S/AE Files

Memorandum by Major Harry S. Traynor, on the Staff of the Commanding General’, Manhattan Engineer District (Groves)

Report on Trip to England: 8 July to 1 August 1945

1. Initial Approach to Ambassador Winant.44

Major Taney45 and Major on 10 July 1945 and called on Ambassador Winant. The Ambassador was [Page 26] handed the letter from General Groves46 which he immediately read.

A general summary of the mission at hand was given verbally to the Ambassador with emphasis on the importance which Sweden and the Netherlands East Indies had recently assumed. The Ambassador was very interested in the latest development of the project and asked when success might be expected. To this question Major Traynor replied that he was not acquainted with exact dates but thought that important tests were not far distant.

The Ambassador explained that he was engaged for the next twenty-four hours and stated that as soon as several pressing matters at hand were taken care of he would see us again.

2. Memoranda by Dr. George Bain.47

Dr. Bain arrived in London on 11 July and at the request of the undersigned prepared summarized non-technical memorandums on the occurrence and possibilities of the desired minerals in Sweden and the Netherlands East Indies. (See Exhibits A and B.47a)

3. Delivery of Letter for Mr. Johnson48 to Ambassador Winant.

After receiving cabled instructions from General Groves the envelope containing the letter to Mr. Johnson was delivered to the Ambassador on 11 July and the cable shown to him. At his request, a copy of the cable was prepared and handed to him.

In view of the importance which the occurrence of a test and possible consequent relaxation of security might have on impending negotiations, the Ambassador was informed by Major Traynor that tests might take place during the course of the negotiations, that news of this might conceivably get spread around, and that use might follow closely after tests. This information was conveyed to him in highest secrecy and understood by him as having that classification.

The Ambassador was also informed that brief non-technical one page summaries on both Sweden and the N.E.I. were being prepared for him. He indicated that he felt these were highly desirable. He asked if commercial interests would be involved in the Netherlands and Swedish arrangements to which the reply was made that this was possible, and if so they would probably have to be taken care of in a manner similar to the Belgian agreement49 by introducing The Trust as a two-government agent.

[Page 27]

4. First Meeting with U.K. Representatives.

On 12 July, the first meeting (See Exhibit C50—for Minutes of this meeting) with the British was held in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s office and was attended by Sir John Anderson, Ambassador Winant, Sir Eonald Campbell,51 Mr. E. S. Sayers,52 Major Taney, Major Traynor and Mr. D.H.F. Rickett, Sir John’s confidential Secretary. A discussion as to how the approach should be made to the Netherlands Government was held and it was agreed that the best procedure would be for Sir John Anderson to see M. Van Kleffens, Netherlands Minister of Foreign Affairs, alone. It was mentioned by Sir Ronald Campbell that the Netherlands government was at present in a confused frame of mind, was somewhat wary of approaches made to them by the larger powers, would have to be handled carefully and that more would probably be accomplished if the initial contact was made in an informal talk by one person. Sir John Anderson seemed the logical one to do this because of his prior and personal acquaintance with M. Van Kleffens.

The approach put forth by Sir John Anderson was to point out that scientific developments had been such that uranium supplies of the world might become a source of danger if their exploitation was not controlled and recent research suggested that similar risks might be attached to thorium. The desire that the Netherlands Government would control all exports of monazite and thorium compounds extracted from it and not permit such exports without the consent of the contracting parties would then be expressed.

The possibility that commercial aspects might enter into the negotiations gave rise to the thought that the purchase of minimum quantities of monazite might have to be a consideration in order to obtain for the United States and the United Kingdom first refusal or option clause.

Mr. Winant emphasized the high order of security of the matter and that the arrangements should cover thorium deposits outside the mining company concessions. Sir John Anderson made an informal statement that he thought the top Netherlands Government representative could be trusted. It was the consensus of opinion of those present that the form of agreement with the Netherlands should be the sort of legal instrument as was made with the Belgians—that is a memorandum confirmed by an exchange of letters between the three Governments.

