842.20 Defense/10–3146

Memorandum by the Assistant Chief of the Division of British Commonwealth Affairs (Parsons)11

top secret

Ambassador Atherton reported the substance of the conversation between the President and the Prime Minister as related to him by Mr. Pearson, Under Secretary of External Affairs in Ottawa. Mr. Pearson’s account is based on a telegram from the new Canadian Ambassador, Mr. Wrong, with whom Prime Minister King talked immediately after leaving the White House.

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Following an exchange of amenities and discussion of their respective domestic political problems, the gist of the conversation was as follows:

The President and the Prime Minister discussed the closest possible cooperation in defense matters in the interest of efficiency and economy. Under this heading was included full exchange of military information, not only between the United States and Canada but also with the United Kingdom. It was agreed by both that the closest cooperation was necessary.
The President mentioned the need for a strong air force and mentioned the possible stationing of United States units at Goose Bay. It was agreed that further discussion through the Cabinet Ministers concerned or through diplomatic channels should be held.
The Prime Minister stressed the need for the closest consultation on publicity relating to defense measures. This was agreed upon and the Prime Minister understood it would be a commitment binding on the United States.
The Prime Minister stated that he would wish to inform the United Kingdom of any agreements or arrangements of consequence on defense matters. The President raised no objection and referred in this connection to Field Marshal Montgomery’s visit.12 He spoke with great approval of the latter’s talks on standardization.
The President raised the question of the 35th Recommendation, Permanent Joint Board on Defense (which the Canadian Government has not yet approved), but it was not discussed in any concrete way. Mr. Wrong’s telegram stated that the President had been briefed on this matter by the State Department.
There was no discussion of any basic defense plan.
The President gave the Prime Minister a summary of Ambassador Bedell Smith’s views as to the Soviet potential for offensive action.13 The Prime Minister stated that these views agreed with those of the Canadian Ambassador in Moscow.
The general effect of the conversation was to clear the way for further talks on joint defense at a high level but leaving in United States hands the initiative as to timing and channel.
The possibility of a visit by the President to Ottawa was discussed and both were enthusiastic. They agreed that a visit at some time late next spring when Parliament was in session would probably be most advantageous.

In regard to point 8 above, placing the initiative for further high level talks on joint defense in United States hands, it is suggested that after a suitable interval I be authorized to instruct Ambassador Atherton to ask Mr. Pearson, Under Secretary for External Affairs, for the [Page 63]reaction of the Canadian Government to the questions raised by the President. The President, it will be recalled, read to the Prime Minister an oral message, copies of which, at the President’s direction, were given to Ambassador Wrong here and Mr. Pearson in Ottawa. The oral message sets forth United States position on the joint defense matters mentioned above and on several others as well.

  1. J. Graham Parsons was also Secretary, United States Section, Permanent Joint Board on Defense.
  2. Field Marshal Montgomery had visited the United States in September 1946.
  3. For documentation pertaining to Soviet military and atomic capabilities, see vol. vi, pp. 673 ff., passim. In addition, a report prepared by the Joint Working Committee of the American Embassy in Moscow, dated September 1, had been transmitted to the Department under cover of despatch 379, September 9, from Moscow. This report, entitled “Analysis of Soviet Strength and Weakness”, was subsequently passed on to the Canadian Section of the Permanent Joint Board on Defense. Neither despatch 379 nor the report is printed (861.00/9–946).