Acheson Papers1

Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, by the Secretary of State2

top secret

Admiral Souers3 called me today to say that the President mentioned the publicity on the hydrogen bomb and said that he had a report from Sec. Johnson4 which to him made a lot of sense and he was inclined to think that was what we should do. The President had given Admiral Souers two copies of the memorandum and asked that one be given to me and one to Mr. Lilienthal. The report actually was from General Bradley to Secretary Johnson. Admiral Souers said he thought someone was playing on the unilateral side, but he would get it back into the NSC machinery and he did not think it was too far afield. He thought the State Department people had seen it, but I said I was sure I had not had it.

I said I had been talking with Paul Nitze5 this afternoon and asked him to talk with Admiral Souers about a paper we have been working on here.6

I pointed out to the Admiral that before I committed myself to any position on the matter I had wanted to see all the people Lilienthal wanted me to see. I had done that and thought the next thing was to have a meeting with Admiral Souers, Secretary Johnson, Mr. Lilienthal and any people they wanted to bring.

[Page 512]

I said I had about reached the position that we should advise the President to go ahead and find out about the feasibility of the matter. But that we should be quite honest and say that in advising this action, we are going quite a long way to committing ourselves to continue down that road. However, after considering drawbacks and advantages, adding and subtracting, that seemed to me the position we should take.

I expressed the hope that at the proposed discussion with him, Johnson, Lilienthal, etc., the discussion should be on the broad question and not an editing of a paper. Everyone should be given a chance to say all he wanted to say. Then the paper should be thrown into the working group under NSC for editing, etc. We could then have one more meeting and report to the President. Admiral Souers seemed to agree with this suggested procedure, except that he thought Jimmy Lay should be tied in with it.

I stressed again how important I thought it was that we should have for the President a straightforward paper and an honest one; not glossing over some of the problems or letting the President think the problems less than they are; nor making it into a pleader’s paper. I mentioned my talk with President Conant7 and said that after listening to him, it would be very easy to arrive at the opposite conclusion, except that in arguing against the position I had come to, he admittedly could not suggest an alternative.

Admiral Souers and I agreed that in the paper we should point out the desirability of studying once more the over-all picture of international control and the bare possibility of arriving at some agreement.

Dean Acheson
  1. Papers of Dean Acheson, Secretary of State, 1949–1953, at the Harry S. Truman Library, Independence, Missouri.
  2. Drafted by Barbara Evans, Mr. Acheson’s personal secretary.
  3. Sidney W. Souers, Consultant to the President on National Security Affairs.
  4. Of January 13, p. 503.
  5. Paul H. Nitze, Director of the Policy Planning Staff.
  6. Possibly a reference to the paper cited in the editorial note, infra.
  7. The conversation between Secretary Acheson and Dr. James B. Conant, President of Harvard University and Member of the General Advisory Committee of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, has not been identified.