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5. Sir John Anderson’s Approach to M. Van Kleffens.

Immediately after the above described meeting with U.K. Representatives, Sir John Anderson met with M. Van Kleffens, Netherlands Minister of Foreign Affairs. (See Exhibit D53 for notes of this meeting). Sir John reported that he outlined to M. Van Kleffens in general terms the nature of the problem and the approach the U.K. and U.S. were disposed to make to it and that M. Van Kleffens said he had no doubt but that his Government would be entirely cooperative but that he would have to mention the matter to the Netherlands Prime Minister54 and Netherlands Minister for Overseas Territories.55

M. Van Kleffens was said to have promised to take the matter up immediately with his Government upon his return to The Hague on 17 July and propose that someone be designated by the Netherlands Government to deal with the matter, both diplomatically and scientifically, and inform Sir John of what could be arranged.

Sir John stated that he then asked that the person selected come to London the next week but that M. Van Kleffens was doubtful if this could be accomplished but promised to expedite the matter. Sir John also stated that he indicated it would be welcome to himself and Ambassador Winant if M. Van Kleffens could attend the next meeting with such experts as his government might designate and that M. Van Kleffens received this suggestion favorably.

6. Meeting with Mr. Herschel V. Johnson.

Mr. Herschel V. Johnson, United States Minister to Sweden, came to London on 14 July 1945, at the request of Ambassador Winant. On Sunday, 15 July 1945, Major Taney and Major Traynor met with Mr. Johnson for the purpose of giving him the necessary background and informing him in more detail of the job to be done. Ambassador Winant had had a short talk with Mr. Johnson the evening of the previous day and had delivered to him the letter dated 6 July 1945 from General L. E. Groves.

A brief résumé and genesis of the project was given to Mr. Johnson touching on formation of the idea, the original fostering of the work by the Office of Scientific Research and Development, the approved report of 17 June 1942 by V. Bush and J. B. Conant with the consequent assumption of large phases of the work by a special group of the Corps of Engineers under General L. E. Groves; the existence of production plants and communities; the high manpower and material priorities and requirements of the work; the high order of security surrounding the project; the fact that the end products were produced [Page 29] from uranium, the approval from President Truman for continuation of the work, the experimental status of thorium, the existence and inter-relation of agreements between the U.K. and U.S. covering the project, the existence of the Trust, the existence of a Belgian agreement and impending Brazilian agreement, the fact that an approach was being made to the Netherlands Government; and the fact that some measure of success and the breaking down of complete security might come during the process of negotiations.

The extreme secrecy of the entire subject was emphasized and it is felt that the need and justification for this was completely understood and appreciated by Mr. Johnson.

Mr. Johnson asked if a neutral country had ever been approached previously and was told it had not. He stated that the Swedes were a very intelligent and democratic people; that their form of government might make it difficult for them to concede [accede?] to our wishes, that they realized their perilous political and geographical positions and had no illusions about their being able to withstand for long any major avalanche of force that might be directed against them. Nevertheless, he trusted implicitly their Prime Minister,56 the retiring (August 1, 1945) and incoming Foreign Minister[s]57 and especially the permanent Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs.58

Mr. Johnson thought the matter would have to be handled with these top men, and further before his return to Sweden he desired to talk with Sir John Anderson and the Ambassador.

7. Meeting with Ambassador Winant and Mr. Johnson, 17 July 1945.

Mr. Johnson, Major Taney and Major Traynor discussed with Ambassador Winant the method of approaching the Swedes, the advisability of having the initial negotiations take place in Stockholm, the necessity of transmitting all important messages between Stockholm and London by courier, the special delicacy of the Swedish position rising out of Sweden’s geographical and political positions and from the fact that the Swedish form of government restricts freedom to make security-cloaked governmental agreements especially where private interests were concerned and the fact that the situation might be further complicated by changes in the Swedish Cabinet on 1 August 1945 when a new Foreign Minister would take office.

