organizations:
A general international organization based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all peace-loving states, and open to membership by all such states, large and small” etc.
An interim consultative organization of the four large powers for “maintaining international peace and security pending the re-establishment of law and order and the inauguration of a system of general security”.52
This recognized the self-evident fact that these large powers who have won the war for law and justice will be obliged to maintain the security of the world which they have saved during the time necessary to establish a permanent organization of the whole world, and for that purpose they will have to consult and decide on many questions necessary to the security of the world and primarily their own safety in establishing that security. I have always thought that this interim [Page 24] organization should be formal, subject to rules of consultation similar to Article XI of the old League,53 and actively at work until the world had gotten stabilized enough to establish and turn loose the large world organization which includes the small nations.
The job of the four big nations is principally to establish a guarantee of peace in the atmosphere of which the world organization can be set going.
This will necessarily include the settlement of all territorial acquisitions in the shape of defense posts which each of these four powers may deem to be necessary for their own safety in carrying out such a guarantee of world peace.
For substantially this purpose, at the end of the last war. President Wilson proposed a joint covenant of guarantee by Britain and America of the security of France as the pillar of western Europe.54 But the mistake was made of not securing that guarantee before the second step of creating the League of Nations whose safety was in large part to be dependent upon such a guarantee. As a result the League of Nations lacked a foundation of security which ultimately proved fatal to it.
I think we are in danger of making a similar mistake by attempting to formulate the Dumbarton organization before we have discussed and ironed out the realities which may exist to enable the four powers to carry out their mission, and I was much interested to read Senator Vandenberg’s recent speech55 in which he took practically the same ground.
Any attempt to finally organize a Dumbarton organization will necessarily take place in an atmosphere of unreality until these preliminary foundations are established. The attitude of the numerous minor nations who have no real responsibility but plenty of vocal power and logical arguments will necessarily be different from that of the large powers who have to furnish the real security.
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An example of one of these difficulties has already appeared in the problem of the mandated islands.56 You are proposing to include them under your future principles of “trusteeship” or “mandates”. They do not really belong in such a classification. Acquisition of them by the United States does not represent an attempt at colonization or exploitation. Instead it is merely the acquisition by the United States of the necessary bases for the defense of the security of the Pacific for the future world. To serve such a purpose they must belong to the United States with absolute power to rule and fortify them.57 They are not colonies; they are outposts, and their acquisition is appropriate under the general doctrine of self-defense by the power which guarantees the safety of that area of the world.
For that reason you will get into needless mazes if you try to set up a form of trusteeship which will include them before the necessity of their acquisition by the United States is established and recognized.
They are of an entirely different nature from the German colonies in various parts of the world, quite unessential to the defense of any protecting power, to which was applied the doctrine of mandates under, the League of Nations formula.


You will find the same clash of fundamental ideas and interests with Russia in regard to certain more difficult problems. She will claim that, in the light of her bitter experience with Germany, her own self-defense as a guarantor of the peace of the world will depend on relations with buffer countries like Poland, Bulgaria, and Rumania, which will be quite different from complete independence on the part of those countries.
It is my suggestion that such fundamental problems should be at least discussed and if possible an understanding reached between the big guarantor nations before you endeavor to set up principles in a world organization which may clash with realities.

For all these reasons I think we should not put the cart before the horse. We should by thorough discussion between the three or four great powers endeavor to settle, so far as we can, an accord upon the general area of these fundamental problems. We should endeavor to secure a covenant of guarantee of peace or at least an understanding of the conditions upon which such a general undertaking of mutual guarantee could be based.

If there is a general understanding reached among the larger powers I do not fear any lack of enthusiasm on the part of the lesser fry to follow through with the world organization whenever a general meeting may be called.

The foregoing constitutes a consideration which I believe to be fundamental yet it is no more than the common prudence one would exercise in preparing for the success of any general assembly or meeting in business or political life.

There is another point, however, which relates to the advisability of raising any territorial questions at all during the course of the war or, at least, until after the Russians have clearly committed themselves to their participation in the Pacific war.58 Any discussions of territorial matters, whether they be in the nature of security acquisitions, trusteeships or outright territorial adjustments, are almost certain to induce controversies which put at risk a united and vigorous prosecution of the war itself. The introduction of these subjects into any general meeting would be most inadvisable, almost certainly provoke a welter of opinion and great jockeying for position. In my judgment it is fanciful to suppose that the subject of “trusteeships” could be introduced with a limitation of the discussion to the mere form of the trust organization. No such discussion could usefully proceed without a consideration of the nature of the specific areas to be trusteed. Immediately the subject is introduced, the various powers would certainly consider the subject in the light of how it would affect the areas in which they are interested or which they covet.

