Conference Files: Lot 59 D 95: CF 49

United States Minutes, Truman–Attlee Conversations, First Meeting, The White House, Washington, December 4, 1950, 4:00–5:35 p. m.

top secret

US Min–1


United States United Kingdom
The President Prime Minister Attlee
Secretary of State Acheson Sir Oliver Franks
Secretary of Defense Marshall Field Marshal Sir William Slim
Secretary of the Treasury Snyder Sir Roger Makins
General Omar Bradley Lord Tedder
Mr. W. Averell Harriman Mr. Robert Scott
Mr. W. Stuart Symington Mr. Denis Rickett2
Ambassador at Large Philip Jessup
Amb.-designate Walter S. Gifford
Assistant Sec. of State Perkins
Assistant Sec. of State Rusk
Mr. George Elsey1

[Here follows a table of contents.]

The President opened the meeting by expressing his appreciation of the Prime Minister’s coming to the United States. The objectives of the United States and the United Kingdom are parallel, and he hoped they always will be. Accordingly, he believed these discussions would be very useful. The situation is so serious that he felt it was necessary to begin the talks as soon as possible, although he had wanted to give the Prime Minister time to rest after his arrival. After he had consulted with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, [Page 1707] it had seemed that he ought to ask the Prime Minister to begin this afternoon since he did not want to come to any conclusions until after he had talked with him. He suggested that the Prime Minister might like to have the military situation presented by General Bradley.

General Bradley summarized the situation on the map. He said there had not been very much pressure on the western front during the last 24 hours. A new line was now being formed and then the forces would withdraw in an organized way to the Inchon-Seoul beachhead. The port of Inchon has been handling 3,000 tons a day and could handle more. The Tenth Corps is being concentrated in the Hamhung–Hungnam beachhead. This force had been scattered in order to unify Korea as part of the program of holding elections throughout the country. It had now been ordered to fall back. The Seventh Division was proceeding with its withdrawal without too much opposition, and the two Korean divisions were coming back. The First Marine Division and one regiment of the Seventh Division were fighting their way back from Hagaru but had a difficult problem in withdrawing over a road which was controlled by the Chinese Communists. Yesterday they had evacuated 1,100 wounded from improvised airfields and 978 the day before. They were being supplied by air drops, 270 tons having been dropped yesterday. In South Korea in the Pusan area, three ROK divisions and some smaller divisions were being supplied through Pusan. The position at Inchon was rather strong. The river protects one flank and support can be given by naval gunfire. One cruiser and two destroyers are now standing by to give support.

Our air has been very active, flying 600 missions yesterday; there were 230 missions by Naval air. It has been this close air support which has enabled our forces to stand up against odds of about seven to one. There has been very little enemy air lately. Yesterday four or five Migs jumped a reconnaisance plane and one other. The reconnaisance plane escaped and the other returned badly shot up.

Field Marshal Slim inquired whether it was the intention to hold the beachheads or to evacuate them.

General Bradley said this made little difference at the time. No orders have yet been given as to which the commander is to do. No answer has yet been given to the question whether we should withdraw or hold them.

Field Marshal Slim asked whether they could hold.

General Bradley replied that, if they get back in good shape, they could hold for some time. He noted the forces available include two good ROK divisions, two somewhat less good ROK divisions, a Turkish [Page 1708] brigade, as well as the British and American forces. Contrasting the position which they have been in with the beachhead, General Bradley said they had had very little artillery, but on the beachhead with artillery and protected flanks they could hold pretty well. It would be some days yet before they could be assembled in the Inchon area. In the east, two divisions are moving by sea from Wonsan. It was less certain we could hold in the east. He thought the Seventh Division could get back in good shape since it was now able to move by rail, there being seven engines and 200 cars available. The Third Division is expected to be able to keep its heavy equipment.

Field Marshal Slim suggested that the Chinese forces and ours might arrive at the eastern beachhead at about the same time. He asked whether fresh equipment could be put in by sea.

General Bradley agreed that the Chinese might be able to get there at the same time and fresh equipment could be so landed.

