United States Minutes of the United States–United Kingdom Political-Military Conversations1

top secret


United States United Kingdom
General Bradley Ambassador Franks
Ambassador Jessup Marshal of the Royal Air Force
General Vandenberg The Lord Tedder
General Collins Field Marshal Slim
Admiral Sherman Marshal of the Royal Air Force Slessor
Admiral Lalor Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fraser
Colonel Ladue Air Marshal Elliot
Mr. Yost Captain Coleridge, RN
Brigadier Price, BA
Mr. Burrows2

1. French Proposal of October 24 (on European Defense and German Participation)3

General Bradley declared that the U.S. military representatives had the following four objections to the French proposal. First, the [Page 1690] fact that the suggested European Defense Minister would be a confusing element in the NAT structure since he would represent some members and not others. Second, full agreement on the Schuman Plan for iron and steel and subsequently a series of political steps aimed at the federation of Europe would, if laid down as a condition precedent to progress on European defense force, very seriously delay NAT defense operation. Third, the common financial pool is unsatisfactory to the U.S. and the U.K. Fourth, the Germans would not like the plan, particularly the apparent intention to hold units they might contribute to smaller than division size.

Ambassador Jessup expressed full agreement with General Bradley’s points but added that the U.S. also felt it important that the French proposal not be simply rejected but that it become the subject of negotiations on which further progress could be made along the lines of our proposal for the integrated force. He pointed out that Secretary Acheson had already discussed with Ambassador Franks the question of tactics to be followed in the forthcoming meeting of the Defense Ministers and that he understood that the U.S. and U.K. are in general agreement on this point.

Ambassador Franks declared that the U.K. reaction to the proposal is very much the same as that of the U.S. They are opposed to it but do not believe it should be flatly turned down. The proposal may merely be means which the French have found which permits them to talk about German re-armament. The important point is that the broad and involved character of the French proposal should not become a cause for delay in those decisions in regard to the integrated force which could be taken this week end. We should explore carefully what the French mean by the so-called “transitory period” and by their claim that their proposal involves no delay in establishing the NAT force. In other words, the question is whether the proposal is genuine and firm or whether it represents largely a bargaining position.

General agreement was expressed with this view although it was pointed out that if we go too far to meet the French we may on the one hand lose all the momentum which has been built up among the other participating nations and on the other come up with a proposal which will be wholly unacceptable to the Germans.

Field Marshal Slim expressed the view that a NAT Supreme Commander could exercise a strong influence on the way in which the French proposal is worked out in practice and that the fact that this proposal has been put forward increases the urgency of the appointment of the Supreme Commander. The U.S. Chiefs replied that their views on the timing of the appointment of the Supreme Commander had changed and that they have now decided to support his immediate [Page 1691] appointment. They emphasized however that if the Supreme Commander is appointed and the NAT defense effort nevertheless bogs down there will be a terrific reaction in the U.S. and MAP may well be killed.

2. Bases in Egypt

While considerable doubt was expressed by both U.S. and U.K. representatives as to whether U.S. participation in a U.S.–U.K.–Egyptian tripartite arrangement for bases in Egypt, including one U.S. base, would change the attitude of the Egyptian Government toward the base question, it was agreed that there is a possibility that this might be the case and that this possibility should be thoroughly explored. Ambassador Jessup suggested that the matter be examined jointly by the U.S. and U.K. and Ambassador Franks expressed agreement.

General Collins raised the question as to whether there would be advantage to making U.S. equipment available to the Egyptians. He emphasized that we had no desire to dissipate valuable equipment in this way but that, since the Egyptians appeared to feel that the British are preventing them from buying arms wherever they wish, a demonstration that this is not the case might be useful. Marshal Slessor suggested that it would be preferable that such a suggestion come to the Egyptians from the U.K. rather than from the U.S. Ambassador Jessup suggested that there might be joint U.S.–U.K. consideration of an Egyptian arms request and General Collins added that any tripartite arrangement might deal with arms as well as with bases. Field Marshal Slim pointed out that the U.K. had told the Egyptians that it can provide arms only for those nations who stand with us and that it is important that the Egyptians receive arms only in so far as they cooperate with us. It was agreed that this subject also would be given further joint study.

3. Cyprus

Ambassador Jessup declared that the U.S. has informed the Greek Government, and will continue so to inform them, that the present world crisis is not a proper time in which to raise the question of the status of Cyprus. Ambassador Franks said that the U.K. would appreciate it if the U.S. continues to take this line. Air Marshal Slessor urged that both the U.K. and the U.S. point out to the Greeks that Cyprus will be of great importance for operations in the next war, since the Greeks are inclined for their own purposes to play down its military importance.

