Policy Planning Staff Files

Memorandum of Conversation at the Department of State, Wednesday, March 22, 1950, 3:00 p. m. to 3:14 p. m. 1

top secret
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Present: Department of State
Secretary Acheson
Dean Rusk
Paul H. Nitze
R. Gordon Arneson
George Butler
Robert Tufts
Harry H. Schwartz
Department of Defense
Secretary Johnson
General Omar Bradley
Major General James H. Burns
Major General T. H. Landon
Najeeb Halaby
National Security Council
James Lay
S. Everett Gleason
Executive Office of the President
Admiral S. W. Souers2

As Secretary Acheson started to explain the purpose of the meeting, Secretary Johnson asked if Mr. Acheson had read the paper.3 Mr. Acheson said that he read most of it yesterday. Mr. Johnson said that he had not read it nor had General Bradley, and that neither one of them was going to agree to anything which he had not read. He said that the paper was brought to his attention at 10:00 this morning and that there had, therefore, been no time for him or for General Bradley, who is extremely busy with other matters in connection with his trip to Europe, to read the paper. He said, further, that he did not like being called to conferences without having had an opportunity to read the appropriate material, that this was the fourth time the Department of State had done this to him, and that he did not want any more of it. Mr. Acheson asked Mr. Johnson if he would prefer to adjourn the meeting until some later date when he would have had an opportunity to read the paper. Mr. Johnson replied that since he and General Bradley were here they might as well continue with the meeting. He wanted to make it perfectly clear, however, that he was going to agree to nothing.

Mr. Acheson explained that it was not intended that any decision should be reached at this meeting and that the purpose of the meeting was merely for the two Secretaries to hear an interim report from the working group so as to judge whether the subject matter the working group was covering was responsive to the President’s directive. Mr. Nitze said that it had been originally planned to suggest the meeting for Friday; but, in view of General Bradley’s departure on Thursday, the suggested date had been moved up to Wednesday. Mr. Johnson then told Mr. Nitze that any arrangements for meetings should be made only through the Secretary of Defense, and he admonished [Page 205] Mr. Nitze to remember that in the future. He added that General Burns has no authority to arrange such conferences. He said that the fact that General Bradley was going to Europe was no excuse whatsoever for calling such a meeting and that it was not the business of the Department of State to arrange meetings with General Bradley in any event as that could be done only through the Secretary of Defense.

Mr. Acheson asked Mr. Nitze to outline the group’s work and Mr. Nitze set forth the analysis briefly, explaining that General Landon would outline the military implications of the study with specific regard to the atomic capability of the Soviet Union. Mr. Nitze started to outline the working group’s tentative conclusions, but was interrupted by Mr. Johnson who said that he did not want to hear what the conclusions were. Mr. Johnson then said that there were two things in the study which should not be in it and one thing which was not in it but should be. He offered to specify the former and said that he would specify the latter on another date. Mr. Acheson then suggested that he and Mr. Johnson might authorize the group to continue its work on its present lines. Mr. Johnson said that he would not express any opinion on that. He said that the Department of Defense, as a coequal Department, was perfectly willing to discuss any matter if given a reasonable amount of time in which to study it beforehand, but that such had not been the case in this instance, and this was the fourth time the Department of State had tried to put him in such a position. He had protested before and he would continue to protest. He said, furthermore, that plans had been made to issue a press release after the meeting which presumably would indicate that agreement had been reached on this matter and that he was violently opposed to any such maneuver, as he was not going to agree to anything. Mr. Acheson and Mr. Nitze explained that there was no such plan and that, in fact, the contrary was true: because it was feared that Mr. Johnson’s and General Bradley’s presence here might be noted, in spite of precautions taken to avoid it, the press office had been alerted to say in response to any questions which might be received regarding Secretary Johnson’s and General Bradley’s presence that they were here merely to confer with the Secretary of State prior to going to Europe to meet with the NAT organization on defense. General Burns added that such was his definite understanding of the arrangements and that he had conveyed that information to Mr. Johnson this morning. Mr. Johnson then said that General Bradley was going to Europe on the business of the Department of Defense and did not have to consult with any one outside of the Department of Defense in order to do so.

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Mr. Acheson asked the Secretary of Defense if he had any suggestions as to how the meeting should proceed and, on receiving a negative reply, said that there did not seem to be anything more to discuss at this meeting and asked Mr. Johnson if he would like to adjourn. Mr. Johnson agreed.

  1. Presumably drafted by Harry H. Schwartz, Executive Secretary of the Policy Planning Staff. For Secretary Acheson’s recollection of this meeting, see Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department (New York: W. W. Norton and Company), p. 373.
  2. Consultant to the President on National Security Affairs; Executive Secretary of the National Security Council, 1947–1949.
  3. For the text of the report in final form, see NSC 68, April 7, p. 235.