Conference Files: Lot 59 D 95: CF 49

United States Minutes, Truman–Attlee Conversations, Sixth Meeting, The White House, Washington, December 8, 1950, 11:15 a. m–1:20 p. m.

top secret

US Min–6


United States United Kingdom
The President Prime Minister Attlee
The Vice President Sir Oliver Franks
Secretary of State Acheson Field Marshal Sir William Slim
Secretary of the Treasury Snyder Sir Roger Makins
Attorney General McGrath Lord Tedder
Postmaster General Donaldson Sir Leslie Rowan
Secretary of Interior Chapman Sir Edwin Plowden
Secretary of Commerce Sawyer Mr. Robert Scott
Under Sec. of Defense Lovett Mr. John Barnes
Under Sec. of Agriculture McCormick Mr. Denis Rickett
General Omar Bradley
Mr. W. Averell Harriman
Mr. W. Stuart Symington
Mr. William Foster
Ambassador at Large Philip Jessup
Amb.-Designate Walter S. Gifford
Asst. Sec. of State Thorp
Asst. Sec. of State Perkins
Asst. Sec. of State Rusk
Asst. Sec. of Commerce Blaisdell
Mr. Ralph Trigg
Mr. George Elsey
Mr. Steven Early

[Here follows a table of contents.]

The President opened the meeting by saying to the Prime Minister that General Collins, Chief of Staff of the Army, had just returned [Page 1775] from a trip to Japan and Korea. They had begun these discussions with a briefing on the military situation by General Bradley and if the Prime Minister thought it would be useful he would ask General Collins to give a briefing on the situation as it stands now.

General Collins said that he had just returned from the four or five-day trip in which he had first gone to Tokyo where he had talked to General MacArthur. He then flew to Seoul where he talked to General Walker and went on up to the western front, which at that time was somewhat south of the river. He talked to the Commanders in the field. He then flew to the Hungnam area to see the operations of the Tenth Corps and talk to General Almond. He said that as the result of his conversations, he felt that General Walker’s Command, if not pinned down to any particular directive requiring him to hold the Seoul area or any other particular spot, could gradually withdraw in an organized way to the Pusan area. Pusan was an excellent port where we already had large supplies. The two-track railroad to Pusan was in excellent condition. The Eighth Army was not in danger. They were falling back now to a position north of Seoul. The ROK units were in contact only with small North Korean elements. He felt confident about the general position of the Eighth Army. He spoke of the shift in the position of United States, United Kingdom and Turkish elements in the general redeployment of the forces. He said that the United Kingdom forces had not been badly hurt. The Turks had given a very good account of themselves and had been rather badly hurt in the action. Our Second Division had suffered rather severe losses and had lost a good deal of equipment. The second Division and the Turks were now being refitted north of Seoul.

Turning to the eastern front, he said that the Seventh Division, which had been up on the Yalu, was now all back in the Hamhung bridgehead area, except for two battalions which were with the Marines south of the reservoir. He had flown out to the area where the Marines were fighting and at first they had had good weather and had been able to see the operation but a snow storm had then begun and they were only able to see part of it. He explained that the Marines had not yet started down the precipitous slope which lead from the plateau area on which they were to the valley below. Forces had been despatched northward from the bridgehead to make a junction with the Marines. In his opinion if we had any kind of a decent break in regard to the weather which would permit the operation of our air force they had a good chance of getting back. The Chinese were making a very strong effort to bar their progress but we should be able to get out if air cover can be supplied. He pointed out also that our artillery was now within range of the area involved to support the evacuation. The column had its tanks with them and the operation [Page 1776] was being well handled. He said that General Almond feels he can hold the bridgehead, including the airfield and the two cities of Hamhung and Hungnam for a considerable time with air cover and could evacuate the forces without serious loss. If Russian air came in in strength, this would pose a more serious problem. General MacArthur’s plans, pending any political decision requiring a modification, were to withdraw the Tenth Corps to the Pusan area perhaps dropping small units at Pohang which would then move inland. From a military point of view, he said that all considered, it was far sounder to go to Pusan than to try to go across to form a junction with the Eighth Army. He felt, and the Commanders in the field agreed, that we could hold a position somewhere south of Seoul. He did not think that we could hold the Seoul area itself but perhaps could fall back to a position behind the Han River or hold on the Naktong River front. In summary, from a military point of view he could say that our troops were not in a critical condition today. The position of the Marines, however, was serious. He thought, however, that the Tenth Corps could be concentrated in the Hamhung area and could be withdrawn. He thought further that a junction could be made with the Eighth Army and that they could hold the Pusan bridgehead indefinitely.