Field Marshal Slim remarked that it was very important to hold a beachhead in North Korea. This would constitute much more of a bargaining point.

General Bradley thought it was not much considering the size of the beachhead and the size of the enemy force.

Field Marshal Slim suggested that nevertheless, while it was held, it might make the Chinese think we are building up. He inquired about the situation at Pusan.

General Bradley said we must at least hold this against guerrilla attacks for some time. It was our main point for bringing in supplies, handling about 30,000 tons a day. We also have 150,000 North Korean POW’s in that area. It will take some time to get scattered ROK divisions down there.

Field Marshal Slim inquired General Bradley’s estimate of the reliability of the ROK forces.

General Bradley said they fight reasonably well; that so far as their officers were concerned, they did not have much training. No divisional commander has as much as three years’ service, and it is difficult to develop proper officers in that time.

The Prime Minister said he understood there was no possibility of holding a line across the peninsula.

General Bradley said that was true since the enemy had too great a capability of infiltration. Even with all of our forces intact, there would have been a question of holding the narrow point at the waist.

General Marshall added that there were some 30,000 South Koreans without very much training with the Marines and the Seventh Division. The ROK main weakness was in the command. The individuals were good fighters and had shown great resiliency. After being [Page 1709] badly battered, they were put together again and back in action with rapidity. On the west, unless the enemy cuts in from the northeast, there is a very good opportunity to get back without the forces being too much demoralized. On the northeast, there was still a question what shape they would come back in and whether the Chinese Communists would arrive in the area simultaneously. The ports there were small and, while they did not have the problem of the tides which bothered us at Inchon, their capacity was restricted.

The Prime Minister inquired whether we could keep our air cover.

General Bradley said there had been no trouble so far. We have five carriers standing off the coast and are operating from seven fields. The field at Wonsan is out, and the Hamhung field is of doubtful value. We have good fields at Kimpo (Seoul), Suwon, Taegu, Taejon, and Pusan. Suwon, however, may be too far to be included in the beachhead. The retention of Taegu and Taejon depends on the guerrillas. He recalled that at first we had operated out of fields in Japan, and that this could be resumed to some extent. If however we are run off the airfields in Korea, we will have to depend largely on the carriers.

General Marshall said it was important to realize the operations of the enemy with their forces scattered through the mountains and masses pouring in against our men without any regard to the losses. It was much easier for them to conceal themselves than for us, because of the way in which they operated and their ability to stand the hardship. For these reasons, air cover was less valuable than might be supposed.

The President said that the Prime Minister would see that we have very grave military decisions to make. There are also decisions which have to be made regarding procedure in the United Nations. For this reason, he welcomed free and frank discussion of all points. He did not want to decide these questions before Mr. Attlee’s arrival. In this face-to-face discussion, a mutual understanding could be developed much better. The United States has responsibilities in the East and the West. We naturally consider European defense primary, but we equally have responsibilities in Korea, Japan and the Philippines as the British do in Hong Kong and Singapore. It must be clear that we are not going to run out on our obligations even though these are hard to meet. One of the first things to consider was what the attitude is regarding the Chinese Communist aggression in Korea. He hoped that, after full and complete discussion, decisions could be made today or tomorrow. He asked the Prime Minister if he would wish to comment.

[Page 1710]

The Prime Minister said that he was very glad to be here and appreciated the President’s willingness to see him. He, like the President, felt that they must take a broad view on a wide horizon. A first point was the maintenance of the prestige and authority of the United Nations. (The President expressed agreement.) The United States is the principal instrument for supporting the United Nations, and the United Kingdom is giving what help it can. This problem has now become very difficult with the Chinese Communists coming in. It is common to our thinking that we wish the Korean business to be limited to asserting the authority of the United Nations against aggression in Korea. We all realize that other forces might come in and might bring on another world war. We are very eager to avoid the extension of the conflict. If our forces become engaged in China, it will weaken us elsewhere. (The President agreed.) As the President had said, the United Kingdom and France have other Asian interests, but it would help the Russians if we were fully engaged in Asia. (The President again agreed.) We do not have very great forces. The question is what is to be done. He had hoped that a line could be held, and that an opportunity would be afforded for discussion and perhaps some accommodation. A few weeks ago, we might have played those cards from a stronger hand. We now have a weak hand although we do have future potential strength. There is an obvious time factor. He did not know what the President’s view was regarding reinforcements. So far as the United Kingdom is concerned, it would be impossible for them to get any there for several months, and General Bradley had indicated that the question of holding is for a limited time.

