State-JCS Meetings, lot 61 D 417

Memorandum of the Substance of Discussion at a Department of State Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting1


top secret

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General Bradley: Shall we discuss the question of repudiating the Colson agreement?2

Mr. Matthews: Yes, we can do that. We think it would also be useful to discuss where we go from here in the negotiations.

General Bradley: We have several unanswered questions from over there.

Mr. Hickerson: Do you mean in connection with Nam Il’s statement in the tent?3

[Page 197]

General Bradley: Yes. We had a telecon with Clark and he had one with Van Fleet.4 They are of the opinion that we should not take drastic steps in busting these officers until we know a little more about it. I don’t know whether Clark spoke about repudiation in the telecon. The two unanswered questions were repudiation and the break-off of the Panmunjom sessions. He asked two more questions this morning. The first was that USIS had asked permission to take tape recordings of prisoners who elected to remain in U.N. custody. He recommended going ahead with this one. The second was that the press had asked to interview the prisoners who say they would forcibly resist repatriation. He believes this would help and would authorize the interviews in areas other than Kojedo unless we say no. I don’t know what the Chief’s thoughts are about these last two questions. The message just came in.5 I think the first is O.K. but we ought to try these controlled interviews by the USIS and see what the situation is.

Mr. Matthews: It might stimulate pressure on our own prisoners.

Mr. Johnson: I don’t think you could let the USIS do it and not let the rest of the press in.

Mr. Matthews: I am dubious of the whole operation.

General Bolte: During hostilities you don’t let newspaper men talk to prisoners.

Mr. Bohlen: In the round-up of our missions which we undertook we have found strong support for our position in the countries I have seen reports from, so we don’t need this sort of thing and it might hurt the chance of getting an armistice.

Admiral Fechteler: My view is that we ought to throw out the whole damned press.

General Bolte: My people didn’t see any objection, but I do.

General Bradley: Can the Army and Johnny Johnson get together and deal with this?

General Bolte: Yes.

Mr. Bohlen: We ought to get in any message the idea that we don’t see the necessity for it since we have wide support.

Question of Calling Off the Meetings of Negotiators

General Bradley: Can we take up the question of calling off the meetings? I think we are in worse shape to do that now than we were a few days ago.

Mr. Matthews: That is right.

[Page 198]

General Bradley: I think Joy could overcome a lot of this if he had an answer to the statements they make each day.

Admiral Fechteler: I don’t think you could call the meetings off.

Mr. Matthews: Well, certainly before we called them off we would have to check with our allies.

General Bradley: Before calling them off I think we ought to step down the number—perhaps to one or two meetings a week.

Mr. Bohlen: There was a radio report that Nam Il said the meetings ought to end. If they are in that mood we may want to do something soon.

Mr. Johnson: With respect to our position, we sent a message several days ago saying we thought it important that our negotiators get statements out each day.6 Admiral Joy came back and asked for reconsideration of this view and we wired him that we still thought he should issue counter-propaganda statements.7

General Bradley: He ought to issue a statement every day.

Mr. Nitze: I get the feeling there may be some problem between Washington and the field. They think it important to make it appear that the package deal is the final deal and yet the package deal has boiled down to a POW question as the only negotiable point. There is an area of possible negotiation in connection with the manner and timing of the rescreening of the POWs.

General Bolte: That is the strongest point in the whole thing.

Mr. Nitze: There is a line you could take—that the question comes down to one issue and a case should be built on that. The package deal as a whole does not make sense any more and the boys there are still stuck on that.

Mr. Hickerson: There is one possible slight variant that we discussed before the package proposal was made. That was to agree to Red Cross teams with observers from both sides interviewing before an armistice. The Turks and Australians suggested it as something to propose before a breakdown. The British have supported it also. In the tapering off process, Joy might make such a suggestion and link it up with Nam Il’s claim of forcible retention. Then we could suggest a recess to allow them to consider it.

Mr. Matthews: It might be useful propagandawise but it won’t help an armistice.

Mr. Bohlen: It would in any case be useful for the Commies to reject something, since the situation is mixed up out there now by a combination of circumstances.