The President said that they could then resume their discussions which had been adjourned yesterday and asked the Prime Minister if there was any statement he wished to make.

The Prime Minister stated that he would like to say something about the question of raw materials. He then read the following statement:

“On raw materials we asked for certain emergency short term action. The consultations we have had and which we shall have in the future are a great advance. It has been accepted around this table that the US and the UK form the core of the free world. But I must say quite frankly that unless we can get more of the raw materials which I have specially mentioned, we shall not be able to do as much as we would wish to do in the common defence effort. We have emphasized the whole way through that the maintenance of our economic strength is the basis of our defence effort and that it is the condition of our being able to do the job we want to do and you want us to do. I hope, therefore, Mr. President, that you will be able to make this contribution to our common effort.

You have also asked us about certain raw materials. We are looking into the questions you raise urgently. I can, however, say on rubber that we agree in principle on the objectives which you have put before us. We are not the only Government concerned and we must carry the others with us. But we will do our utmost to work with you towards a solution. It would, of course, be proper that any arrangement to deal with rubber should be part of a general arrangement to deal fairly and sensibly with other critical materials.

[Page 1777]

On the longer term aspect I am very glad that we have reached agreement on the way we want to go. I think that we should attempt to keep the central body to the smallest possible number of members: say, yourselves, ourselves and France. This membership follows the precedent of the Standing Group. These is a danger that the central body might easily become so large as to be unmanageable. We must recognize, however, that this will be a grave disappointment to certain countries, especially Canada, and we may have to consider her claims.

Our discussions have been in terms of raw materials, and it is my understanding that this body will not cover food or oil.”

The President asked Secretary Snyder if he had any comment.

Secretary Snyder said Mr. Symington had been in charge of the Working Group on this question but he himself agreed with the Prime Minister. The immediate matters were well underway and task forces had been assigned to work on each particular item. He was happy to report that real progress had been made. We had recognized our reciprocal interests and were going ahead in a positive way. We were trying to work out agreements on each commodity. Concerning the long-range considerations, he thought that any central committee should be set up on a restricted basis. If it were large it would merely engage in talk and not get results. We ought to start with a minimum number rather than any final thought or decision on who needed to be consulted. He considered that the Prime Minister’s suggestion of starting with the three countries was a good one and that when they took up specific items they could ad hoc bring in producing countries that were particularly concerned. He suggested to the President that Mr. Symington and Mr. Harriman might have something to add.

Mr. Symington and Mr. Harriman said there was nothing they wished to add.

The President said it then appeared that this part of the work had been a very successful conference for both of us.

Secretary Acheson raised the question of the final communiqué and suggested to the President that the group was too large to draft it.

The President said clearly that the whole group could not engage in drafting. He told the Prime Minister that he would name the Secretary of State and any one that he wished to work on the matter, if that was agreeable to the Prime Minister. It was not possible to work out a draft in the entire meeting.

The Prime Minister agreed and said that he would designate Sir Roger Makins to assist with the drafting on their side. He then referred to a paper which he had handed to the President yesterday on the question of perfecting the liaison between the United Kingdom and the United States (Annex B) [Annex A?]. He wondered whether [Page 1778] the President had had a chance to look at it. He had not proposed any formal arrangement but merely some informal steps.

The President said that he thought the general idea was a good one but he had had no chance to talk about it with General Marshall yet but that he would do so.

The Prime Minister asked Sir Roger Makins if he could report on the present state of the communiqué.

Sir Roger Makins said that a text was nearly ready to look at and that he thought they had no particular points to raise at the moment.

Secretary Acheson suggested that the drafting group could look at the issues involved and bring back to the President and the Prime Minister any points requiring their decision.

The President said the drafting group could get to work at once and then submit the results to the Prime Minister and to him. If the Prime Minister had not yet met the Vice President and the members of the Cabinet who were present this interval would give an opportunity to talk with them about various matters.

The Vice President said that he had had the pleasure of meeting the Prime Minister some time ago and that he had spoken to him this morning and was glad to say that he found him even younger and more handsome than he had been five years ago.

In response to a question from the President, Secretary Acheson said he would designate Assistant Secretary Perkins to take charge of the work on our side.

The President asked the Prime Minister whether there was anything else he wished to bring up at the moment.

The Prime Minister replied he thought things were pretty well covered.

Sir Oliver Franks said that all of the things they had wanted to bring up had already been covered and he thought in a very satisfactory way. They had nothing new to bring up at the last moment.

