State–JCS meetings, lot 61 D 417, Jan–June 1951

Draft Record of a Department of State-Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting, Pentagon Building, March 14, 1951 1

top secret


General Bradley Mr. Matthews
General Collins Mr. Nitze
Admiral Sherman Mr. Perkins
General Vandenberg Mr. Byroade
Admiral [General] Twining Mr. Ferguson
General Bolte Mr. Marshall
Admiral Davis Mr. Tufts
Admiral Lalor Mr. Lay
Colonel Carns Mr. Gleason

[Here follows the section on various aspects of the German problem, pages 1–9 of the Record.]

[Page 489]

Report on Admiral Sherman’s Tour

General Bradley : Could you outline for us some of the things that you have in mind as a result of your recent tour through Europe?

Admiral Sherman : Beginning in 1946, we engaged in joint planning with the U.K. As regards the Atlantic, we agreed in September 1948 that there should be a Supreme Commander in the event of war for Atlantic naval operations. The U.K. wanted the headquarters in London but after some discussion we agreed that the headquarters should be in the United States. We felt that London might be an untenable position in the event of war. There was also the consideration that the U.S. would be making up any deficiencies in the North Atlantic since the U.K. would be faced with a shortage of forces in terms of its world-wide commitments.

As regards the Mediterranean, Admiral Conolly was [to be] the Supreme Commander for this region and had three British commanders under him for land, sea and air. The U.S. Mediterranean Fleet was regarded as a mobile offensive force under the Supreme Commander.

With the organization of NATO, new arrangements were necessary. NATO planning could not include the Middle East. As you know, NATO planning was divided into three regions, one of which was the MO (Mediterranean Occidentale). Admiral Conolly (who has now been replaced by Admiral Carney) was to be the Supreme Commander for the MO region. However, the question of how naval forces in the Mediterranean were to be handled has always been fuzzy.

I talked with Lord Fraser about this problem last October. His proposal was that the U.S. should have the top command in the Mediterranean and that the U.K. should have the naval command. I thought that it would be better the other way around because I knew of the proposed Atlantic arrangement. In other words, for the Mediterranean I thought it would be desirable for the U.K. to have the Supreme Command and the U.S. to have the Naval Command. An element in my view was that the U.S. would furnish the bulk of the naval forces in the Mediterranean.

The next development after this conversation with Lord Fraser was that he prepare a memorandum on the problem which envisaged a U.S. Supreme Commander for the NATO part of the Mediterranean and a separate command for the rest of the Mediterranean area. The proposal involved the feeding back and forth of naval forces in some vague way. The proposal rested on the distinction between the two naval functions in the area, namely the protection of lines of communication through the Mediterranean and the support of any land operations in the area.

[Page 490]

Now we come to the point of the leak in Denmark which touched off public knowledge in the U.K. of Admiral Fechteler’s appointment.2 Ambassador Gifford told me that it was originally planned that the question in Parliament concerning this appointment would be asked by a Liberal. Then the Government decided that that might have disastrous potentialities. Therefore, Eden was informed of the problem and an arrangement was made with him to ask Churchill to put the question. Churchill agreed. Apparently, this was all done with the knowledge of the British Navy. Mr. Attlee was not properly briefed and Churchill took advantage of this to embarrass him. This touched off the controversy which was not entirely spontaneous. The only men who stood up for the arrangement were Dalyrymple and Scofield. Lord Fraser left town. That was the situation when I left for London.

I went to Paris where I talked with General Eisenhower. He still had his command problem to work out, including the appointment of a staff and of deputies. He required commanders for his northern and southern flanks. He had already advanced over here before his departure the view that he had to have command over the naval forces covering his flanks, and this had been agreed.