We must consider opinion in the United Nations and European, American and Asian opinion. He had been in close touch through all this time with the Asian members of the Commonwealth. If we become involved in war with the Chinese, we must consider what effect that would have on opinion in the United States, Europe and Asia. In his thinking, it was very, very difficult for any of us to contemplate this situation. It would seem to be handing the game over to the Russians. He had tried to look at the matter from the way in which the Chinese felt it. We ourselves look upon it as a stand by the United Nations against aggression. The Chinese Communists are not members of the United Nations and, therefore, are not obligated by any of those considerations. They regard it as action by those forces fighting against them especially the United States. Their attitude seems to include an element of fear, a genuine fear of the United States and of the European nations generally. So long as they are not in the United Nations and while they are feeling flushed with success in China, they feel they are entitled to come in. They want to have the [Page 1711] fullest position of any Chinese government in recent times. They feel strongly about Formosa and a little less strongly about Hong Kong. He doubted if they wanted to throw themselves completely in the hands of the Russians. They would rather feel their own strength and independence.

The Prime Minister had been thinking whether there was some approach by way of discussion. An element of this would be some kind of a cease-fire while our forces are still on the ground. The question then was what the Chinese were likely to demand. There was danger that, if we showed a spirit of accommodation, the price would go up. What they would like to have is recognition as the government of China, settlement of the Formosan question, and settlement in Korea. One could not tell whether they wished all of Korea to be governed by the North Koreans or what solution they sought. He hoped that these questions could be carefully considered today and tomorrow. It was necessary to decide what kind of things we wanted to negotiate and how far we could go. We should consider the limits on negotiation and the method that should be used; for example, whether we should proceed in the United Nations through third parties. The whole matter was serious and very distasteful. The United Nations might lose face, as we all would, especially in the Far East, but we must weigh the advantages on one side and the other. The British people had had to face some hard situations in their history. According to his view, we must not get so involved in the East as to lay ourselves open to attack in the West. The West is, after all, the vital part in our line against communism. We cannot take action that will weaken it. We must strengthen our hand in the West as much as possible.

Secretary Acheson, at the request of the President, commented on the points which had been made by the Prime Minister. In the first place, we had to bear in mind that the central enemy is not the Chinese but the Soviet Union. All the inspiration for the present action comes from there. There has no doubt been some arrangement between the Chinese and the Russians to make the Chinese think they have strong Russian support. While their counterattack goes well, there is little limit to what they will try to do; if they can drive us out, they will do so. No one knows how much further they might be inclined to go. The situation is already serious. Regarding the question of all-out war against China, if this meant land, sea and air action, there were not many of the President’s advisers who would urge him to follow that course.

Concerning the Prime Minister’s suggestions about arrangements with the Chinese Communists, he was far less optimistic that anything [Page 1712] could be done. We did not have an alternative between negotiation and becoming involved in war with China. We are actually involved at this time. We did need to consider the consequences of any actions. Regarding a cease-fire, it would appear to be militarily advantageous to us, although he would defer to General Marshall’s opinion on this point. If this was correct, then it would be disadvantageous to the Chinese, and they would therefore not be likely to accept it. There would be some political advantage in suggesting a cease-fire, but if you go into negotiations, the question arises what price will be asked. The Chinese would probably ask for the recognition of their government and seating in the United Nations. They would also ask for concessions on Formosa and might well insist that any Japanese Peace Treaty must be concluded with their assent. The latter point would certainly interfere with, our relationship to Japan.