4. Middle East and Iran

General Bradley pointed out that there are some political aspects of the question discussed by the U.S. and U.K. Chiefs on October 23 in [Page 1692] regard to a communist revolt in Iran or a tribal incursion over the frontier. What U.S. action would be in these circumstances would depend on the situation at the time, on the attitude of the U.N., etc. He raised a question as to whether it would be more useful for the U.S. to send a carrier to the Persian Gulf in such a time of crisis, as had been suggested, or rather to send carriers on periodic visits during normal times to indicate our continuing interest. Ambassador Franks declared that any situation calling for U.K. action was one thing but that in a case falling short of obvious U.N. concern the U.K. felt that the dispatch of a small U.K. force to southern Iran would have a steadying and not a provocative influence. The U.K. felt that the dispatch of a brigade to Basra in 1946 had perhaps had as much to do with Soviet withdrawal from Azerbaijan as had the U.N. action. He felt that a small U.S. contribution to a force of this kind would be useful as a demonstration.

Ambassador Jessup indicated that the U.S. agreed that the dispatch of a U.K. force to Iran would have a steadying influence in certain cases such as the re-entry of Soviet forces into Azerbaijan, or a communist seizure of power in Tehran, or such widespread disorders that such a seizure seemed imminent. He questioned, however, whether it would be desirable to dispatch such a force into Iran in case of an ostensibly local uprising in Azerbaijan without intervention of Soviet forces. This might merely give the Soviets an excuse for sending in such forces under the 1921 treaty. In a case of this kind, the U.S. would feel that the dispatch of British forces to a nearby area such as Iraq would be preferable. Admiral Sherman pointed out that this would have the additional advantage of facilitating a later withdrawal of these forces without loss of face if that should prove desirable. It was agreed that there should be further consultation between the U.S. and U.K. in regard to appropriate action in case of a tribal uprising in Azerbaijan without Soviet overt intervention.

General Vandenberg suggested that the difference in point of view on this point might reflect the difference in the U.S. and U.K. estimates of the readiness of the Soviets to risk general war in the near future. Air Marshal Slessor pointed out that it is characteristic both of the Soviets and of the Russians under any regime to conduct probing operations outside their borders but to pull back if confronted by force. General Vandenberg agreed but wondered how many times the Soviets would feel they could “bump their noses” in this way without irreparable loss of face.

Ambassador Jessup referred to the steps which the U.S. Government is taking to strengthen the position of the Iranian Government in the cold war and pointed out the important contribution which a [Page 1693] favorable AIOC settlement could make to this end. Ambassador Franks replied that he could not comment on this point but that he took note of it.

Ambassador Jessup raised the question as to the exact meaning which should be attached to the word “vital” as applied to the Middle East, pointing out that we use this word freely in planning but that in practice we seem to question whether a large part of the area at least can be held. Ambassador Franks replied that it is the U.K. view that whoever controls the Middle East controls the access to three continents. Whether or not this area is held will determine whether or not we have a “big free world” or a “little free world”. From the political point of view the U.K. attaches the greatest importance to the joint strategic study on the spot which the U.S. and U.K. Chiefs have agreed is to go forward.

General Collins emphasized that the U.S. Chiefs consider that the Middle East is a British responsibility in case of a hot war, at least during the first two years of such a war, and that our activity and interest in the area during the cold war period should not give rise to any misunderstanding on this subject. He felt that in case of hot war even our tactical naval air would be required in Italy, where we would endeavor at least to hold the Piave line. Our Military Mission would, however, stay in Iran in case of general war and we are hopeful that, if time is available, an effective Iranian force may be brought into being. Admiral Sherman added a footnote to the effect that, if the Russians were not attempting to break into Italy, we might be able to provide some tactical naval air assistance against them in the Aegean or Middle East.

Ambassador Franks replied that the U.K. is quite clear on the distinction between U.S. aid in the cold and in the hot war periods. It continues to hope, however, that circumstances will enable the U.S. to change its mind in regard to its contribution to this area in a general war.

