Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Nitze)

top secret

Participants: Sir John Slessor
Mr. Matthews
Mr. Nitze

Mr. Nitze asked Sir John whether he had as yet given to General Bradley a copy of the report by the British Chiefs of Staff on atomic warfare.1 Sir John said that he had not. Pie had felt that, in view of the political implications of the paper, Sir Oliver should first take it up with the Secretary of State and then follow such procedure as he might suggest. Mr. Nitze said that we had looked at the paper and felt that it would be appropriate for either Sir John or Air Marshal Sir William Elliot2 to make it available immediately to General Bradley and let him know that Sir Oliver had made a copy available to Mr. Acheson. Sir John said that he agreed completely with the suggestion and would do so forthwith.

Mr. Nitze said that we had a few questions with respect to the paper. The first one dealt with the Far East. Mr. Nitze asked whether the British contemplated a further paper on China. Sir John said that they did not. Mr. Nitze indicated that he thought that we would have questions to discuss with the British regarding Japan and the possibility of overt Russian intervention in Korea.

Sir John referred to paragraph 13 (d) and said that he read it to imply that any major overt use of Russian forces would amount to the start of global war.

Mr. Nitze pointed out that the section on Japan gave a contrary impression. Sir John said that he felt that the point was well taken and that they would have to give further consideration to this problem.

Mr. Nitze referred to the language in paragraphs 4 and 36 (e) and said that, although we thoroughly agree with the desirability and [Page 827] necessity of clear and frank discussions on the subject matter of this paper, we thought that we should keep within the framework of the language of the communiqué following the Truman-Attlee talks. Sir John said that he understood the point, and felt that as close a meeting of the minds as possible should be arrived at in order to avoid the type of confusion which existed at Lake Success in the case of Chinese aggression.3 He also inferred that a more formal agreement might be desirable in view of His Majesty’s Government’s responsibility to Parliament and the necessity of being absolutely clear on the use of British bases.

Mr. Matthews asked whether it was Sir John’s opinion that Norway and Denmark would themselves desire that forceful action be taken in the event of an attack on Finmark or Bornholm. Sir John said that this had never been discussed with either Norway or Denmark but that he, personally, was inclined to agree with Mr. Matthews that there was doubt as to whether they themselves would desire such action.

The subject of Yugoslavia also was discussed. Sir John indicated that a paper on the subject was before the British Chiefs but had not yet been acted upon. He also gave the substance of a conversation he had had with a Yugoslav officer who had indicated complete confidence that the satellites would not dare attack Yugoslavia. The officer had been rather vague on the assistance which Yugoslavia would desire in the event of a Russian attack other than to indicate that Yugoslavia would desire air support, but would not expect ground support.

  1. The British paper, a 22-page document dated February 22, 1951, is not printed. It set forth tentative conclusions regarding the possible forms of Communist aggression during the following two years which might necessitate the initiation of atomic warfare by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom. (S/AE Files, Lot 68 D 358)
  2. Chief of the British Joint Services Mission in Washington.
  3. Documentation on action at the United Nations with respect to the Chinese role in Korea is included in volume vii.