I feel that for us to raise the subject, on the proviso that no areas in the Pacific in which we are interested could be discussed is even [Page 27] more unwise. This would immediately provoke a sense of distrust and discrimination among the other parties to the discussion which would both call marked attention to our aims and poison the general atmosphere of the discussion.

It is my conclusion, therefore, that we should not bring up the subject of territorial adjustments, including “trusteeships” for discussion in any form, at least until the war is much further along and Russian participation in the Pacific war is accomplished. We should also make a determined effort to avoid a discussion of the subject. I realize that some discussion of territorial matters may be inevitable but we should not bring it up and we should avoid it if we can. The subject of “trusteeships” could certainly be avoided until a more suitable time, on the very sound ground that no satisfactory discussion can possibly take place without full knowledge of the types and character of the territories to be dealt with.

Henry L. Stimson
  1. For additional information on Secretary Stimson’s attitude regarding this memorandum and the general subject “Bases and Big Powers”, see Henry L. Stimson and McGeorge Bundy, On Active Service in Peace and War, pp. 599–605. See also Walter Millis (ed.), The Forrestal Diaries, pp. 28–29.
  2. No record of conversation found in Department files; possibly this was one of regular weekly meetings which was held by the Secretary of State with the Secretaries of War (Stimson) and the Navy (Forrestal).
  3. For the Declaration of Four Nations (United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, and China) on General Security, see Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. i, p. 755.
  4. Article XI of the Covenant of the League of Nations noted that any war or threat of war was a matter of concern to the whole League and that in case any such emergency should arise the Secretary General should on the request of any member of the League forthwith summon a meeting of the Council. For text of the Covenant (pt. I of Treaty of Peace between the Allied and Associated Powers and Germany, signed at Versailles June 28, 1919), see Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vol. xiii, p. 69.
  5. See agreement between the United States and France signed at Versailles June 28, 1919, regarding assistance to France in the event of unprovoked aggression by Germany, with annexed treaty in similar terms between Great Britain and the French Republic, ibid., pp. 757762.
  6. For a speech on American foreign policy by Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg in the United States Senate on January 10, 1945, see Congressional Record, vol. 91, pt. 1, pp. 164–167. For a, summary account, see Arthur H. Vandenberg, Jr. (ed.), The Private Papers of Senator Vandenberg, pp. 132–138.
  7. Reference is made to the Japanese mandated islands in the Pacific; in the Cairo Declaration of December 1, 1943, President Roosevelt, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (President of the National Government of the Republic of China), and Prime Minister Churchill stated: “The Three Great Allies … covet no gain for themselves and have no thought of territorial expansion. It is their purpose that Japan shall be stripped of all the islands in the Pacific which she has seized or occupied since the beginning of the first World War in 1914…”. ( Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Cairo and Tehran, 1943, p. 448.)

    For memorandum of conversation with President Roosevelt, by the Special Assistant to the Secretary of State (Pasvolsky), November 15, 1944, which outlines the President’s views in relation to those of the Secretaries of War and the Navy on international trusteeship, see Conferences at Malta and Yalta, p. 56.

  8. President Roosevelt, in a memorandum of July 10, 1944, not printed, reminded the Joint Chiefs of Staff that “we have agreed that we are seeking no additional territory as a result of the war”. He added, however, that he was working on the idea that the United Nations would ask the United States to act as trustee for the Japanese Mandated Islands; he assumed that with this authority would also go the military authority to protect or fortify them. The War and Navy representatives argued on the basis of this that the trustee should retain rigid controls over a trust territory when that territory had been designated as a strategic area.
  9. For text of agreement regarding entry of the Soviet Union into the war against Japan, signed on February 11, 1945, by Marshal Stalin, President Roosevelt, and Prime Minister Churchill, see Conferences at Malta and Yalta, p. 984 (also printed as Department of State Executive Agreement Series No. 498, 59 Stat. (pt. 2) 1823). With regard to this subject, see Conferences at Malta and Yalta, pp. 361400; Cordell Hull, The Memoirs of Cordell Hull, vol. ii, pp. 1309–1310; and U.S. Department of Defense, The Entry of the Soviet Union into the War Against Japan: Military Plans, Press Release (Sept. 1955).