CFM files, lot M 88, box 166, “Big Three Bermuda”

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Counselor of the Department of State (MacArthur)

top secret


  • Points which UK May Raise at Bermuda regarding Atomic Energy Questions.


  • Sir Roger Makins, British Ambassador.
  • Douglas MacArthur II, Counselor.

Sir Roger Makins called today at his request. He said he had just had a letter from Sir Pierson Dixon indicating that in view of the satisfactory nature of the recent US–UK talks on atomic energy matters in Washington,1 it did not appear that Lord Cherwell would spring anything new on us at Bermuda. Dixon believed Cherwell would express satisfaction at the outcome of the recent Washington talks and that he would probably ask Admiral Strauss for more information relating to the scope of the amendments to the McMahon Act which the US Administration will put before the Congress. It is also possible that Lord Cherwell will discuss the possibility of some expansion of the existing US–UK modus vivendi based, I believe, on the 1948 agreement.2 Sir Roger made clear, however, that it was not anticipated that Lord Cherwell would wish to do more than discuss these matters with Admiral Strauss.* There was no indication that he [Page 1726]would ask Admiral Strauss’s agreement on anything at Bermuda.

Sir Roger then said he wished to speak on a personal and highly confidential basis about a related matter. He said there were clear indications that Churchill is still very much rankled by what he considers the US backing down on Chuchill’s understanding of the wartime agreements with respect to US–UK atomic energy partnership. He said “the old man” seems to have convinced himself that Roosevelt at Quebec gave him assurances on which he later reneged. Sir Roger said Churchill also has the feeling that Truman made some verbal promise to him in 1945 (presumably at Potsdam) with respect to US and UK sharing atomic energy knowledge on which President Truman subsequently reneged. In fact, Churchill continues to brood about all this and is now in quite a bitter frame of mind. Sir Roger said Churchill would be strongly advised not to take this matter up with the President, and in particular not to make an harangue about the past promises broken by the US in this field.… Sir Roger indicated that in view of the satisfactory way in which matters were now progressing, it would be particularly unfortunate to get into a hassle.

He expressed the personal view that wartime agreements were wartime agreements and were obviously for the duration of hostilities. Generally speaking, the British felt that we had not been as forthcoming with them on atomic energy matters as we should have been, but this was all in the past, and should not be raked up again. The only thing that was really important was that in the future we work together in the closest feasible cooperation in the atomic energy field.

The discussion then turned to questions the French would put to us at Bermuda regarding the recent US–UK–Canadian agreement on exchanges of information relating to the effects of atomic explosions. Sir Roger said the British believed we should play this “straight” and make very clear that there was no new sensational agreement with the US, UK, and Canada; that since the last war there had been arrangements for the exchange of information of certain kinds in the atomic energy field; and that recently agreement had been reached among the three simply to extend in the technical field existing arrangements; this extension of the existing arangements would simply mean that better information on the effects of atomic explosions would be obtained which in turn would enable military and civil defense planners to plan with greater effectiveness. In other words, to stress that there had been no new agreement reached, but rather there had simply been an extension of technical information stemming from the existing arrangements.

  1. Documentation on the United States–United Kingdom talks on atomic energy matters is presented in volume ii .
  2. For documentation on the United States–United Kingdom modus vivendi of 1948 on atomic energy matters, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. i, pp. 677 ff.
  3. He also mentioned Cherwell might wish to discuss the raw materials problem and US–UK cooperation in greater civilian use of fissionable material. [Footnote in the source text.]