No. 117
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of Western European Affairs (Byington)
top secret
  • Subject: Trieste
[Page 284]


  • The Secretary
  • Sir Roger Makins, British Ambassador
  • Mr. Cheetham, British Foreign Office
  • Mr. MacArthurC
  • Mr. MerchantEUR
  • Mr. BonbrightEUR
  • Mr. BarbourEE
  • Mr. ByingtonWE

The Secretary expressed his personal concern over the Trieste crisis and the real need to take a constructive step at this point. He added that the President also had been following this problem and only the other day had addressed a personal note to the Secretary about it.1 At this point the Secretary quoted the pertinent remarks of the President concerning the urgency of action toward resolving this disturbing and critical Trieste problem.

The Secretary then informed the British Ambassador that on the whole the plan for Trieste which had been worked out jointly between our two governments appeared well thought out and worth trying. It represented, however, quite an elaborate procedure in which an attempt had been made to provide for a wide number of contingencies, and which also was complicated by the fact that it called for separate action not only here and in London but also in Rome and Belgrade. Each move depended upon an individual, in this case, Tito, doing what we expected him to do. In an operation of this delicacy and complexity, particularly in dealing with a tough character such as Marshal Tito and the emotional character of the Italians, we could not be sure what would happen and a situation could very well arise where it would be imperative for us to reach a decision together in a matter of hours. We would have to act more quickly than is possible through normal diplomatic channels.

The Secretary noted that British agreement to the plan had to be obtained from the Cabinet. Often the holding of Cabinet meetings to discuss matters of this sort cause inevitable delays which, in the fluid Trieste situation, might become extremely dangerous. What the Secretary had in mind was whether the British Government could not delegate to the Ambassador authority to reach quick decisions with us in the face of unforeseen moves by either Italy or Yugoslavia in the critical situation we both envisaged. The Secretary noted that the Ambassador had with him Mr. Cheetham of the Foreign Office, who perhaps could be kept here,2 and that also [Page 285] there was in Washington a representative of the British Chiefs of Staff. Moreover, London could be reached readily on the phone.

Sir Roger Makins replied that he likewise recognized the complexities of the plan regarding Trieste and agreed on the possibility that it might be necessary to reach quick decisions in the face of reactions which we could not foresee. He said he would convey the Secretary’s remarks to his government that evening.

He wished to reassure the Secretary, however, that the Cabinet tomorrow in considering the Trieste plan was only doing so in the broad sense of policy. If it approved the plan, subsequent details or actions related to the plan would not require further Cabinet meetings.

  1. Document 115.
  2. The first meeting among Cheetham, Salt, and representatives of WE, including Byington, occurred on Sept. 30. A memorandum of the conversation is in file 750G.00/9–3053.