McGhee Files: Lot 53 D 468: Petroleum

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian and African Affairs (McGhee)

top secret

Subject: NSC 26/2

Participants: Department of Defense—Admiral B. B. Biggs1
NEA—Mr. George C. McGhee
Counselor, British Embassy—Mr. B. A. B. Burrows
British Army Staff—Colonel Terrence G. Morton

I received the above named participants and briefly outlined to them the proposal contained in the attached briefing memorandum2 with respect to coordination of US and UK plans for destruction of oil facilities in the Middle East in the event of imminent capture. In addition to the points made, I stressed that neither the US nor UK should delay any planning or preparations already underway, pending further discussions and development of coordinated plans.

Mr. Burrows stated that he would be pleased to transmit the proposal for joint discussions to London, and advise when the reply has been received. He stated that he understood that the British had already initiated planning with respect to destruction of oil facilities under the jurisdiction of the British companies although he, himself, was not familiar with details. It was brought out that previous decisions by the US–UK military authorities had allocated Bahrein as a US responsibility in connection with any destruction of facilities, and that in accordance with the new proposals, this allocation must be reviewed and appropriate changes made in the planning papers. It was also brought out that it would be necessary to make an allocation of responsibility with respect to Egypt. It was stated that in accordance with the principles we had proposed, the responsibility would follow the domicile of the company concerned, i.e. UK companies would be responsible for their demolitions and US companies responsible for theirs. However, this should be reviewed in the light of the special British position in Egypt.

It was brought out that an important aspect of US–UK planning in this matter was in achieving uniformity in the degree of denial, i.e. the degree of permanence in the destruction. Mr. Burrows raised the question of who would be brought into the initial discussions on our side, and it was decided that Admiral B. B. Biggs, a State Department representative, and a CIA representative could represent this government. They would be available whenever the British were ready [Page 73] to continue talks. It was agreed that representatives of oil companies would not participate in discussions for the time being, but would be represented by their governments.

It was agreed that Admiral Biggs and Colonel Morton would, in the meantime, engage in talks concerning military aspects of the problem, including required changes in the military planning papers. There was a miscellaneous discussion on the importance of the oil facilities in the Middle East. It was agreed that they would be of use to the Russians in that theater in the event of capture intact, but that it was unlikely that Russia could transport large quantities of petroleum from the Persian Gulf area to Russia. It was also agreed that the refineries in the area would, in all probability, be destroyed by bombing early in the war no matter whose possession they were in.

  1. Rear Adm. Burton B. Biggs, USN, Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Committee, Munitions Board.
  2. Not found attached.