Memorandum of Conversation, by the Ambassador at Large (Jessup)

top secret

Subject: Personal Message from Mr. Bevin2 to Mr. Acheson

Participants: Sir Oliver Franks3
Ambassador Philip C. Jessup

Sir Oliver called at my house at ten o’clock this morning to ask me to deliver a message from Mr. Bevin to the Secretary. Sir Oliver is going to be up in Connecticut tomorrow to make a speech and did not wish to bother the Secretary today or to leave the matter over until Tuesday.4

He handed me a memorandum5 which is a personal message from Mr. Bevin to the Secretary. He also read me a brief telegram of instructions to him which actually contained very little that is not in the note itself. He proceeded to interpret what he believed was in [Page 803] Mr. Bevin’s mind. The note has to do with the British anxiety arising from the fact that they are not familiar with our strategic air plans. Parliament is about to meet and this problem will affect the Government in the debate. They expect Churchill6 to press the question whether HMG is fully informed about American plans and whether it will be consulted with regard to their execution. Sir Oliver said that he thought that what he would have said to the Secretary if he could have presented it personally was that Mr. Bevin is saying, “I’m worried and in trouble, and can you help me out?” Mr. Bevin had previously asked Sir Oliver for his advice regarding a personal appeal from Mr. Attlee7 to Mr. Truman on this question; Sir Oliver had recommended against it and this appeal from Mr. Bevin to the Secretary was the outcome. Sir Oliver said that of course they would not tell Parliament even in a so-called secret session what the strategic plans were, but they did think it necessary to be in a position to say that HMG or their Chiefs of Staff are in touch with the Americans and that they will be consulted in regard to the execution of the plans. Sir Oliver said that Mr. Bevin did not want to be in the position of having Mr. Gifford8 call him up some night and say, “Our planes are taking off in five minutes from your fields, do you mind?” Nor do they want to read in the papers some morning that something of this kind has happened. If they are informed concerning our strategic planning, only their Chiefs of Staff and the Prime Minister or Mr. Bevin would know anything about them.

Regarding the note itself, Sir Oliver said he thought the three opening sentences of the first paragraph were to be considered separate and apart from the rest of the note. These three sentences deal with the question which Sir Oliver raised with me the other day, namely the visit of Air Marshal Sir John Slessor to talk with the United States Chiefs of Staff particularly about operations in the Far East.9 The British Government was inquiring whether, after the first round on a military basis, the two sets of Chiefs could meet with Sir Oliver and a representative of the State Department following the precedent of the Bradley–Tedder talks last July and October.10 The rest of the note, including the last sentence in the first paragraph, has to do with the strategic air plans. Sir Oliver said he thought there was no wish to have him or a political representative participate in any discussions of this [Page 804] subject. Personally, he did not expect to be informed about them and did not want to know about them. He said that he would suggest to Slessor, who was due to arrive this noon, that he should not raise the question of the strategic air plans until after lunch on Monday; the talks of the respective Chiefs are to begin tomorrow morning. He hoped that this would give time for any conversations on the American side before Slessor raised it.

Sir Oliver asked me to tell the Secretary that he would be available Tuesday morning and would be glad to come in to speak to him further about this matter. I gathered that he very much hoped the Secretary would ask him to come in.

I told him that I had passed on the word which he had given me previously about political participation in the military talks and expected to have some word tomorrow morning.

Philip C. Jessup
  1. Ernest Bevin, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  2. British Ambassador in the United States.
  3. January 16.
  4. Infra.
  5. Winston S. Churchill, British Prime Minister, 1940–1945; leader of the opposition in the House of Commons.
  6. Clement R. Attlee, British Prime Minister.
  7. Walter S. Gifford, Ambassador in the United Kingdom.
  8. Information on the visit of Air Marshal Sir John Slessor, British Chief of Air Staff, is included in documentation on United States relations with the United Kingdom in volume iv.
  9. For documentation on conversations between General of the Army Omar N. Bradley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Air Marshal Arthur Lord Tedder, Chief of the British Joint Services Mission in Washington, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. iii, pp. 1686 ff.