741.5/8–250: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Douglas) to the Secretary of State

top secret   niact

723. 1. August 1, Embassy–ECA mission working party on UK defense expenditures met British Government working party headed by Plowden, chief planning officer, to discuss preliminary information re British plans for additional AMP expenditures required by Depcirctel July 22, 1 a. m.1

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2. Plowden orally outlined following British program which, he said, reflected effort minimize economic dislocations and assumed ultimate objective of “peace, not war”; UK planned spend through British FY’s 1953—£100 million publicly announced by Shinwell,2 £100 million for increased military pay and other purposes designed improve technical proficiency forces, £90 million for civil defense, and £800 million on additional military production, plus construction one and one-half million tons merchant shipping if required.

3. Plowden gave following estimate contemplated budget for total military expenditures under program for remainder current British FY and next three FY’s: £824 million, £1075 million, £1133 million, £1192 million. He said program could be accomplished only on assumption of continued ERP assistance at presently calculated levels for remainder this year and next year, plus US aid amounting to dollar equivalent of between £550 million and £600 million over program period. He estimated £200 million of US aid would be used for dollar imports required for AMP and remainder available as free dollars unexpended portion of which could accrue to reserves available for later use to off-set obligations resulting from adverse trade balance expected result from AMP effort.

4. At meeting Embassy representatives stressed importance of receiving program officially soonest for use Congressional hearings. Plowden indicated official memo containing program would be delivered Embassy within 24 hours but said statement might be divided in two sections, one available for Congressional use, the other restricted to use US executive agencies only.

5. At 4 p. m. August 2 Embassy notified that “first” British memo “designed for public dissemination” was available. At 5 p. m. Embassy–ECA working party was handed memo, full text of which contained in immediately following telegram.3

6. Plowden said government considering release memo to British press August 3 morning.

7. Embassy representatives explained importance withholding release until memo could be used in Congressional hearings and Plowden agreed recommend to PriMin that release time be early August 4. Embassy representatives expressed astonishment over preparation memo for public dissemination. Plowden stated second British memo containing top secret details re defense program would be handed Embassy within 24 hours but information therein could be used only by US executive agencies.

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8. Embassy representatives expressed serious doubts concerning advisability publication official British memo particularly in view indication in memo that no increase in size armed forces contemplated and in view specified amount US aid required to enable UK accomplish program. Plowden stated that both advisability of public release and nature of contents of memo had been carefully considered and decided at Cabinet meeting August 2 and said change in plans or wording of memo impossible.

9. Convinced of inadvisability public release this memo I called on PriMin this evening and urged him reconsider decision. I expressed opinion that memo contained four points likely to cause seriously adverse repercussions among members US Congress and public and in other NAT countries:

Intimation in memo that UK contemplates no quantitative increase in armed forces and lack of any indication that organizational improvements or increased percentage of regulars to improve condition of combat readiness is planned;
Indication that accomplishment defense effort of scope stated in memo completely dependent upon very large volume US aid;
Request for substantial US aid in form of free dollars, portion of which could be used to increase reserves;
Obvious attempt to condition accomplishment of program on advance US guarantee of financial aid over three-year period.

I emphasized that in previous talk with Attlee following receipt reftel I requested information specified in paragraph 4 reftel4 before August 4 and stated information desired for use in presenting US program to Congress. I reiterated opinion that publication memo in present form might have grave consequences and again strongly recommended abandonment plan release memo for publication.

10. At first Attlee endeavored argue that my concept of meaning of memo was erroneous. He finally abandoned that line but insisted that as memo reflected Cabinet decision it could not be changed and would be released for publication. Despite my continued efforts to alter his decision he remained firm to conclusion of interview.

11. I have arranged to discuss matter again with Makins,5 FonOff tomorrow morning August 3 and may again approach Attlee if I feel his present attitude can be changed.

I shall report results to Department tomorrow. Meanwhile I earnestly request Department not use memo outside Department and closely restrict Departmental circulation. If present British policy [Page 1672] unchanged I shall advise Department confirming time of release here so Department can use memo at committee hearings if considered desirable do so. Until I inform Department further any leak of contents of memo would be most unfortunate. I understand memo has been telegraphed to Franks for information purposes.

12. Although I am not hopeful of success, shall use best efforts to bring about alteration and/or improvement in British response.

  1. Ante, p. 138.
  2. Emanuel Shinwell, British Minister of Defense.
  3. Telegram 724, August 2, not printed (741.5/8–250).
  4. In paragraph 4 the Department of State had requested a statement of “nature and extent of increased effort, in terms of increases in both forces and military production.…”
  5. Sir Roger M. Makins, Deputy Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.