He wished to return again to the attitude of the Chinese Communists. He agreed that they do not think of this as being United Nations action against them. He referred to the editorial which appeared in Pravda yesterday, and the theme that the matter should be treated as an issue of military power between the Soviet Union, the Chinese Communists and the United States. The Chinese Communists were not looking at the matter as Chinese but as communists who are subservient to Moscow. All they do is based on the Moscow pattern, and they are better pupils even than the Eastern European satellites. The Russians are no doubt pleased with the idea that we might be fully engaged in war with the Chinese Communists who are acting as their satellites. The questions raised by the Prime Minister were very grave. He referred to the reports of the talks between Sir B. N. Rau and General Wu of the Chinese Communist Delegation in New York.3 The means we should utilize should be considered in the broadest terms in relation to the whole Far East. If Formosa were turned over as a result of aggression, this fact would be exploited in a most devastating way. It is hard to believe that this is merely a burst of Chinese military fervor; and if we give them Formosa and make other concessions, they would then become calm and peaceful. On the contrary, if we give concessions, they will become increasingly aggressive. We may not be able to do anything about this on the mainland, but we can on the islands.

If we yield to the Chinese Communists, he questioned whether we would be able to keep the Japanese and the Filipinos in hand. The Japanese have been very cooperative, but at that point they might well say they have come to the end. This would have very grave [Page 1713] consequences from the military point of view. The advantages of this course would not be equal to the disadvantages. If no settlement is made with the Chinese Communists, are we worse off than if we do make such a settlement? This depends on what we do next. This moment for negotiation with the communist movement is the worst since 1917. If we do not negotiate and do not have a settlement, what do we do? We may fight as hard as we can in Korea, keeping going as long as possible, punishing the enemy as much as we can. Our negotiating position would be no worse then. If we are pushed out later and cannot hold Korea, we are still on the islands. We must refuse to recognize their gains. We could make as much trouble for the Chinese Communists as possible and hold Formosa, retaining what strength we can. If the Communists are successful in Korea, this may so weaken the French in Indochina that they will pull out. He doubted if any one of the President’s advisers would urge him to intervene in that situation.

The Prime Minister inquired how long the beachheads could be held as an annoyance to the Chinese Communists without too much loss.

General Bradley said it was hard to say. If we have heavy losses in the east, it might be a short time there. In Inchon it might be a matter of weeks or one or two months unless the Chinese launch an all-out attack regardless of loss of life. In that case, they might be able to overrun us in a short time.

General Marshall said that, regarding the northeast sector, in all probability it could not be held and this raised the question of how many units could be evacuated with their equipment. If these forces could be moved to the west, the situation would be better. His own thought was that we should get out of the eastern sector with the least possible loss. The western beachhead should be held till we could see the condition of the units as they are brought back. They have been in constant action since June, and everybody reacts to battle fatigue. We will have to see what our losses are and what help we can give. Probably the best we can do is put in more air; some is now on the way. In December we shall have 23,000 replacements available and in January larger numbers. We are sending matériel out to replace our losses, and in strict confidence he could say that this equipment was being taken from National Guard units on our West Coast. He was much more hopeful than he had been four days ago.

The Prime Minister inquired what the reaction of the people would be if we continued to hold the beachheads with continuing losses. Wouldn’t there be a demand for all-out war against China?

The President said that such demands are now being made. We need a united effort at home. Huge appropriations are being made. [Page 1714] He hoped that the line could be held in Korea until the situation was better for negotiation. All of his military advisers tell him that there is no chance to do this, but he still wanted to try.

The Prime Minister said opinions differ on the extent to which Chinese Communists are satellites. He inquired when is it that you scratch a communist and find a nationalist.

The President believes that they are satellites of Russia and will be satellites so long as the present Peiping regime is in power. He thought they were complete satellites. The only way to meet communism is to eliminate it. After Korea, it would be Indochina, then Hong Kong, then Malaya. There was no chance to approach a solution without seeing clearly the course we should follow. He does not want war with China or anyone else, but the situation looks very dark to him. We can get all-out mobilization very soon, but he does not wish to do that either. He is not shutting the door to negotiations but does not think that they would be successful.

