Department of State Atomic Energy Files

Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. R. Gordon Arneson, Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of State (Webb)

top secret

Subject: General Norstad’s Talks with Air Marshal Tedder1

Participants: Secretary of State
Lt. General Lauris Norstad
Mr. William Webster
Mr. R. Gordon Arneson

General Norstad and Mr. Webster called on the Secretary at 2:30 July 19 to inform him of discussions that General Norstad had had in a most informal way with Tedder in the course of a recent visit to the United Kingdom in connection with discussions on strategic air plans.

Mr. Webster recalled that after the meeting at which the American side members of the CPC approved the Report to the President,2 Secretary Forrestal and Mr. Webster had suggested to Secretary Acheson that in connection with a forthcoming trip of air personnel to the United Kingdom it might be feasible to sound out their British [Page 500]counterparts on the question of suitable arrangements for cooperation in the field of atomic energy. It was stressed that such approaches would be completely unofficial, subject to repudiation in case either side found it necessary. Mr. Webster asked General Norstad to report on how this matter had gone.3

General Norstad stated that he had been able to talk with Tedder alone for about an hour (General Vandenberg4 being purposely absent). Tedder was of the opinion that if a fully effective partnership could, be brought about between the United States and the United Kingdom in the field of atomic energy, the British in all probability would not insist on having any major production program. From a military point of view, he did not think it wise that the British program be of any major size nor that the bombs themselves should be stored in any quantity in the Isles except as may be jointly agreed in the common war plans. He realized that some plutonium production would have to be carried on in the U.K. if for no other reason than to command public support and to bolster national prestige. General Norstad got the impression that once the British could say they had produced even one bomb by their own effort, whether it be done in the U.K. or in Canada, they would be quite willing to keep their program to modest proportions.

Tedder undertook to pass this line on to appropriate British authorities with a view toward steering the direction of their thinking. General Norstad reported that he had urged Tedder to recommend to his people that against the day negotiations could be begun the British should try to formulate a minimum position rather than come in with a major demand from which they would plan to recede. For his part, General Norstad said he would urge a similar attitude on the part of U.S. negotiators.

Secretary Acheson commented that this was a very hopeful report. Asked whether it would be appropriate for General Norstad in the course of another visit to the U.K. within the next two or three weeks again to talk with Tedder, Secretary Acheson said that he felt it would be all right, provided it was perfectly clear that no commitment whatever was involved. General Norstad said that he would do it on no other basis, and expressed the hope that he could report back whatever success Tedder may have had in selling his point of view to his own people.

R. Gordon Arneson
  1. Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Tedder, British Chief of Air Staff. on p. 241.
  2. Reference is to the meeting of March 2, the record of which is printed on p. 441.
  3. The Secretary of State had received earner notification of the Norstad–Tedder exchange in the form of a memorandum from Arneson dated April 19, not printed, which relayed information forwarded by Webster (Department of State Atomic Energy Files).
  4. General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Chief of Staff, United States Air Force.