Secretary’s Memoranda: 53 D 444: Secretary’s Memos Oct.–Dec. 1950

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

top secret

After the 9:30 meeting this morning,1 Mr. Acheson discussed the conversation which took place last night at dinner at Sir Olivet Franks’ residence. He said that he would dictate later on the conversation, but would tell us the high points.

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The Secretary said that twice before the talk with the President and the Prime Minister, General Tedder and General Slim said to the Secretary that they had muffed the ball on his kick-off on the defense business in the meeting yesterday afternoon. They said it had been hard for them to do anything since their chief did not lead off. They asked Mr. Acheson if there was any way they could retrieve the situation. The Secretary said it was up to them to handle it.

After dinner, Sir Oliver Franks, the Prime Minister, the President, General Marshall, General Bradley, General Slim and Mr. Acheson talked from about 9:30 until midnight. They were joined by others around 11 o’clock.

Both the President and the Prime Minister said they were pleased with the conversations. The British brought up again the defense matter discussed in the meeting yesterday and the Secretary said he did not feel they got very far. The Secretary said to them that there were two points he felt which should be borne in mind. First is that when the British leave, unless the President and General Marshall are convinced that the British are doing all possible in the direction of their own defense effort, the British have not accomplished much here. The Secretary told them that there was a feeling in Washington that the British were not doing all they could do. He said that if the President and General Marshall were convinced that the British were doing all they could, this would help a great deal in meeting the feeling in this country to the contrary.

The second point was that the only way we can do anything with NATO is for the United States and the United Kingdom to go ahead and act and force the others to follow. The Secretary said that he thought much of the talk on these subjects had been off the point. He said he admitted that the British had problems but regardless of the difficulty, the question is whether what is being done is adequate. The British said they understood. There was then much confused talk which the Secretary did not report in detail.

Prime Minister Attlee then said he wanted to raise a difficult and a delicate question. He raised the question of General MacArthur’s direction of the effort in Korea. He said that there was a feeling in Europe that General MacArthur was running the show and also a feeling that the other participating countries had little to say in what was done. General Bradley and General Marshall then discussed the matter with Prime Minister Attlee and said that General MacArthur was doing what he was required to do by the United Nations which had given him direction to hold Korea and get elections there, etc. They emphasized that he was doing exactly what he had been told to do by the United Nations. The Secretary said that he did not participate in this portion of the conversation. General Marshall discussed [Page 1760] the joint control by the Department of State and National Defense over General MacArthur’s activities/General Marshall said that the British could not say they were not consulted and mentioned the questions of “hot pursuit”, bombing of Manchuria, etc., on which consultation had taken place.

The British then proposed some sort of committee to direct the war. General Bradley said that a war could not be run by a committee. He said that decisions with reference to the Korean war must be handled with great dispatch and that a committee would not be able to meet this requirement. He said that if others did not like what was going on, they should say so and they would be given assistance in withdrawing. He went on that if they did not want to get out, they must accept the responsibilities assigned to the United Nations command.

The President then said that the United Nations had asked the United States to set up a unified command. He said that he was in charge and would run it as long as the United Nations wanted him to. He emphasized that he would have to continue running it unless the United Nations asked him not to. He said the orders to General MacArthur now were only concerned with the safety of his command. He said that if others came over to bomb the troops there, the President said that every airfield in sight would be bombed in order to protect our troops.

Mr. Acheson then spoke up and said that there were two things to consider here. The first was the Prime Minister’s doubts about General MacArthur. The Secretary said he would stay out of this one. The second was whether the United Nations Command was adequate for what we are doing here. He said that the Korean war was not the only issue here and mentioned the possibility of the conflict being broadened and also the situation in Europe. He said that, so far as the bombing issues were concerned, the Prime Minister and the President were discussing that, and we could not get any higher authority. He said the important thing in regard to Europe was the bearing on the unified command which was under consideration for Europe. He said that if the same kind of concern were going to develop over General Eisenhower as Supreme Commander in Europe, we should know it now. He said that we would not have a Supreme Command if all countries had to be consulted. He said that the important thing was to get someone who was trusted by all. General Tedder said that the Standing Group arrangement in NATO was rather nonsensical. He said that we did not trust the French because of known security difficulties, and that the important thing was that the United States and the United Kingdom stick together, to which all agreed.

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During the conversation the President said again that his attitude was that we stay in Korea and fight. If we have support from the others, fine; but if not, he said we would stay on any way.

L[ucius] D. B[attle]
  1. A summary of Secretary Acheson’s daily meeting with top officials of the Department of State on December 7, not printed, is in file 110.11/12–750.