841.646/4–2046: Telegram

President Truman to the British Prime Minister (Attlee)62

top secret
us urgent

3400. The Secretary of State has informed me of the discussion in the Combined Policy Committee with reference to the request of the representatives of the United Kingdom that they be furnished with full information as to the construction and operation of the atomic energy plants in this country in order that they may proceed to construct a plant somewhere in the United Kingdom.

The Secretary advises me that the request is based upon the construction placed upon the memorandum dated November 16, 1945, signed by Harry S. Truman, C. R. Attlee and Mackenzie King. That memorandum reads as follows:

  • “1. We desire that there should be full and effective cooperation in the field of atomic energy between the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.
  • “2. We agree that the Combined Policy Committee and the Combined Development Trust should be continued in a suitable form.
  • “3. We request the Combined Policy Committee to consider and recommend to us appropriate arrangements for this purpose.”

I would regret it very much if there should be any misunderstanding by us as to this memorandum.

I think it is agreed by all of us that during the war under the Quebec Agreement the United States was not obligated to furnish [Page 1236] to the United Kingdom in the post-war period the designs and assistance in construction and operation of plants necessary to the building of a plant. Therefore, the question is whether this situation was changed and such an obligation assumed by the United States under the language of the memorandum above quoted.

The language “full and effective cooperation” is very general. We must consider what was the intention of those who signed the memorandum. I must say that no one at any time informed me that the memorandum was proposed with the intention of having the United States obligate itself to furnish the engineering and operation assistance necessary for the construction of another atomic energy plant. Had that been done I would not have signed the memorandum.

That such a change in our obligation was not intended at the time is indicated by the working paper prepared by Sir John Anderson and General Groves, a few hours after the signing of a memorandum by you and me. I admit that I was not aware of the existence of this paper, but it shows conclusively that even in the minds of those gentlemen who prepared the agreement we signed, the words “full and effective cooperation” applied only to the field of basic scientific information and were not intended to require the giving of information as to construction and operation of plants whenever it was requested.

Paragraph 5 of that memorandum of intention reads as follows:

“There shall be full and effective cooperation in the field of basic scientific research among the three countries. In the field of development, design, construction, and operation of plants such cooperation, recognized as desirable in principle, shall be regulated by such ad hoc arrangements as may be approved from time to time by the Combined Policy Committee as mutually advantageous.”

As to our entering at this time into an arrangement to assist the United Kingdom in building an atomic energy plant, I think it would be exceedingly unwise from the standpoint of the United Kingdom as well as the United States.

On November 15, the day prior to the signing of the memorandum first above referred to, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States issued jointly a declaration of our intention to request the United Nations to establish a commission to control the production of atomic energy so as to prevent its use for military purposes. Our action led to the adoption later by the General Assembly of a resolution creating a commission for that purpose. I would not want to have it said that on the morning following the issuance of our declaration to bring about international control we entered into a new agreement, the purpose of which was to have the United States furnish the in [Page 1237] formation as to construction and operation of plants which would enable the United Kingdom to construct another atomic energy plant. No such purpose was suggested by you or thought of by me.

We were inspired to issue our declaration by the demands of people the world over that there should be some international control of atomic energy. Ever since, we have been working toward that goal.

In view of our advocacy of international control, public sentiment in the United States would not permit us to construct another plant until the United Nations Commission has had an opportunity to report upon the subject. I believe that it would be more critical if at this time we entered into a new arrangement to assist the United Kingdom in designing, constructing and operating a plant.

I have written you frankly because I am sure that it is what you would have me do.

Harry S. Truman
  1. Drafted by the Secretary of State.