Mr. Johnson stated he thought both the incoming and outgoing Foreign Ministers and the permanent Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs were favorably disposed towards the United Kingdom and the United States.

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The possibility of using the assistance of the new British Minister to Sweden,59 who had not yet assumed his post and whose experience had of late been in Argentina, was discussed but was considered impracticable and unwise. This, it was felt would merely extend information on the project to still another person who would not be in a position to play an essential role in the negotiations.

In conclusion, arrangements were made to meet with Sir John Anderson on Wednesday, 18 July to discuss with him, and decide upon Mr. Johnson’s approach to the Swedish government.

8. Meeting with Sir John Anderson

On Wednesday, 18 July 1945, Ambassador Winant and Mr. Johnson met with Sir John Anderson to discuss the procedure to be followed in opening negotiations with the Swedish government. (See Exhibit E60—for notes of this meeting). Others present were Major Taney, Major Traynor, Mr. Sayers and Mr. Rickett.

Mr. Johnson expressed the view that if negotiations were opened in London, time would be lost inasmuch as the Swedish representative approached would have to return to Stockholm for instructions. Both Mr. Johnson and Ambassador Winant suggested the right course was for Mr. Johnson to see the Swedish Foreign Minister and his permanent Under Secretary together for the initial contact and when the possibilities of an agreement had been explored to continue final negotiations in London. Sir John Anderson was agreeable to this procedure.

Sir John Anderson suggested that Mr. Johnson might open by saying that as the Swedish Government would be aware, there was a scientific possibility that uranium might become of importance for military purposes. The U.S. and British Governments were carrying out research on this possibility, the results of which made them anxious as a matter of prudence to ensure that the exploitation of the large deposits of uranium known to exist in Sweden were properly controlled. The two Governments were anxious that the Swedish Government should give an undertaking not to permit the export of uranium except with their agreement and to grant to the two governments the right of first refusal on all Swedish uranium supplies. In consideration of this undertaking the two Governments would be willing to enter into an agreement to purchase whatever might be considered a reasonable yearly quantity of uranium, having regard to the rate at which the deposits were capable of being economically worked.

Mr. Winant and Mr. Johnson expressed general agreement with the basis of negotiations suggested by Sir John and agreed that Mr. [Page 31] Winant should arrange for a memorandum to be drafted in consultation with Sir John’s advisors setting out the approach on which Mr. Johnson would take up the matter in Stockholm.

Mr. Winant and Mr. Johnson said that they thought it would help to create a favorable atmosphere for the negotiations if the U.K. and U.S. Governments could expedite the implementation of the arrangements on post war supplies which had been agreed upon in principle with the Swedish government. Sir John remarked, that as Mr. Winant knew one of the difficulties in the negotiations relative to the commodities which Sweden wished to purchase from the U.K. were that they were in very short supply, but that he would see what could be done to carry out Mr. Winant’s suggestion.

9. Preparation of Swedish Memorandum for Mr. Johnson.

In accordance with instructions obtained at the above described meeting on 18 July, Messrs. Sayers and Rickett prepared a preliminary draft of approach for Mr. Johnson. This was revised by Major Taney, Major Traynor and Dr. Bain and shown to Ambassador Winant and Mr. Johnson on 19 July who suggested a minor change to make the semi-technical explanation of the uranium deposits clearer to the layman. This change was made, and the draft of 20 July 1945, (See Exhibit F)61 was shown to and approved by Colonel John Lansdale and Major John E. Vance and later by Ambassador Winant and Mr. Johnson. A copy of this approved 20 July Draft was delivered to Mr. Rickett for transmittal to Sir John Anderson.

10. Information from M. Van Kleffens.

Late Friday evening, 20 July 1945, M. Van Kleffens, who had returned to London, reported to Sir John Anderson that he had contacted his Prime Minister and Minister for Overseas Territories on the matter and that he expected to return to The Hague on Monday July 23 and expected to arrange the desired meeting in London with representatives of his government by the middle of the week of 22–28 July.