The President said that he had nothing new in mind but that he did not want to cut off the discussion if the Prime Minister had wanted to raise anything else. The talks had been very satisfactory from his point of view.

The Prime Minister said that he felt the same way.

The President said we now know where each other stands and commented that the military report which they had had from General Collins gave a more satisfactory presentation than they had had before.

The Prime Minister agreed.

The President said that it was hard in such a military situation for those of us who are sitting at desks to know just what the situation is in the field. He recalled how in various military situations there is a tendency first to have one’s feelings very high up and then very [Page 1779] low down. He did not think that we were going to be kicked out of Korea.

The Prime Minister said that we must take a stand and see what happens. No rapid judgment should be made in a fluid situation.

General Bradley remarked that on the basis of the present situation we were at least not forced to negotiate under pressure.

The President and the Prime Minister agreed.

The Vice President inquired whether the line that General Collins had referred to could be held by the forces already in Korea or whether we would have to send more.

General Bradley said that we could hold it with the present force supplemented by the normal flow of replacements.

The President said that was very encouraging. The situation was not as gloomy as it had appeared on the day when the discussions had started. It was very satisfactory to hear from a man who had just been on the spot.

The Prime Minister said that this was very good indeed.

There then ensued general conversation around the table in the course of which the President asked the Prime Minister to excuse him for a few minutes and withdrew from the room.

The President returned to the room at 12:35 and at 12:50 the drafting group returned with its text and the conference resumed.

The President said that if it was agreeable to the Prime Minister he would ask someone to read the communiqué all the way through after which we could discuss the different points.

Secretary Acheson suggested that Mr. Perkins, who had been in charge of the drafting, should read it.

Mr. Perkins read the communiqué.

Secretary Acheson interposed at one point to ask the President whether he could raise a question then or whether the President wished the reading of the communiqué to continue and then to raise the questions.

The President said he would prefer to come back later to specific points.

The President then said there were a couple more sentences on which he and the Prime Minister had agreed and which were to be included in the communiqué. He then read the sentences dealing with the atomic bomb as they appear in the final communiqué. The President said we should find the proper place to insert them.1

The President then asked Secretary Acheson if he wanted to bring up the point he had raised on the part dealing with the question of seating the Chinese Communists and Formosa.

[Page 1780]

Secretary Acheson said there were two questions regarding the language which he would like to raise. In the present text, the explanation of the reasons for the United States not wishing to seat the Chinese Communists representatives in the United Nations was put in terms of our recognition of the Nationalist Government. He proposed the following substitute language: “The United Kingdom has recognized the Central People’s Government and considers that its representatives should occupy China’s seat in the United Nations. The United States has opposed and continued to oppose the seating of the Chinese Communist representatives in the United Nations.”

The Prime Minister said that this alternate language was satisfactory.

Secretary Acheson also called attention to the sentence which said that the decision on Chinese representation was, of course, a matter for the United Nations. He said this was obviously true but the question arose why it was inserted. It must have some significance. Some people might interpret it as meaning we don’t like this situation but it is a fact. It was either a statement of a platitude or it had some special significance which was not apparent and he thought it was better to leave it out.

Mr. Harriman said that this was especially true since the thought was already expressed in the first sentence.

The Prime Minister agreed that the first sentence did carry the same idea, and it was agreed to delete the sentence in question.

Field Marshal Slim wished to raise a question regarding the sentence about the appointment of the Supreme Commander. He hoped this could be modified to read: “It is intended that this appointment will be made soon.” People in Europe are waiting for a definite decision on this point.

Secretary Acheson said that he had no objection to the thought which the Field Marshal had advanced, but his language would sound as if the President and the Prime Minister were announcing the intention of all of the NATO countries.

The President remarked that he was very anxious to appoint the Supreme Commander.

Secretary Acheson suggested it might be possible to say: “It is our joint desire that this shall be made soon.”

The Prime Minister, Field Marshal Slim and Sir Roger Makins all expressed approval, and The President agreed.

The Prime Minister said that in the next to the last line in the sixth paragraph he would like to take out the word “world” before “peace.” As the sentence now reads, it sounds as if we were anticipating the outbreak of world war.

The President agreed.

[Page 1781]

Secretary Acheson said to the President that it was recommended that the statement on the atomic bomb be inserted in the middle of page 7. In this context it would avoid having the statement refer to any particular part of the world whether Europe or the Far East. It comes in a section dealing with general military capabilities.

The Vice President asked that the statement on the atomic bomb be read again, and The President read it. The Vice President wondered whether the statement meant that only the Prime Minister would be informed and no one else.

