103.02 AEC/10–2251

Memorandum by Mr. Thomas E. Murray, Member of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, to the Ambassador in Spain (Griffis)1


The meeting with the Generalissimo2 took place at El Pardo at 11:30 a. m. on Wednesday, October 17, 1951. The Marquis de Prat acted as interpreter. No one else was present.

I said I brought greetings from President Truman and my associates in Washington.

The original purpose of my visit to Europe was to attend the closing of the Holy Year Ceremonies at Fatima in Portugal on the 12th and 13th of October. I described the gathering of over a million pilgrims [Page 779] in the square before the Basilica and the surrounding hills. He was familiar with Fatima saying he had been there about a year ago.

When it was learned in Washington that I was to make this trip it was suggested that I investigate the uranium ore situation in Portugal and Spain. I mentioned I had seen Dr. Salazar3 and discussed developments in his country and if it pleased His Excellency, I would like to do the same with him.

We had, as I was sure he knew, started preliminary negotiations with his government regarding uranium through Westinghouse International. I said I was anxious not only to encourage these negotiations but also to explore the possibility of enlarging them.

He should know, I stated, of the need of the United States for uranium ore in the immediate years ahead. It was the objective of the Atomic Energy Commission to explore all possibilities aggressively. With this in mind we had received encouraging reports about Spanish deposits. We are hopeful that a full and complete survey may be made of Spain.

The Generalissimo said, as far as he knew, the reports of uranium in Spain had been exaggerated. His geologists had investigated many locations but had found little uranium. All that has so far been found is only enough to make one small atomic pile, for laboratory research work. It is the intention of his government to continue exploration so that if ore is in Spain it will be made available.

I told him of the rich deposit in the Belgian Congo and that it might be possible that Spain might have an undiscovered source of equal value. One could never be sure until an extensive and thorough exploration was undertaken. It seemed to me that it was well worth the chance and the United States would be willing to finance such an undertaking. I then asked permission to send geologists into Spain on such a mission.

He said he appreciated our position and would approve such an exploration.

I next broached the question of Spain agreeing now to export all uranium to the United States. It was understood, of course, that this would involve my government making the necessary financial arrangements. It would also bring about discussions of price for ore. In this connection I said I could not see how any financial arrangement other than the cost of mining plus a nominal profit was feasible. I was convinced that Spain should accept such a proposal and get whatever other advantages it thought would necessarily flow from the good-will gesture I was suggesting.

I also reminded him at this point of some of the specific advantages, such as a free interchange of scientific personnel, cooperation eventually [Page 780] in the economical use of uranium for power as well as for medical and industrial purposes.

Several times I stated that uranium should not be considered in the same category as other metals such as copper, tin, zinc, lead, et cetera. Uranium has a unique and very different and vital part to play in world affairs and so all the available ore should be put at the disposal of the peace loving countries. It was important that it serve our mutual interests.

In this connection, however, I emphasized the importance of time. Time was running out, perhaps, and we should not explore for uranium in a leisurely fashion. It should be remembered that ore discovered in the ground today cannot find its way into bombs for . . .years. It seemed important to get under way at the earliest possible time. He well knew that there might be little or no use for uranium in 1960 if world affairs went against us. Uranium has no real vital importance today except for military purposes.

The Generalissimo agreed in principle to what I had to say. He repeated he would permit the United States to send into Spain geologists, but while he himself was sympathetic to making a declaration of intent on all uranium, as I suggested, he did not wish to do this without consulting with his Ministers and the Cortes and have the matter fully understood by all parties.

He repeated several times that he appreciated what the United States had and was continuing to do to preserve world peace. If it was not for our country, he said, Europe would have been overrun by Russia long ago.

Near the end of our conversation he asked about the last Russian explosion and wanted to know if we were sure it was an atomic one. He asked the question in a kind of joking manner. However, I assured him that we were positive it was atomic. There were no doubts about it.

Our meeting ended with the Generalissimo asking me to convey his best wishes to President Truman and greetings to the whole American people whom he admired very much.

Prior to this visit I met Alberto Martin Artajo, Foreign Minister, on Tuesday evening, October 16, at 6:30. Marquis de Prat acted as interpreter. I reviewed the same matters with him. He was the one who arranged the appointment with the Generalissimo.

After the meeting at El Pardo, Marquis de Prat arranged a meeting with Joaquin Plannell, Minister of Industry, on Thursday, October 18, at 10:30 a. m. Mr. de Cubas4 accompanied me to his office. I saw him alone at first, and went over everything. He was most sympathetic. His only comment was that he thought we should send more than two or three geologists as suggested by Westinghouse. I told him I was [Page 781] to meet General Vigon5 later in the day. He was very much pleased, and because he said this was primarily a military matter. After covering these points I asked Mr. de Cubas to come in and meet the Minister.

At 12:30 I saw General Vigon at his office with Colonel Gandia of the United States Military Mission. This meeting was arranged through General Spry, U.S.A.,6 at the request of Ambassador Griffis, Commander Alvaro Urzaiz, of the Spanish Navy, was also present. Here again I reviewed the situation and told the General of my meeting with the Generalissimo. He seemed very familiar with the Atomic Energy Commission’s program. He reads our semi-annual reports7 very carefully. He talked about uranium for power and he agreed it was a long way off, perhaps ten or twenty years. He seemed agreeable to everything and would speak to the Generalissimo if the opportunity presented itself tomorrow at the cabinet meeting.

Met General Spry at his office today, October 19, at 9:45 a. m. I reviewed my interviews with the Generalissimo, General Vigon, Artajo and Plannell. He is to see General Vigon today and would speak to him, emphasizing the need of early explorations. He will also follow the matter with informal talks with the Spanish military whenever the occasion arises.

  1. Transmitted to the Department as an enclosure to despatch 387 from Madrid, October 22.
  2. General Francisco Franco Bahamonde, Chief of State and Premier of Spain.
  3. For memorandum of conversation by Murray, October 11, see p. 775.
  4. J. L. de Cubas, Westinghouse Electric International Company representative in Spain.
  5. Lt. Gen. Juan Vigon, Chief of the Spanish Council on Nuclear Energy.
  6. Maj. Gen. James W. Spry, USAF, Chief of the Joint Military Survey Team which arrived in Spain in August. Information on the mission is included in documentation on Spain and the Western defense system in volume iv.
  7. Reference is to United States Atomic Energy Commission semiannual reports to Congress.