No. 118
Memorandum of Conversation, by David Nes of the Office of Western European Affairs1
top secret
  • Subject: Trieste


  • Mr. Cheetham, British Foreign Office, London
  • Miss Barbara Salt, First Secretary, British Embassy
  • Mr. Homer ByingtonWE
  • Mr. Walworth BarbourEE
  • Mr. Richard FreundWE
  • Mr. William KnightWE
  • Mr. David NesWE

Mr. Cheetham opened the meeting by circulating for discussion a copy of General Winterton’s report on the military aspects of our Trieste plan.2 It was agreed that the difficulties as foreseen by General Winterton were not such as to preclude going ahead with the plan.

Mr. Byington pointed out that the key to General Winterton’s anxiety was that the plan as originally drafted called for the handing-over of Zone A to the Italians simultaneously with our public announcement. As we were now prepared to set the time of actual turnover at a future date after the public announcement, this difficulty could be resolved by bringing the military up to date on the plan as it now stood.

[Page 286]

With regard to General Winterton’s estimate of three months as the period necessary for withdrawal, Mr. Barbour said that, from the political point of view, the sooner we are out the better. We should, therefore, first assure the military that the date of turnover would be left open and subject to their planning. We should endeavor to get them to reduce the time required to one or two months at the most.

Miss Salt said that, according to her information, the Joint Chiefs of Staff hoped to complete the military planning and submit their recommendations by Wednesday, October 7. Mr. Knight asked whether this meant our initial approach to Pella and Tito would have to await their report. Mr. Byington suggested the military might agree in principle to the plan on the basis of an assurance that the date of turnover would be left open and subject to their decision.

The group then discussed a number of possible press queries and the answers we might give. The $64 question would be, of course: “Does our plan mean that the Declaration of March 20, 1948, is abandoned?” After lengthy debate as to how we might reply to this, it was decided our reply would have to be pinned strictly to the new public statement with no direct reference either negative or positive to the March 20 Declaration. Mr. Byington offered some draft language which, after various modifications by the group, was accepted as a preliminary suggested reply subject to clearance at higher levels in the Department. Mr. Cheetham said he was prepared to refer this proposed language to his Government.

Other possible questions were then considered, and it was agreed that in handling these we had best say that the new public statement spoke for itself and there was nothing to add to it.

Colonel Anderson joined the meeting briefly, and Mr. Byington asked him to assure Admiral Radford that we would leave the date of turnover up to the military. He suggested that, were the Joint Chiefs of Staff to approve the plan in principle, we could go ahead with the diplomatic end. Colonel Anderson said it was essential that General Winterton be kept fully informed and also retain control until dependents and troops could be withdrawn in an orderly manner.

At this point, Mr. Cheetham received from the British Embassy the report of the Cabinet meeting, and he proceeded to summarize the instruction from the Foreign Office despatched as a result. In brief, the British Government refused to go along unless our assurances to Tito could be strengthened by changing “expectation” to “intention” in the proposed instructions to Belgrade and Rome. In addition, the public statement should contain a paragraph saying: “It is the intention of the US and UK Governments that the settlement [Page 287] should become final.” The instruction expressed the British belief that unless such assurances are given Tito, we will not secure the minimum degree of acquiescence from him necessary to justify the risk in proceeding with the plan. Subject to these modifications, the British Government was prepared to go ahead with the plan with a target date of October 6 or 7. The French should not be brought in until 24 hours in advance of the date set for the initial approach.

Mr. Byington pointed out that the British changes fundamentally altered the whole plan and all that we had agreed to up to this point. They could not but cause us dismay, and it would be necessary for him to present them to his superiors for decision. Mr. Byington gave as his personal opinion the view that even if, as a last resort, we were prepared to accept the British modifications in the instructions, it would be utterly impossible to include the language suggested in our public statement.

Mr. Cheetham said they would await our decision and that Sir Roger would be available to come over and discuss the matter with the Secretary at any time during the evening.

  1. Cleared with Byington. The meeting took place at 4 p.m.
  2. A copy of Winterton’s report, telegram Taf 221 to the Department of the Army for the JCS, Oct. 2, is in Italian Desk files, lot 58 D 357, “Trieste October 1953”.