The Prime Minister remarked that Russia has posed as the friend of Communist China.

The President said that he thought the Chinese Communists had made up their mind where they were going. They think they will get what they want including a seat in the United Nations and Formosa. He repeated that he was anxious to get all points of view and would especially appreciate those of the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister inquired how the Japanese were likely to react.

Secretary Acheson said this depends in the long run to the power relation. Our thinking is that, if we now give up in the Far East, we are through. The Russians and the Chinese are coming in and other Far Eastern peoples would make their best terms with them.

The Prime Minister remarked that this was the bandwagon psychology.

Secretary Acheson said we would be better off if we took a strong attitude. It was hard to tell whether the Chinese Communists would remain satellites in the long run, but he wondered whether they would not act in the same way now regardless of the answer to that question. It was a mistake to count on their goodwill. It is a saying in the State Department that with communistic regimes you can’t bank goodwill; they balance their books every night.

The Prime Minister expressed agreement. If the Chinese Communists are satellites, they would play the Russian game. If they are Chinese nationalists, they might prefer to get into the club so that if the Russians go too far in Manchuria or elsewhere they would not be already in Russian hands.

General Marshall referred to the several meetings he had with Mao Tse-tung and many more with Chou En-lai when he was in China. [Page 1715] He recalled the latter saying to Mrs. Marshall at the dinner table with great emphasis that there was no doubt they were Marxist communists and he resented people referring to them as merely agrarian reformists. Pictures of Stalin and Lenin were everywhere when he visited their territory. They made not the slightest attempt to conceal their Moscow affiliations. They regarded the Russians as co-religionists. This feeling was thoroughly indoctrinated in their troops.

The Prime Minister remarked that Tito was also a full communist.

The President said he relied on the view of General Marshall who had dealt with these people for a year. They are fully tied to Moscow. The Chinese people do, of course, have national feelings. The Russians cannot dominate them forever, but that is a long-range view and does not help us just now.

The President said that Secretary Acheson had suggested that perhaps it had not been made clear to the Prime Minister that we have made every possible move to keep out of war with the Chinese Communists. We do not want such a war and have shown great forbearance so far in withstanding their attacks. On Wake Island he had told General MacArthur that he wanted to avoid giving any provocation to the Chinese in Manchuria and the Russians in Vladivostok.4 General MacArthur had agreed and gave his opinion that the Chinese would not intervene. General MacArthur had at that time arranged to shift two divisions to Europe because he was sure the Korean campaign would be cleared up, as it would have been were it not for the intervention of the Chinese Communists. However, they are now in. They intend to push the United Nations out of Korea if they can. He hoped we could find a way to prevent this. We had never taken a move or given General MacArthur an order unless it came from the United Nations. He wished to emphasize that we do not want to act independently. It was for this reason that he particularly welcomed these talks.

The Prime Minister said that the problem was to find out how best we could avoid playing the Russian game.

The President said this was exactly right.

General Marshall commented on the Japanese reaction. He had in mind their great triumph for a time and then their collapse. We had been much worse off after Pearl Harbor and had then destroyed them. That memory would influence their reaction. They had a fearful lesson.

The Prime Minister said it was also necessary to consider the effect of our action on Asiatic opinion.

[Page 1716]

The President said this was indeed vital. The trouble was that Asiatic governments seem to condone Chinese action in Tibet and Korea and blame the United States for all that happens. Russian propaganda along this line has even gotten through to India. He had tried to make our position perfectly plain, pointing out that we are not trying to take anything away from anybody but to restore things to those who ought to have them.

The Prime Minister said that Asiatics think that this is their show. He recalled the attitude which he had found in India almost twenty years ago in regard to the Japanese.