11. Approval of Swedish Memorandum by Sir John Anderson.

On 23 July, Sir John Anderson informed Colonel Lansdale of his approval of the 20 July Draft Memorandum prepared for Mr. Johnson with the exception that he desired to add a paragraph. This paragraph is No. 6. Its addition was approved by Ambassador Winant and Mr. Johnson.

12. Information on Netherlands Delegation.

Mr. Rickett informed Major Traynor on 25 July 1945 that Sir John Anderson had received word from M. Van Kleffens that the [Page 32] Netherlands delegation, consisting of M. Van Kleffens, M. Kramers and M. J. Van den Broeck, former Netherlands Minister of Finance, would be in London on Monday, 30 July for the purpose of opening negotiations. Mr. Rickett stated that the Dutch were somewhat surprised when told that United States representatives would also be present. Apparently they had not understood this to be the case from M. Van Kleffens’ discussion with Sir John Anderson.

13. Review of Draft of Netherlands Agreement by Ambassador Winant.

On 27 July 1945, a draft of a proposed “Memorandum of Agreement Between the Netherlands Government and Governments of U.S. and U.K.”62 was handed to Ambassador Winant, The Ambassador thought the memorandum was satisfactory as a preliminary draft. He was told that it followed substantially the same lines as the Brazilian agreement. The Ambassador then asked if any change had been made from the Brazilian form to take into recognition the different form of the Netherlands Government. Colonel Lansdale told him that no such change had been incorporated in the proposed Netherlands agreement because such an agreement was considered an external matter to which the form of government subscribing to it made little difference. The Ambassador agreed that this approach was correct.

14. Colonel Lansdale’s Meeting with Secretary of War and Mr. Bwidy.

Colonel Lansdale met with the Secretary of War and Mr. Harvey Bundy at Prestwick, Scotland on 27 July 1945. The impending negotiations with the Netherlands and Swedish governments were made known to both gentlemen.

15. Second Meeting with Netherlands Representatives.

On 30 July 1945, a meeting was held in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s office with the Netherlands’ representatives. Those present were Sir John Anderson; Ambassador Winant; M. Van Kleffens, Netherlands Foreign Minister; Dr. Kramers, a Dutch Physicist; Sir Thomas Barnes, Solicitor of the Treasury; Sir Ronald Campbell; Colonel John Lansdale; Major John Vance; Mr. Rickett and Mr. Sayers. (M. Van den Broeck, Netherlands former Minister of Finance was delayed by bad weather and could not attend this meeting).

Sir John Anderson reviewed his previous approach to M. Van Kleffens for Ambassador Winant, mentioning the Brazilian agreement, negotiations with the State of Travancore, and his previous suggestion to the Netherlands that they undertake to restrict exports of [Page 33] thorium ores in return for an agreement by the U.S. and U.K. to purchase specified quantities.

M. Van Kleffens stated that the Netherlands Government agreed in principle but commented that to date nothing had been said as to the form an agreement was to take. He mentioned possible difficulties since normally international agreements made by the Netherlands went before their Parliament. However, he believed that the impending agreement could be handled without publicity. He further stated that he was aware of the danger in allowing the material in question to fall into the hands of enemies.

Sir John again emphasized the need for security.

Colonel Lansdale asked if M. Van den Broeck would have figures on commercial aspects and M. Van Kleffens stated that he would since M. Van den Broeck was Chairman of the Board of the Billiton Company.

M. Van Kleffens stated that in considering restrictions on the material the Netherlands would want a certain amount for themselves for experimental purposes. To this statement, Sir John Anderson replied that the Belgian agreement had provided for the retention of material for such purposes and felt that there would be no difficulty in this respect in the impending agreement.

