Department of State Atomic Energy Files

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Acting Secretary of State

top secret

Meeting With the President, Saturday, October 1

Atomic Energy

I discussed with the President the results of the tripartite atomic energy negotiations, and informed him that we had made no moves to feel out the Congressional Committee up to this time but would begin this process next week. The President retained the memorandum of October 1, 19491 and the report adopted by the Combined Policy Committee, September 29 [30].2 He also withdrew from his files the report to the President by the Special Committee of the National Security Council on atomic energy policy with respect to the U.K. and Canada, dated March 2, 1949 with the annexes, and said he would take all these papers with him on the “Williamsburg”3 over the weekend for careful study. He indicated that if the issue became clearly drawn along the lines of going forward with a complete partnership, in spite of partisan attack, he would take this issue to the country. He hoped, however, we could make arrangements with the Congressional Committee to handle the matter on an amicable basis.

[Page 553]

The President seems to have a recollection that he had a talk with Churchill4 on atomic energy in which it was agreed that the United States would retain all rights to the commercial, or non-military, application of atomic energy.5 I pointed out that the documentation of the various agreements was inconsistent with his understanding, and that is one reason he wished to read the report of the National Security Council Committee and the annexes.

James E. Webb
  1. Reference is to a memorandum for the President by Acting Secretary Webb, not printed, summarizing the status of the tripartite negotiations and contemplating further action.
  2. Supra.
  3. The President’s yacht.
  4. Winston S. Churchill, British Prime Minister, May 1940–August 1945.
  5. The Quebec Agreement of August 19, 1943 (5 UST 1114) included the following provision: “Fourthly, that in view of the heavy burden of production falling upon the United States as the result of a wise division of war effort, the British Government recognise that any post-war advantages of an industrial or commercial character shall be dealt with as between the United States and Great Britain on terms to be specified by the President of the United States to the Prime Minister of Great Britain. The Prime Minister expressly disclaims any interest in these industrial and commercial aspects beyond what may be considered by the President of the United States to be fair and just and in harmony with the economic welfare of the world.” However, the Hyde Park Agreement between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill, September 19, 1944, provided that “Full collaboration between the United States and the British Government in developing tube alloys [atomic energy] for military and commercial purposes should continue after the defeat of Japan unless and until terminated by joint agreement.” The Memorandum of Intention signed by President Truman, Prime Minister Attlee, and Prime Minister Mackenzie King in Washington on November 16, 1945, also called for full and effective cooperation ( Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. ii, p. 75). The Modus Vivendi approved by the Combined Policy Committee on January 7, 1948 ( ibid., 1948, vol. i, Part 2, p. 679) abrogated most wartime agreements on atomic energy, including paragraph 4 of the Quebec Agreement.