When I reached London, I had as usual appointments to see the principal people in the U.K. Government and in the Admiralty. Ambassador Gifford felt that things had progressed and that the controversy was quieting down. The campaign had now become a concerted effort to get a Britisher appointed as Supreme Commander in the Mediterranean—and for reasons that were not primarily military in character. Unlike the Atlantic which is a wide open space, the Mediterranean is a complicated political and economic area. In my conversations with the British Chiefs, I told them that I could not express a JCS view, that I was seeking information and that as far as I was concerned, if it was politically possible, I would be glad to see Admiral Fechteler’s title changed to “Allied Commander in Chief, Atlantic”. I was emphatic that the British Chiefs had to support the position they had already accepted. They were deriving some satisfaction from the turn of events. For one thing, the U.K. Navy was on the front page of every newspaper. When we got around to this Mediterranean business, the principal speaker was Slim. He was the great advocate of a British Supreme Commander in the Mediterranean area. I think that what we have to face is that an attempt is being made at the governmental level to establish a British position in the Mediterranean which will tie in with the British position in the Middle East and increase their influence there. They are trying to upset and to [Page 491]reverse the developments of the last six years which have resulted in our acquiring the dominant military position in the area.

As to how we can best proceed, I suggest that we should not press the Atlantic issue and that we should avoid getting hooked with the title of Supreme Commander for the Mediterranean so long as we are not clear on the commander’s terms of reference. I further suggest that we should go slow for the time being on the Mediterranean issue.

Within the last forty-eight hours, Mr. Attlee has requested General Eisenhower to make his recommendations regarding his command structure, including the commander for his southern flank. So the British are still pressing, largely for political reasons.

My conclusions are about as follows: (1) Certain NATO headquarters have got to be set up because General Eisenhower’s show has to be ready to function at the earliest possible date; (2) certain subsidiary organizations also have to be set up. As for the northern flank, General Eisenhower envisages a command located in the British Isles, whereas the British are thinking in terms of a tri-partite arrangement with headquarters in Norway. As for the southern flank, General Eisenhower envisages a headquarters in Naples under Admiral Carney. This would include French North Africa and Italy and also Greece, when and if Greece is admitted to NATO. He wants this headquarters to be responsible for his southern flank and for all air, land and sea operations related to the defense of this flank. General Eisenhower is willing to let the British have a separate command in the Mediterranean.

Mr. Perkins : I am not clear regarding the relationship between Admiral Carney’s command and this separate Mediterranean command.

Admiral Sherman : No one is clear about it. If the Mediterranean were larger, I could understand the usefulness of a NATO Mediterranean Command and a U.K. line of communications command. However, I do not believe that we can afford two separate naval commands in the Mediterranean in the event of war. If political considerations did not intrude, the proper way to organize would be to put one man in control of the whole show—including the Aegean and the Balkans. Because of political factors, it may be necessary to come to a less logical arrangement. We have agreed to await General Eisenhower’s views.

A separate point of some concern to me is the difficulties associated with the establishment of a headquarters in Naples at this time, with a U.S. Supreme Commander who would have a French and Italian and perhaps another deputy. Paris is a large place, but wherever we establish these headquarters we handicap our efforts to some extent. Any headquarters of this kind creates a certain amount of local resentment. Unfavorable local reactions are inevitable to the privileges and standard of living, etc., of our people. We do not want to incur too many [Page 492]disadvantages in order to establish a headquarters. It seems to me that the best headquarters for the southern flank would be a naval vessel in the Mediterranean.

Mr. Matthews : Did you talk to Ambassador Dunn about this problem?

Admiral Sherman : Yes, and he is also apprehensive. I think the first lesson to learn from all of this is that we should talk, in the first instance, about responsibilities and tasks rather than command assignments.

General Bradley : We have always been clear that the responsibility in this area is primarily British. However, we are putting a lot of resources into the area and this is necessary from a cold war point of view.

Admiral Sherman : We have to look at this problem from two points of view: (1) What is the best military organization for the contingency of war; and (2) what will best serve our interests from the point of view of the cold war?

General Collins : It should be emphasized that the JCS has not changed its view on the necessity for the U.K. to take primary responsibility for the Middle East in the event of war. We will have a hell of a job fulfilling our responsibilities in Western Europe.

