Memorandum by Mr. Lucius D. Battle, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State

top secret

The Secretary had dinner last night with Sir Oliver Franks. During the course of the conversation, Sir Oliver said that Mr. Bevin had put up as a matter of great urgency to him the question of having Mr. Attlee come to the United States for conversations with President Truman. Sir Oliver said that he had told Mr. Bevin that he didn’t think the suggestion made very much sense, unless we were sure what we had in mind for the two to talk about and were sure that progress could be made if there were discussions. The Secretary said that he agreed with Sir Oliver and pointed out that such a meeting would cause great speculation. People would say that Mr. Attlee was simply coming over for more money, etc. It might also be said that he had come over to influence the United States elections, etc.

The Secretary said that the thinking was that Mr. Attlee would come over before Mr. Bevin returned to the UK after the forthcoming tripartite and NATO meetings.1 This would mean the last of September. This would be very close to elections in this country which would lead to further confusion. The Secretary said we were all working on many points and so far as Western Europe was concerned that these questions would be considered at the forthcoming tripartite and NATO meetings. He was not clear as to just where the Attlee–Truman conversations would fit in.

Sir Oliver asked if it might be possible to announce that there would be a meeting sometime in the future. The Secretary said he saw no point in saying what we would do until we knew what we wanted to do and could do.

This matter was discussed in a meeting in the Secretary’s office at which time Mr. Rusk said that since President Truman was considering addressing the General Assembly, Mr. Attlee might come over here for the same purpose.

Since the Secretary reported the above, he has seen Sir Oliver Franks again. He said that he told Sir Oliver we had had a brief discussion about this matter but that he was a little puzzled as to exactly what Mr. Attlee wished to achieve by his visit. He said that if the Prime Minister wanted to really get lined up in detail with the President on the primary problems facing Europe, there would be no point, as the President would have only the very broad concepts [Page 1681] of what we intended to do within the time available for the visit. Sir Oliver said that there was no connection between the proposed visit of Mr. Attlee and the visit of Mr. Churchill.

With regard to the UN as the reason for the visit, Sir Oliver said that this might have unfortunate repercussions as the papers would all say that it was due to Mr. Bevin’s ill health and that Mr. Attlee was coming because Mr. Bevin was not strong enough to carry the load.

Sir Oliver asked if he could report the preliminary views of the Secretary and Mr. Acheson declined to permit him to give these views as he felt we had not had sufficient consideration of the matter. He has agreed to see Sir Oliver on Wednesday (this is on the assumption that MDAP hearings will be Tuesday) at which time this and the Formosa matter will be discussed.2

Sir Oliver said that, putting himself in Attlee’s place, he thought that Attlee would want to discuss several things. First, he would be interested in the extent to which the US expected to really play a role in the defense of Europe and the fact that it would be something of a breach of tradition to station large numbers of troops on the Continent.

Sir Oliver said that as he saw it, and again in the way he imagined Mr. Attlee saw it, the US and the UK policies were about the same in so far as Europe was concerned. That is, we are willing to back up Europe but not “take over” all of its responsibilities. We are attempting to fit our armament program in with our domestic program without loss of social gains which we have made. In other words, we are both trying to carry through with our domestic goals and have not thus far prepared for the current crisis to an extent which would threaten the continuation of domestic programs. Sir Oliver said he was basing his interpretation of the US on the extent to which we were asking for controls, etc. If his interpretation is correct, the US and the UK are more or less in step, he felt.

Sir Oliver pointed out that Mr. Attlee also heard rumors that we want to treat the UK as a European power and are urging the breaking up of the British Commonwealth. He said that Mr. Attlee would want to be reassured on this.

Sir Oliver said that if a really major effort were to be made to meet the current crisis, the British would be quite concerned about [Page 1682] the price of primary materials (rubber, wheat, iron, etc.). Sir Oliver pointed out that great increases in prices of these commodities could have a disastrous effect on British economy. He said if we planned a really major effort, Mr. Attlee would want to know what we had in mind as far as joint control boards, etc.

Sir Oliver said that, in his opinion, the time of the proposed visit was not as important as getting a real review of the problems. If we can decide fairly soon that we want such a visit, that would be satisfactory to the British.

Sir Oliver then said that if the UN “cover” for the visit should be used, they hoped that it could be handled in some way which would not be too embarrassing in so far as Mr. Bevin was concerned. Sir Oliver thought that this proposal was worth considering. He suggested that Mr. Truman might send a message to Mr. Attlee and other Heads of State to the effect that he planned to address the General Assembly and inviting the other Heads of State to do likewise. The Secretary said that this might be difficult as far as which Heads of State.

Mr. Matthews was present when the Secretary reported on these meetings. He is anxious to get a copy of these notes as soon as possible.3

L. D. Battle
  1. For documentation on the tripartite Foreign Ministers meetings, September 12–18, and on the fifth session of the NATO Council, September 15–26, both at New York, see pp. 1108 and 1184, respectively.
  2. On August 31 Secretary Acheson told Franks that he had not as yet had an opportunity to discuss Attlee’s proposed visit with President Truman; however, the feeling in the Department of State was that it should be postponed until November. For a copy of this memorandum of conversation, not printed, see the Secretary’s Memoranda: Lot 53 D 444. Lot 53 D 444 is a comprehensive chronological collection of the Secretary of State’s memoranda and memoranda of conversation for the years 1947–1953, as maintained by the Executive Secretariat of the Department of State. Regarding the Secretary’s discussion of Formosa, see vol. vi, p. 473.
  3. On September 5 Secretary Acheson discussed Attlee’s proposed visit with President Truman who “was very clear that a visit at this time would be inopportune.” The President thought that Acheson should discuss with Bevin the matters which Attlee wanted to take up with the idea of arranging a visit by the Prime Minister in November “if it seemed necessary.” Memorandum of a meeting with the President, not printed. (741.13/9–550)