M. Van Kleffens mentioned that there were many deposits of minerals in the Celebes but that these were largely unexplored, and that there might be thorium containing material in other parts of the Netherlands East Indies. Mr. Sayers said thorium might occur anywhere that tin was found to which M. Van Kleffens stated there was no tin in the Celebes. (This agrees with Dr. Bain’s information). Dr. Kramers mentioned the Republic of Colombia as a possible source of thorium.

Sir John Anderson suggested a meeting of technical representatives when M. Van den Broeck arrived. All agreed that more detailed facts were needed and that such a meeting should take place as soon as M. Van den Broeck arrived and that following the meeting a memorandum of agreement would be drafted.

M. Van Kleffens stated that he hoped to have the business concluded by the end of the week of 29 July–4 August 1945.

16. Meeting with Sir Thomas Barnes.

Immediately after the meeting with the Netherlands representatives, Colonel Lansdale and Major Vance met with Sir Thomas Barnes …

17. Colonel Lansdale’s Discussion with Ambassador Winant.

During the afternoon of 30 July 1945, Ambassador Winant discussed with Colonel Lansdale several aspects of the new British government. [Page 34] He informed Colonel Lansdale that Mr. Attlee had not been aware of the D.S.M.63 project, prior to becoming Prime Minister and that he (Mr. Winant) and Mr. Churchill64 had prepared a memorandum for Mr. Attlee on the subject.

18. Third Meeting with Netherlands Representatives.

M. Van den Broeck arrived in London on 30 July 1945. In accordance with arrangements made on 30 July, a meeting was held on 31 July. Those present were: Sir Thomas Barnes, Sir Ronald Campbell, Mr. Rickett, Mr. Sayers, M. Van den Broeck, Dr. H. A. Kramers, Colonel Lansdale, Major Vance and Dr. Bain.

Sir Thomas Barnes reviewed the general agreement reached on 30 July that control of the materials would be provided for and that the agreement itself would have the appearances of a commercial document.

M. Van den Broeck requested disclosure of the Belgian agreement but it was clearly stated by Sir Thomas Barnes and Colonel Lansdale that the Belgian agreement contained a clause prohibiting its disclosure by the governments involved. M. Van den Broeck said he had no doubt it dealt with uranium since the Belgian Congo was rich in that material. He further stated that his government wished to be informed of the development of the project and the extent of its progress, emphasizing the Netherlands nearness to Germany. He added that the Netherlands government would wish to reserve the right to use thorium for defense purposes and not solely for industry.

Colonel Lansdale replied that our experiments on thorium were entirely preliminary and Sir Thomas Barnes added that any disclosure of the project was a matter of high policy. He asked the Netherlands government to trust the U.K. and the U.S. to keep the material out of the wrong hands, and that in any case the group present could make no disclosures of any sort.

M. Van den Broeck agreed to leave these points in abeyance but said that any agreement that might be reached would be subject to a further discussion on the matter of revealing progress on the project to the Netherlands government.

Sir Thomas Barnes said that in accepting this the U.K. and U.S. were not agreeing to a later disclosure but only recognizing that the Netherlands might again bring up the request. M. Van den Broeck countered by saying he could not guarantee that the Netherlands would enter into an agreement without a disclosure.

A semi-technical discussion followed. It became apparent that before the Japanese occupation monazite was not separated as such [Page 35] in the N.E.I, but rather that the tin ore, after being removed from the deposits, contained a small amount of monazite which was removed at the smelters in Holland. Or in other words, most of the monazite which occurs in the tin ore is left in the N.E.I, as waste material mixed with all of the original base rock and is probably not recoverable except at great expense. In the past there has been only a small demand for monazite so no effort has been made to produce the material.

The only purchaser before 1939 was Aver Gesellschaft with offices in Frankfurt and Berlin. M. Van den Broeck believed the use was for gas mantles and not for experimental purposes. He did not know the exact amounts of monazite sold but thought it was only a few hundred tons in comparison with some 20,000 tons of tin in 1939. He mentioned a price of $60 to $80 per ton in Holland for monazite containing 6 per cent to 8 per cent thoria, which was the only grade for which a market existed and stated there were no stocks of low grade monazite available. He did not know the extent of monazite reserves.