Admiral Sherman : I might mention one further sidelight which may be of some interest and amusement. When I was returning home I took off from Italy and agreed not to refuel in Spain because of French and British sensitivities about our Spanish policy.3 I decided that it would be bad to land in French Morocco in view of the recent excitement in that area.4 This left only Gibraltar and so I decided to land there. While I was there, the U.S. Naval Attaché in Madrid came down to see me and I also lunched with the British Commander there. It was all very pleasant. Lord Fraser had just left Gibraltar to go to Spain on a visit and I thought that this was desirable for the British would thus appear to be taking the initiative as regards Spain. Then on my return home, I found this most interesting despatch concerning Lord Fraser’s activities in Spain (Admiral Sherman’s reference was to the report that Lord Fraser was being accompanied back to Britain by a senior Spanish General, presumably for the purpose of discussing British-Spanish cooperation in defense matters.). 5

[Page 493]

Mr. Perkins : This report has been confirmed by another report from Tangiers. It seems to me that our Embassy in the U.K. should take this matter up.

Admiral Sherman : Where did Tangiers get the information?

Mr. Perkins : I believe it is from a separate source.

Mr. Matthews : Do you know the Spanish General in question?

Admiral Sherman : Yes, he is a good, intelligent and restrained man.

Mr. Matthews : I believe he is now on a British carrier with Lord Fraser.

Mr. Perkins : Whether we are right on the purpose of these conversations is a question we are not sure about.

General Bradley : There have been so many irritants in our relationships with the British in recent months that I think we may have to have a showdown with them sometime in the near future. The incidents include Admiral Fechteler’s appointment, the publicity concerning the Malta Conference,6 the F–86 issue, the Spanish question and finally the rather rude British criticisms of the military conduct of the campaign in Korea. I am not sure that these things should be taken up on a governmental basis but perhaps we should sit down, as we have before, with the British Chiefs and call each other names for a while.

General Collins : Might we not be able to find out from the Spanish General what the nature of his conversations were? I think that the timing with which we step in is very important.

Admiral Sherman : The explanation of these difficulties may lie in something which Mountbatten told me. I want to be very careful to protect the security of the source of this point of view. He told me that the British are increasingly apprehensive regarding the effects upon them if the development of U.S. policy leads to the involvement of the U.K. in a war. The continent would be occupied in the event of war and the U.K. would suffer very heavy damage, if not obliteration. They are worried about the possibility that when our rearmament program is substantially complete, we will feel that we are in a position [Page 494]where we will have to take some action before our equipment becomes obsolete. I do not know his political position but he is a man of considerable influence who has good relations with both Parties, who is called upon by the King for advice and who, of course, is influential in the Admiralty. I believe that he was sincerely expressing an important British point of view. I think that some such anxiety lies behind such irritating incidents as we have been experiencing.

Mr. Matthews : I think you are right. How can we allay this anxiety? How can we show that we do not want war?

Admiral Sherman : In my opinion, the anxiety is coupled—contradictory though it may seem—with the view that things are going to be all right. Optimism breeds discord more than the hot breath of impending disaster.

Mr. Perkins : Did you talk with the French regarding the Mediterranean problem?

Admiral Sherman : I very carefully avoided this topic in all my discussions with the French. However, a French General told me yesterday of his Government’s concern with this problem. He thought that we should go ahead with the establishment of a headquarters for the MO region. He thought that a Britisher should have the naval command, but he indicated that it would be desirable for the Supreme Commander to have a French general as his deputy. I may say that this increases my apprehensions regarding Naples as the headquarters.

Mr. Matthews : We are going to hear a lot more about this especially in view of the Pleven talks.7

General Bradley : I told General Ely this morning that we have had conversations for years with the British regarding various problems just as we have had conversations with the French. I pointed out that we were going to have tri-partite talks regarding Far East problems. I emphasized that we have got to continue to deal bilaterally with other countries insofar as we have problems of a bilateral character.

General Collins : We must not be stampeded into including the French in every meeting with the British.

General Bradley : The JCS feels that NATO matters are and should be handled with the British and French in the Standing Group, that Latin American matters are dealt with in the Inter-American Defense Board and that other problems which fall outside the NATO area and Latin America must be dealt with bilaterally. This cannot be avoided. We are going to have to have bilateral talks with many countries.

Mr. Perkins : I think that the immediate problem with the French is their participation in conversations regarding the Middle East.