The President pointed out that the Prime Minister represented the country which was especially helping us with raw materials and the general defense effort. He understood that the insertion was satisfactory.

The Attorney General pointed out that on page 3 the language did not correctly state the purpose of the mission of our troops in Korea. They had been sent there not to unify Korea but to resist the aggression. The language in the communiqué did not sound as if this were true.

Mr. Harriman said he thought this was a very important point.

The Prime Minister and The President agreed.

Secretary Acheson suggested substituting the words “to end the aggression” but thought that the drafting group could fix it up. (There followed an exchange of suggestions in which Mr. Harriman, the Prime Minister and others participated ending in an agreement on the text.) The Secretary said that Mr. Early had pointed out a possible misunderstanding beginning at the bottom of page 6 where the text said that the President and the Prime Minister had “reached the following decisions.” Actually, this referred to only two conclusions and not to the balance of the paper. The two conclusions might be numbered.

The President and The Prime Minister agreed.

Mr. Harriman said the Attorney General suggested in the fourth line from the end on page 3 that the word “joint” be inserted so that the phrase would read “For our joint part we are ready …”

The President said that he and the Secretary of State did not think that the insertion of this word added anything.

Secretary Snyder agreed and The Attorney General said he would not press his point.

The President said that the word had better be left out and The Prime Minister said it was not necessary to put it in. The President said it would therefore not be inserted.

The Prime Minister then returned to the question of the place in which the statement on the atomic bomb would be inserted. He wondered [Page 1782] if it would not be better to insert it between the ultimate and penultimate paragraphs.

Sir Oliver Franks added that if this were agreeable to the President they would be happy to have it in that place.

The President agreed and said the insert should be put in the place indicated by the Prime Minister.

The President then asked whether there were any other suggestions. If the Communiqué was now satisfactory, it could be agreed upon.

Mr. Harriman said he thought there might be some concern in this country about the statement on page 9 which merely said: “We are fully conscious of the increasing necessity of preventing materials” reaching our adversaries. There was some feeling that this statement might create a good deal of discussion in the United States because of the strong feeling that we ought to do something about this problem.

The President thought that the language was all right as it was. He said that actually we are doing something about it.

As the meeting closed, The Prime Minister thanked the President for his kind hospitality and for the way in which the President and his colleagues had received the Prime Minister and his associates.

The President responded by referring to his statement that this had been a very productive and successful conference.

(Final Communiqué attached.2)

Annex A


Paper Prepared by the British Delegation

U.S. and U.K. Liaison Arrangements

Owing to the global responsibilities of both countries and to the relatively large part in relation to countries other than the U.S.A. which the U.K. has to play in the common effort, it is appropriate that close relationship should be maintained between U.S. and U.K. representatives at all levels and in all fields.
This relationship, which follows naturally from the exchange of views between the President and the Prime Minister at the present meeting, should be of an informal, though regular character.
It should not prejudice the formal relationships which the U.S. and U.K. and other countries have with each other in virtue of their [Page 1783] membership of the United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization and other international organizations.
A liaison problem arises in several contexts notably Atlantic defense and planning for defense against world wide aggression. For both purposes a valuable step would be closer informal contact between U.S. and U.K. military authorities. As regards strategic control it is felt that whatever ultimate organization is required in war, the necessary first step would be to recreate a close and regular link between the British Chiefs of Staff and the American. It is not proposed that this link should be formalised at present or that there should be any large or formal exchange of papers and agenda etc. It is merely proposed that there should be a regular weekly meeting and special ad hoc meetings in times of particular emergency between the representatives of the British Chiefs of Staff in Washington and the American Chiefs of Staff. In view of the success of recent talks in which, in addition to the Chiefs of Staff, representatives of the British Embassy in Washington and the State Department were present, it is further suggested that political representatives should attend some, at least, of the regular meetings proposed.
Similar problems arise in the economic field. Arrangements are currently in hand for dealing with some of the economic aspects of defense in international organizations and conferences and it is not suggested that any formal U.S./U.K. relationship should be established which would interfere with these arrangements, or with other arrangements which may be made in the future for the establishment of commodity boards. But in this field also, in view of the major role which the U.S. and U.K. will have to play, it is desirable that there should be informal and full discussion before either country commits itself to particular policies or plans.

It is hoped that the President will agree that the Prime Minister and himself should give appropriate directions to their respective authorities to establish liaison arrangements on the general lines proposed in this note.

  1. See vol. vii. p. 1462.
  2. Printed separately, infra.