Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State ( Lovett )

top secret
Participants: The British Ambassador
Mr. Lovett
Mr. Reber, EUR

The British Ambassador called on me this afternoon to give us Bevin’s preliminary impression of the Soviet reply1 to the joint [identic] note on the Berlin situation.2 Bevin holds the strong opinion that we should not hurry our reply or publication of the note. As an indication of our position we should step up the air lift in the meanwhile. He suggests that Douglas, Strang and Massigli should jointly consider the note and advise the three Governments with respect to the timing of publication and the nature of our reply. It is important in Bevin’s opinion that we do not give any impression of concern or fuss about the note which is in all likelihood only the opening of a protracted operation. I explained that we had a similar message from Douglas this afternoon and that the latter had urged us to add as many C–54’s as possible.3 This matter was now in the hands of the air force.

With respect to sending the B–29’s, the National Security Council at its meeting tomorrow would consider this matter in the light of the Soviet note.4

The Ambassador then gave me the substance of a further message from Mr. Bevin on the Subject.

The substance of which is contained in the attached memorandum. In this connection I said it was impossible to forecast the decision of the National Security Council but that the question of timing was the only real matter of substance to be discussed tomorrow.

The British Ambassador then handed me a copy of the Soviet reply to the British note which differs from the one we received in that it leaves out certain paragraphs relating to the situation in Berlin itself but this may be an omission in transmission as the British note is identical in other respects.5

[ Robert A.] L[ovett]
[Page 966]

Message From the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs ( Bevin ), as Transmitted by the British Ambassador ( Franks ), July 14, 1948

Mr. Bevin feels that the fact of the arrival of the Soviet reply and its character do not in any way lessen the desirability of sending the bombers across the Atlantic. He believes that their dispatch is all the more important so that it will be clear that the receipt of the Soviet note was not the occasion of the decision to send them. He is also of the opinion that we should go ahead with all the necessary steps in building up our position while we determine on what lines reply should be made to the Soviet note. Among these steps, he considers that the arrival of the bombers ranks as highly important. He believes also that it is desirable that the bombers should arrive before the meeting of the Consultative Council (of the Brussels Pact), which is due to be held at The Hague on Monday.

So far as publicity is concerned, Mr. Bevin abides by his view, already expressed, that the ordinary language of “routine training flights” should be employed to cover the movement of the bombers.

  1. Supra.
  2. July 6, p. 950.
  3. The reference here is to a telecon between Washington and London at 2 p. m. Washington time in which Douglas repeated his hope that Clay would be sent more C–54’s (740.00119 Control (Germany)/6–3048).
  4. At its 15th meeting July 14, the National Security Council “agreed, subject to reservations by the Secretary of the Army, that the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense should recommend to the President that the United States proceed with the dispatch of B–29 bombers to the British Isles.” (NSC Action 77, Executive Secretariat Files) Douglas was notified of this action in telegram 2757, July 15, to London, not printed (740.00119 Control (Germany)/7–1548).
  5. Subsequent comparison of the Soviet notes revealed that the British and U.S. versions were identical.