249.1111 Oatis, Willian N./3–2453

No. 25
Memorandum by the Secretary of State to the President1



  • Proposal for a Message to the President of the Czechoslovak Republic in an Effort to Obtain the Release of William Oatis

The assumption of the Presidency of the Republic of Czechoslovakia by former Czechoslovak Prime Minister Zapotocky2 seems to afford an opportunity for a step toward the release of Associated Press correspondent William Oatis. In the light of current indications that the Soviets may be endeavoring to create an appearance of reasonableness at this time, it is possible that the Czechoslovak authorities might be receptive to an initiative from you in connection with Mr. Oatis.

Our Ambassador in Praha reports that his Western colleagues assume that Western Chiefs of State will send congratulatory messages to Zapotocky. It is not customary for the President of the [Page 56] United States to send such messages. However, if you concur, I recommend that you authorize me to instruct Ambassador Wadsworth in Praha to deliver the attached message on your behalf in such manner as he deems most likely to be useful.3

It is my belief that this approach will probably be most effective with the Czechoslovak authorities if, at least initially, no publicity is given to it.

In delivering this message our Ambassador in Praha would be instructed to state orally that the continued imprisonment of Mr. Oatis is in sharp contrast to our willingness unconditionally and promptly to return to Czechoslovakia the twenty-three Czechs who recently landed at Frankfurt in a Czech plane and desire to return to Czechoslovakia.

John Foster Dulles


Proposed Message From President Eisenhower to President Zàpotockỳ

On the occasion of your assumption of the Presidency of the Czechoslovak Republic, I wish to avail myself of the opportunity to express the hope that you will give consideration to the release of William Oatis and thus remove one cause of friction between our two countries. If your Government will release Mr. Oatis, removing the obstacle which his continued imprisonment places in the way of their solution, the United States Government on its part is prepared to negotiate on the basis of full mutual understanding the issues arising from the arrest of Mr. Oatis and now outstanding between us.4

  1. Drafted by Barbour.
  2. On Mar. 14, shortly after having returned from Stalin’s funeral, President Gottwald died.
  3. According to telegram 447 from Praha, Mar. 30, Wadsworth on that date handed to Široký, who had become Prime Minister on Zàpotockỳ’s accession to the Presidency, the text of President Eisenhower’s message. (249.1111 Oatis, William N./3–3053) On Apr. 29, Wadsworth received the following reply from Zàpotockỳ through the Foreign Minister:

    “I have received your message, which you addressed to me at the occasion of my election to the function of President of the Czechoslovak Republic. I have referred your proposals, contained in this message, to the government of the Republic.”

    This message was transmitted in telegram 502, Apr. 29. (249.1111 Oatis, William N./4–2953)

  4. The source text is not signed.