Atomic Energy Files, Lot 57 D 688

Memorandum by the Special Assistant to the Secretary of State (Arneson)

top secret

Memorandum for the Secretary

Subject: Conduct of Test of U.K. Atomic Weapon at Nevada Test Site

At the CPC meeting on August 27 it was agreed that the Department of Defense and the Atomic Energy Commission should attempt to work out a counter-proposal to the British proposal concerning the testing in the United States of the first British atomic weapon. The Department of Defense and the AEC have now reached agreement on such a proposal. (See Tab A).1

In the course of preparing this document Chairman Dean discussed the problem with the President, who said he hoped very much that it would be possible to accommodate the British request, doing so in such a way as to stay within the limits of the law and to safeguard public safety. Chairman Dean has also discussed the matter with [Page 773] Senator McMahon who has expressed very strongly the view that this should be done if possible. The proposal in its final form has been transmitted to the Joint Committee for its information. There have been no objections raised up to now.

The U.S. counter-proposal was transmitted by me to the British on September 18 to determine whether the test plan in its present form was acceptable to the United Kingdom. We have now heard that it is acceptable. The British are anxious to move ahead quickly with the necessary plans and wish to have Dr. Penney, who is arriving in the United States today, begin discussions with the MLC and AEC. The British would feel more comfortable about Dr. Penney’s discussions, as would we, if we were sure that the proposal in its final form were shown to the President to make certain that it has his final approval.

I recommend therefore—both the Department of Defense and the Atomic Energy Commission concurring—that you take the opportunity today to speak to the President about the problem, indicating to him we are ready to proceed with the program provided he approves. I do not believe that any Presidential initials are required but I do feel it important that he give his final reaction to the proposition.2

R. Gordon Arneson
  1. A handwritten marginal notation indicates that the attachment, which does not accompany the source text, was dated September 14, 1951; regarding the preparation of the U.S. counterproposal, see footnote 1, p. 768.
  2. A memorandum by Secretary Acheson of a portion of his conversation with President Truman on September 24 reads as follows:

    • “Item 1. For Mr. Gordon Arneson. I discussed with the President the project which you mentioned to me. It meets with the President’s approval and we may go ahead with it. DA” (Atomic Energy Files, Lot 57 D 688)