PSB files, lot 62 D 333, PSB D–18 Series

No. 65
Memorandum of Conversation, by John Sherman of the Psychological Strategy Board 1



  • Meeting in Office of Mr. Charles Murphy, Special Assistant to the President, on matters relating to Soviet Orbit Escapees
The meeting was attended by members of the White House staff, the three Displaced Persons Commissioners, Mr. Berger of DMS, and representatives from State, Defense, CIA, Justice, PSB, and the Bureau of the Budget.
The meeting had apparently been inspired by Mr. Berger, who described the PSB Phase A Plan2 briefly and stated that the main problem was whether Mr. Harriman should transfer the 4.3 million dollars to State to support a “welfare program”. He stated that MSA had no questions as to the legality of the transfer, but felt that it should not be made until after the Administration’s position had been determined on the formation of escapee military units—the main purpose of the Kersten Rider. A great deal of discussion ensued during which all three Displaced Persons Commissioners stated their view that something must be done immediately to provide care and maintenance, as well as resettlement, for all persons escaping from the Iron Curtain. They stressed that the Administration will be vigorously attacked unless it can demonstrate it has done something about this problem. Mr. Berger indicated that after all they had had this before them for only two or three weeks. It was pointed out, however, that the Psychological Strategy Board had approved this program and had recommended to MSA the transfer of funds on December 20.
The main points developed thereafter were: (Mr. Berger left the meeting during the early part of this discussion.)
There will be loud and vigorous criticism of the Administration by some Congressmen no matter what action is taken. There was unanimous sentiment among those present that the Administration should not wait for further expression of Congressional opinion on Phase A.
The Defense representative indicated that reports would be submitted to the Secretary’s office by the three services on the [Page 170] purely military aspects of organizing escapee military units about March 1. He felt that the Secretary of Defense might be prepared to state a Defense position on the military aspects of this problem by early April.3 He stated that this would be submitted to the Psychological Strategy Board and then to NSC, and indicated that before a final decision could be made, the very important political decisions involved would have to be determined.

There was unanimous agreement that action can be taken on Phase A without waiting for a decision on the question of forming military units with escapees. Commissioner O’Connor stated that he had worked very closely with Congressman Kersten and that he was certain the Congressman considered the Phase A Program to be consistent with the intent of his Amendment. Commissioner Rosenfield stated that the successful implementation of a care and maintenance program was an indispensable prerequisite to any progress … involving people escaping from the Soviet Orbit; that although he had not seen the PSB Phase A Program, he urged that it be put into effect since it had the support of State Department and CIA.

. . . . . . .

Mr. Murphy closed the meeting with a statement that it looked as though the next thing required was for him to see the President.
It was felt by those representatives of the member agencies on the Board who attended the meeting that considerable progress was made. However, it was felt that some further steps may need to be taken to insure that the President speaks to Mr. Harriman and asks him to transfer the necessary funds to implement the program.4
John Sherman
  1. According to an account by Laurence A. Dawson of the Refugees and Displaced Persons Staff of the Department of State, the meeting described here took place on Feb. 25. (PSB files, lot 62 D 333, PSB D–18 Series)
  2. Document 63.
  3. No statement of the Department of Defense position by the Secretary of Defense on this question has been found in Department of State files; for the plan submitted to the PSB by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mar. 17, concerning the formation of escapee military units, see infra .
  4. According to Webb’s notes on the PSB luncheon meeting of Feb. 28, it was reported by Allen that Harriman was “not inclined to allocate MSA funds for the escapee program.” (100.4 PSB/2–2852) No record of any discussion between Harriman and President Truman on this subject has been found in the Department of State files, but Harriman formally recommended the allocation of $4.3 million for the Escapee Program from Mutual Security funds in a letter of Mar. 20 to the President. (Truman Library, White House Central Files, “Mutual Defense and Security”) In a letter of Mar. 22 to various members of Congress, President Truman announced the Escapee Program. (Department of State Bulletin, Apr. 14, 1952, p. 602)