The President said it was hard to offset this propaganda which had taken hold out there. We had to find a common policy for ourselves and the NAT powers in order to get a common front and must then attempt to keep from all-out war. The Russians only understand the mailed fist, and that is what we are preparing for them. The situation is very serious, and we must find a common course which we can all hold to. He suggested that it might be desirable to continue the discussion tomorrow to see if we could reach a common conclusion which would avoid all-out war.

The Prime Minister wondered how we could avoid being bled in the East so that we could save the West. It would be wise today to consider the most immediate problems.

The President said we must make two decisions in a day or two which still leaves us time for some discussion. If an approach is to be made on the question of a cease-fire, this cannot be long delayed.

The Prime Minister agreed, saying if we delayed very long something would blow up.

The President then said he wished to read to the Prime Minister certain points as follows:

  • “1. It would be militarily advantageous in the immediate situation if a cease-fire order could be arranged provided that considerations offered were not so great as to be unacceptable. This might insure full support of the United Nations. Arrangements for a cease-fire must not impose conditions which would jeopardize the safety of United Nations forces nor be conditioned on agreement on other issues, such as Formosa, and the Chinese seat in the United Nations.
  • 2. If a cease-fire should be effected which permits a stabilization of the situation, United Nations should proceed with the political, military and economic stabilization of the Republic of Korea while continuing efforts to seek an independent and unified Korea by political means.
  • 3. If the Chinese Communists reject a cease-fire and move major forces south of the 38th Parallel, the United Nations forces may face a forced evacuation of Korea. The consequences of a voluntary acceptance of a successful aggression and of a voluntary abandonment of our [Page 1717] Korean allies would be such that any United Nations evacuation must be clearly the result of military necessity only.”

The President here interposed that we cannot get out voluntarily. All the Koreans left behind would be murdered. The communists care nothing about human life. The President continued reading:

“4. If the situation in the preceding paragraph develops, the United Nations must take immediate action to declare Communist China an aggressor and must mobilize such political and economic measures as are available to bring pressure upon Peiping and to affirm the determination of the United Nations not to accept an aggression. Also, there is the possibility of some military action which would harass the Chinese Communists and of efforts which could be made to stimulate anti-communist resistance within China itself, including the exploitation of Nationalist capabilities.

In addition to the measures indicated above, the United States and United Kingdom should consult immediately about other steps which might be taken to strengthen non-communist Asia. These steps might include:

Restoration of considerable self-government to Japan, the acceleration of efforts to obtain a Japanese peace settlement, the strengthening of Japanese capacity for self-defense, the greater utilization of productive capacity to strengthen the capabilities of the free world, and the prompt admission of Japan into international organizations. United Kingdom reluctance to move on these points should be discarded in light of the new critical situation.”

On this last point, The President said that he attached great importance to this and would like to discuss it at more length with the Prime Minister later. The President continued:

“(b) Appropriate military arrangements between nations in Southeast Asia capable of effective mutual support.”

The President wondered whether there was very much that could be done under this point. Continuing:

“(c) Special efforts to convince non-communist Asia of the nature of the threat which confronts it and to urge upon the governments concerned the need for concerted Asian action to resist communist aggression in that area.”

The President thought that a good deal could be done on this line. He concluded with the following two points:

“(d) Intensification of economic and military assistance to encourage the organization of resistance to communist encroachment.

(e) Intensification of psychological and covert activity against communist regimes and activity in Asia.”

[Page 1718]

The President said that he had been considering some kind of Marshall Plan for Southeast Asia. The ECA had done a lot of good work there. A special plan was now underway for the Philippines to stabilize their situation, and he hoped that it would be rapidly approved by Congress. All of these points were worth consideration and further discussion.

Secretary Acheson said the Prime Minister knows the present position in the United Nations. The six powers have put the item on the agenda and have filed a memorandum without indicating any course of action. We might now put in the 6-power resolution which had been vetoed in the Security Council.5 It was important to take some action to avoid seeming not to know what to do. Perhaps there should be a resolution just calling for a cease-fire now. It might be necessary to take the position very soon in the United Nations, and this should be done after complete agreement is reached between the Prime Minister and the President.