There was considerable discussion of the question of the demolition of oil wells and refineries in the Middle East, particularly in Iran. The U.K. representatives were unable to state exactly what is the status of planning for such demolition but they did state that it is planned that such demolition will take place if it appears that the areas are to be overrun and that the demolition will be carried out not by the military but by civilian experts from the oil companies. General Bradley reported his understanding that the wells will be plugged with cement but that the refineries will not be destroyed before evacuation. The Air representatives expressed full confidence that the refineries could be easily destroyed by bombing operations. [Page 1694] Grave doubt was expressed as to whether the Russians could in fact, because of the very unsatisfactory communications, get much oil back to the Soviet Union. If the refineries were destroyed, they could not even supply their own forces in the Middle East from these fields. Both U.S. and U.K. representatives laid emphasis on the harmful effect on morale in Iran and other Middle Eastern countries which would result if it became known, as it very likely would, that we are making detailed plans for demolishing the oil facilities. The discussion resulted in the conclusion that there is serious doubt whether, in light of the unlikelihood that the oil can be useful to the Russians and of the serious effect on our cold war position which could follow knowledge that we are planning to demolish, we should in fact proceed with our plans for demolition. It was agreed that there should be further joint study on this problem.

Ambassador Franks raised the question as to whether there should not be further study on the importance to us of Middle Eastern oil in case of general war. The results of such a study would have an obvious effect on our strategic planning in the Middle East. It was suggested that the appropriate technical authorities should give further study to this question. General Vandenberg reported that there are such wide differences of opinion among the oil experts in the oil companies that he doubted that any firm conclusion could be reached. It appeared to him, however, that Middle Eastern oil would be needed at least after the first two years of war.

5. Satellite Attack on Greece or Turkey

Referring to the discussion of this subject in the July U.S.–U.K. meetings, General Bradley said that it had been the U.S. military opinion that the Bulgarians are not in a position to conduct a successful offensive against Greece. Ambassador Jessup pointed out that, regardless of Bulgarian capabilities, they might be launched against the Greeks for reasons of over-all Russian strategy. Should this occur we are not at all clear as to who does what. While the U.N. would presumably recommend help for the Greeks, who would take the initiative in supplying that help? The British military representatives agree that since British forces are nearest to Greece they would have to act under such circumstances. The Korean situation would be reversed in that the U.K. would have to put in troops and the U.S. would help with ships. The question was raised of Turkish assistance to the Greeks in case the Greeks alone were attacked and the view was expressed that the Turks would not in these circumstances be likely to act. As to Bulgarian capabilities, it was pointed out that, while the Bulgarians could probably not defeat the Greek Army, they [Page 1695] could without difficulty occupy Eastern Thrace and move down to the Aegean.

The question was raised as to whether U.S. and U.K. Military representatives in Greece should, like those in Turkey and Iran, be instructed to make a fact-finding review of the strategic position there. It was decided that Greek problems should be more carefully thought through in Washington and London before our missions on the spot were asked to make a re-examination. After the fact-finding on Turkey and Iran has been completed it would be easier to judge how Greece fits in.

6. Berlin

General Bradley raised the question of the Foreign Ministers’ agreement that the three powers reenforce their troops in Berlin.4 He said that the U.S. is raising its total force from 4,000 to 6,200 but that he understood that the British are sending in only equipment and a small number of men. Ambassador Jessup added that the State Department is much concerned that the Foreign Ministers’ decision on this point be carried out. Field Marshal Slim declared that the U.K. is adding a unit of tanks and about one-third more men which will constitute a full strength British brigade in Berlin. It was pointed out that the French appeared to be taking no action and General Bradley said that he would discuss with Secretary Marshall whether or not the matter should be raised in conversation with M. Moch.5 Field Marshal Slim expressed the view that if the forces of the three powers were reenforced as contemplated and the German police forces were also built up as planned, their combined strength would be sufficient to hold off the Bereitschaften.

7. Indochina, Siam and Burma

General Bradley referred to the agreement at the meeting of the U.S. and U.K. Chiefs on October 23 that Generals Brink and Harding should discuss fully and frankly with General Juin the plans and prospects for holding Indochina and suggested that these contacts be individual and informal in order that the French might not feel that we were ganging up on them. The U.K. representatives agreed. Field Marshal Slim added that General Harding is being instructed to make clear to General Juin that no U.K. forces will be available for use in Indochina.

General Bradley raised the question of U.S. and U.K. military missions in Siam and Burma in case Indochina falls. The British pointed out that they have a mission in Burma but that it is able to accomplish [Page 1696] very little. General Collins expressed the view that military missions alone would not amount to much. What he would hope to see, in case Indochina should fall, would be a U.N. announcement that it would not tolerate aggression against Siam or Burma and possibly the stationing there of token forces. Ambassador Jessup suggested that in case Indochina should fall the Siamese Government might request a visit by the U.N. Commission set up under the new anti-aggression resolution and that we would follow up from there depending on the report of the Commission.