It was agreed that all grades of monazite should be controlled and generally agreed to limit export of all materials containing thorium in “recoverable amounts”, leaving the definition of the term “recoverable amounts” to discussion from time to time.

In further discussion of prices, M. Van den Broeck said that freight from the N.E.I, to the Netherlands was $14 to $16 per ton. A periodic adjustment of prices was suggested.

M. Van den Broeck stated that if increased production was wanted the price for monazite would be much higher and asked if increased production was desired. He was given a negative answer.

In the event of increased production M. Van den Broeck said it might be done either in the N.E.I. or the Netherlands. (It is quite probable that the only successful production on a large scale would have to be carried out in the N.E.I.—Vance.)

M. Van den Broeck said he would return to the Netherlands on 2 August and would get figures on present production prices, etc. from his technical people.

M. Van den Broeck again referred to the Netherlands requirements of thorium and to their request for project information. It was concluded that a draft of an agreement would be prepared for M. Van den Broeck by 4 P.M. of 31 July and that on 1 August it might be advisable (after a morning meeting to discuss the draft by those then present) to have a meeting of Sir John Anderson, Ambassador Winant and M. Van Kleffens to consider the agreement and at the same time discuss the disclosure request.

An effort was made to limit the amount of monazite reserved for the Netherlands to a specified figure such as 20–30 tons but M. Van [Page 36] den Broeck objected and wanted the amount left open for the Dutch to determine saying that they could not bind themselves to restrict the use of their own resources and stated it should not be necessary since they were already agreeing to keep the material out of the hands of the enemy.

19. Meeting with Ambassador Winant.

Colonel Lansdale reviewed the essence of the negotiations of the morning meeting with Ambassador Winant. At the suggestion that perhaps a follow-up should be made to Mr. Herschel Johnson on the Swedish matter the Ambassador advised against it and stated he thought Mr. Johnson was probably waiting for the new Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs to take office on 1 August before approaching the Swedish government.

20. Fourth Meeting with Netherlands Representatives.

On 1 August 1945 Sir Thomas Barnes, Mr. Rickett and Mr. Sayers representing the U.K.; Colonel Lansdale, Major Vance and Dr. Bain representing the U.S.; M. Van den Broeck and Dr. Kramers representing the Netherlands met to consider a memorandum of agreement.67

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

  1. John G. Winant, Ambassador in the United Kingdom.
  2. Maj. Clifford A. Taney, on the Staff of General Groves.
  3. Not found In Department files.
  4. Senior Geologist for the Murray Hill Area, the exploration arm of the Manhattan District Project.
  5. Neither printed.
  6. Herschel V. Johnson, United States Minister in Sweden.
  7. See footnote 33, p. 14.
  8. Not printed.
  9. British Representative on the European Advisory Commission; formerly British Minister, Washington. For documentation pertaining to the work of the European Advisory Commission (EAC), see vol. iii, pp. 1 ff.
  10. Of the British Treasury.
  11. Not printed.
  12. William Schermerhorn.
  13. Johann H. A. Logemann.
  14. Per Albin Hansson.
  15. Christian E. Günther and Östen Undén, respectively.
  16. Stig Sahlin.
  17. Cecil B. Jerram.
  18. Not printed.
  19. Ante, p. 24.
  20. Not printed.
  21. An earlier designation for the atomic bomb development program, i.e., the Manhattan District Project.
  22. Winston S. Churchill, British Prime Minister until July 26, 1945.
  23. According to Leslie R. Groves, Now It Can Be Told: The Story of the Man-hat tan Project (Hew York, Harper & Brothers, 1962), p. 184, an agreement covering the sale of monazite sands was signed with The Netherlands but remained inoperative. For additional information, see Margaret Gowing, Britain and Atomic Energy, 1939–1945 (London, St Martin’s Press, 1964), pp. 317–318.