The Prime Minister remarked that General Wu and the Secretary General were dining together tonight and something might come out of that.

Secretary Acheson referred to General Wu’s statement to Sir B. N. Rau that it took him three days to communicate with Peiping. He said he meant one to Peiping, one to Moscow, and one back. He doubted if much would come out of that approach.

Sir Oliver Franks said that he would like to suggest the points which seemed to him had emerged from the discussion. He would not attempt to assess these points but merely to list them and he hoped he would be corrected if wrong:

The military situation is such that we ought to make no assumption regarding prolonged occupation of any area of Korea. We may hold a beachhead for a considerable time but this is not certain. We are therefore holding a position of diminishing strength which cannot last long. In regard to talks with the Chinese, we must assume a position of military weakness.
We had been trying to guess what the Chinese were thinking about and what they would do in a negotiation. Would they go beyond Korea to include such questions as Formosa? This inquiry leads us to the problem of the slippery slope and the question where you end.
Mr. Acheson had suggested another possibility in which perhaps the military situation would be held as long as possible and until we were obliged to leave so that we would be forced out instead of withdrawing by agreement. In that case, we would not need negotiation [Page 1719] but would need to think what steps we would take against the Chinese who force us out. Then new problems would arise on that line.
Criss-crossing these alternatives is the question of a cease-fire which, if obtained at all, must be in the near future. It was not clear to him how that fitted in to the above alternatives, but it seemed to fit into each and ought to be pursued on its own merits.

The President said this was very clearly put.

Secretary Acheson said it was very accurate. The only question which was posed by Sir Oliver was how a cease-fire fits in. If the United Nations puts forward such a suggestion, the United Nations would have said the Chinese Communists must cease and at the same time would say to the Chinese, “We tell you that our forces will cease fire also.” At least that would result in your stopping the killing of people while you talk. We would pay little for that. If they say we should be behind the 38th Parallel, the answer is we soon will be anyway. Such a United Nations position which would be acceptable to us would mean that we are not the aggressors and that we are ready to stop if the Chinese will.

The President suggested that, if it was generally agreed, the discussion could be adjourned until tomorrow.

Sir Oliver Franks inquired what should be said to the press.

The President read a draft release. This was discussed by Mr. Ross6 with Sir Oliver and Mr. Roger Makins, and then adopted with slight revision as follows:

“The President and Prime Minister Attlee conferred in the Cabinet Room of the White House today from 4 p. m. until 5:35 p.m. (Others who were present are listed at the end of this statement.)

In order to give Mr. Attlee the latest information on the serious military situation of the United Nations forces in Korea, the President asked General Bradley to summarize it.

Mr. Attlee and the President then reviewed the general world situation in the light of developments in the Far East. The relationship between these developments and the responsibilities of the two nations in Europe and the rest of the world were emphasized.

The frank discussion which followed revealed the determination of Mr. Attlee and Mr. Truman to arrive at a mutual understanding of the serious problems faced by both the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as by other members of the United Nations. The common ground on which the two governments base their foreign policy was fully revealed.

The Prime Minister and the President will meet again at lunch tomorrow and continue their discussion afterward.”

  1. Sir Roger Makins, Head of the Economic Intelligence and General Departments of the Foreign Office; Robert Scott, Head of the South East Asia Department of the Foreign Office; Denis Rickett, Mr. Attlee’s Secretary.
  2. W. Stuart Symington, Chairman of the National Security Resources Board; Walter S. Gifford, Ambassador-designate to the United Kingdom; Dean Rusk, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs; George Elsey, Administrative Assistant to the President.
  3. For documentation on the talks between Sir B. N. Rau of India and General Wu, see vol. vii, pp. 1299 ff.
  4. For documentation on President Truman’s talks with General MacArthur at Wake Island on October 14, see vol. vii, pp. 946 ff.
  5. The reference here is to the six-power resolution on Korea, vetoed by the Soviet Union on November 30.
  6. Charles G. Ross, President Truman’s press secretary.