Admiral Fraser inquired whether it is of any use continuing to pour equipment into Indochina in view of the extreme shakiness of the French position. General Bradley replied that we considered that it is worth while for the present and that there is still a chance of the French pulling through.6 In reply to Ambassador Franks’ query as to whether there is anything further the U.S. and U.K. can do to move the French forward politically in Indochina, Ambassador Jessup replied that the main point is that they should move ahead rapidly with a native army. The essential is that the French hold some line and that behind that line they proceed rapidly in the training of such an army.

8. Formosa

Pointing out that the question of the long-term disposition of Formosa had now been placed before the U.N., Ambassador Franks noted that the U.S. had mentioned independence as a solution. The U.K. does not believe that there exists in Formosa any movement favoring independence as distinct from a movement favoring autonomy within China. The bulk of the inhabitants of the island are immigrants from China and the U.K. does not feel that they would wish to be wholly separate from China. Ambassador Jessup replied that the U.S. is not advocating any single long-term solution but that we would not consider that any avenue should be closed to the U.N. Commission in its investigation. There are many Formosan groups advocating various solutions, including independence, but we have no means of knowing whether any of these groups are representative.

Field Marshall Slim inquired whether it is intended that, until the U.N. Commission comes to a decision as to the ultimate disposition of Formosa, the U.S. declaration in regard to its neutralization will continue to stand and the 7th Fleet will continue to steam about in [Page 1697] Formosan waters. Admiral Sherman replied that he is afraid that this is the case. Ambassador Jessup pointed out that the proposed U.N. resolution on Formosa would provide inter alia that all interested parties should refrain from intervention in Formosa while the Commission is at work and that this declaration by the U.N. would, it is hoped, help to maintain neutralization of the island during this period.

Admiral Fraser expressed the view that, while the U.S. and U.K. are disagreed about the strategic value of Formosa, they were nevertheless agreed that it is not worth going to war about. General Bradley replied that we would, in accordance with this Goverment’s announced intention, resist any attack upon the island but we would hope that such action would not lead to general war with China.

9. Hongkong

Ambassador Jessup raised the question as to whether there had been any shift in emphasis since the July talks in the British attitude toward the possibility of localizing the conflict in case of a Chinese attack on Hongkong. He had had the impression in July that, while in case of an attack the British would resist and would appeal to the U.N., they would not expect to be able to hold the colony in face of a full-scale attack and would not wish their resistance to an attack to lead to full-scale war with Communist China. The British military representatives replied that they would of course prefer to localize such a conflict but that Hongkong is British territory and it is doubtful that if it were attacked a general war with Communist China could be avoided. They compared an attack on Hongkong to an attack on Hawaii.

Ambassador Jessup inquired whether, if the island were lost, the U.K. would continue at war with Communist China thereafter and would urge the U.S. and the rest of the U.N. to wage all-out war with China to win the colony back. To Lord Tedder’s reply that this would depend on what the U.N. did, the Ambassador asked what the British representatives at the U.N. would recommend.

Ambassador Franks said that the U.K. representatives did not have a clear view one way or another in answer to this question. The U.K. would resist an attack on Hongkong, it would place the matter before the U.N., and its forces presumably would be driven out of Hongkong by a full-scale attack. As to where the U.K. would go from there, there is as yet no clear answer.

General Collins raised the question as to whether it was conceivable that there could be an all-out war with China without thereby bringing on World War III. General Bradley replied that that question could hardly be answered at this stage and that it would depend on the way things worked out at the time.

[Page 1698]

The meeting adjourned with expressions on the part of both the U.S. and U.K. representatives of the usefulness of the conversations.7

  1. The minutes were prepared by Charles W. Yost, the Director of the Office of Eastern European Affairs and Special Assistant to Ambassador Jessup. Preparatory to this meeting Jessup and Yost had met with representatives of the Department of Defense to formulate the U.S. position on the various items to be discussed with the British. A memorandum of this meeting, not printed, is in file 611.41/10–2650.
  2. Mr. B. A. B. Burrows, Counselor of the British Embassy.
  3. Regarding the French proposal, see p. 691.
  4. For the text of the Ministers’ agreement on Berlin, see p. 1091.
  5. Jules Moch, French Minister of National Defense.
  6. In the memorandum referred to in footnote 1, General Collins was quoted as expressing the opinion that it was “inevitable that the French will be driven out of Indochina, at the very least out of Tonkin, and that they are wasting men and equipment in trying to remain there. He therefore thought it important that we give consideration to ways and means of holding Siam and Burma in case Indochina should fall.”
  7. The conclusions and agreements reached at this meeting were recorded in a paper drawn up by Yost following the discussions. Four drafts of Yost’s paper, entitled “Summary of Conclusions, U.S.–U.K. Politico-Military Conversations,” have been identified in the Department of State files. Copies of each are in files 611.41/10–2650 and 3050, respectively.