[Page 495]

General Bradley : I thought so also and this may be the real problem, but it does seem that the French desire a Standing Group for world problems.

Mr. Perkins : There is a good deal of evidence that they want to be included in discussions of the Middle East.

Admiral Sherman : The French worries regarding the Malta Conference would never have arisen if the U.K. had not spilled the beans to the French.

Mr. Matthews : The British always like to inflate their special relationship with the U.S.

General Bradley : They must have had some dirty reason for acquainting the French with this Conference.

General Collins : One of the questions that is always asked on the Hill is how much latitude do we have to consider problems from the point of view of our own interests. The Hill is concerned about these multi-lateral arrangements because they think that arrangements inhibit our freedom to take decisions in terms of our own interests.

Admiral Sherman : I think that we should stress that point with the French. We can tell them quite frankly that Congress will not tolerate the extension of multi-lateral arrangements and that Congress insists that except for NATO and the Inter-American Defense Board we have got to be free to consider other problems on a bilateral basis.

General Bradley : The Congressmen have asked me how many countries have to give their approval before we can take this, that or the other action—for example, the use of the A-bomb.

Mr. Matthews : Of course the French rejoinder would be that we do talk with the British regarding the Middle East.

General Bradley : The rejoinder to that is that the French have no forces in the Middle East and have therefore no contribution to make. The purpose of our discussions with the British is the coordination of our efforts in the area. The French have nothing to be coordinated.

General Collins : It is necessary to coordinate with the British in order to relate our efforts at the present time with our actions in the event of war.

Mr. Nitze : This problem is related to the problems of the present meeting of the Deputies in Paris. We must always remember that the basic Russian tactic is to divide the West and to exploit every opportunity for this. They will keep the pressure up if they can until they find some issue on which the U.K. or the French will run away from us.

Admiral Sherman : While we must continue to talk bilaterally, we should try to prevent this from becoming an issue between us and the French or any other country. However, if it does become an issue then [Page 496]I think we have no choice but to assert our right to have bilateral discussions.

[Here follows the concluding page of the Draft Report which records a brief discussion of the next meeting of the group.]

  1. For information concerning the meetings between Department of State officials and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during 1951, see footnote 1, p. 58. The source text was probably prepared by the Department of State. There is no indication that it was cleared with any of the participants.
  2. On February 19, the Danish Government had officially announced that Denmark had approved a proposal of the North Atlantic Council for the appointment of a Supreme Allied Commander for the Atlantic Ocean and that Admiral Fechteler had been selected for the post. (Survey of International Affairs, 1951, p. 28.)
  3. See volume iv .
  4. For documentation on U.S. policies toward the French Protectorate in Morocco, see volume v .
  5. On March 8 Consul General Plitt at Tangier reported to the Department of State in telegram 331 that Admiral Lord Fraser in the course of a visit to the commander of the Spanish military zone of Algeciras, Lt. Gen. Carlos Martinez Campos, had said that “British authorities seriously concerned USAF progam Morocco and Frence in establishment NATO head quarters, France where that office under General Eisenhower is becoming so preponderantly American that over-all effect equivalent occupation France and Morocco by US.” Fraser purportedly explained that “British did not want Spain become another such zone American occupation,” and in order to forewarn Spanish military authorities of the American objectives in Spain, Fraser was said to have invited the Spanish commander aboard the British battleship Vanguard in Gibraltar to travel incognito to England “where British military authorities prepared fully acquaint Campos with American plans for European defense.” In telegram 4884 of March 12 from London, Ambassador Gifford told the Department of State that “Knowing Admiral Fraser and his personal attitude, as well as that of British Chiefs of Staff and HMG, we are confident that Department’s assumption this is malicious gossip is correct.” (611.52/3–851, 611.52/3–1251)
  6. On January 23–24 and March 13, Admiral Carney, then Commander in Chief, United States Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, met on the island of Malta with Gen. Sir Brian Robertson, the British Commander in Chief of Middle East Forces to discuss the defense of the Middle East. For related documentation, see volume iv .
  7. For documentation concerning the visit to Washington of French Prime Minister René Pleven January 29–30, see volume iv .