[Page 199]

General Bradley: There is one thing to remember. Some of these prisoners may have changed their minds.

Mr. Hickerson: Yes, and a rescreening might lead to an armistice.

General Bradley: It would set us back in propaganda.

Mr. Bohlen: Not too much. We could prepare for that.

Mr. Hickerson: You face the contingency that some might change their minds even if you don’t screen until after an armistice.

Mr. Bohlen: The real problem is that the explosive nature of the camps would give them a field day.

Mr. Nitze: But you would restrict them to the camps of people who don’t want to go back. You could get the Commies out of those camps in advance.

Mr. Matthews: I think you could handle it in the tame camps.

Mr. Bohlen: The question then is when such a suggestion should be made. Incidentally, I have had several questions from correspondents as to why the rescreening must follow the armistice.

Mr. Nitze: I think we would have some trouble with our negotiators who might consider this a weakening of our final position.

General Bradley: I think we could put the suggestion in at the end of one of the Commies’ tirades.

Mr. Bohlen: It would be useful to show that we are not wedded to any particular method.

General Bradley: What is the feeling of the Chiefs?

Admiral Fechteler: Let’s see a proposed dispatch.

General Bradley: I am afraid Joy will oppose it.

Admiral Fechteler: If it is spelled out that this is not a substantive change it might be O.K. with him.

Mr. Hickerson: The Australians asked us to hold up the package deal until we considered the suggestion but we said it would not be necessary since it would not be a substantive change.

Mr. Nitze: To get on with an armistice, we will have to do something that will still preserve the principle.

Repudiation of Colson Agreement

General Bolte: I understand the President feels it might be better if no formal statement were made. I can get off a message saying it now appears more firm here that Clark should make no further statement.

General Bradley: That is the question we ought to discuss here.

Mr. Bohlen: He has made one statement casting doubt on the validity of the agreement.8 Both here and out there someone will ask a question and neither he nor we will be able to duck it completely.

Mr. Matthews: If he is going to answer a question he ought to have a careful statement.

[Page 200]

Mr. Nitze: This is a nettle we really ought to grasp now.

General Bradley: Mr. Lovett thinks if we don’t issue a statement we are likely to have a congressional investigation.

Mr. Matthews: I showed the draft to our Secretary who liked it.

General Bolte: Clark says the message is all right, except for the last sentence about a trap.

General Bradley: Mr. Lovett has redrafted that part but the redraft has an awful lot of surmises in it.

Admiral Fechteler: I think we are God damn lucky there hasn’t been more interest in our press about what is happening to our prisoners.

General Bradley: What I am faced with is Mr. Lovett’s desire to put something like this last paragraph in. We don’t like it very well and you don’t either.

Mr. Matthews: We don’t mind if it says it was a trap for propaganda purposes.

General Bradley: That doesn’t say much and Mr. Lovett thought there should be something more.

Mr. Johnson: Do we want to say we fell into a Communist trap. General Bradley: We did.

Mr. Bohlen: I think the statement without the last paragraph would do what we want.

General Bradley: Yes, I thought that was enough. If we get it to that short a statement, do you think Clark should issue it?

Mr. Matthews: Yes.

Mr. Bohlen: I don’t think he can avoid a statement.

General Bradley: I take it, it is your view that we should make the statement and that it should be this paragraph.

Mr. Matthews: Yes.

General Bradley: Can you make this statement without saying something about Colson and Dodd?

Mr. Nitze: I think it might be well to separate the two things.

General Bradley: Then if we agree to the first paragraph we don’t have to ask for Clark’s comments since he has already said the statement is O.K. except for the reference to the trap.

Won’t the President be asked tomorrow at his Press Conference9 if this statement means repudiation?

Mr. Bohlen: He can say the agreement has no validity and that the statement speaks for itself.

Mr. Matthews: We will speak to our Secretary.

General Bradley: I’ll take it to Mr. Lovett.

Mr. Matthews: This statement10 should be made before the President’s Press Conference tomorrow.

[Page 201]

Mr. Nitze: It is better to protect the President from being in the position of repudiating the agreement.

General Bradley: Well, if that is agreed, we will go ahead with our Secretaries.

Mr. Matthews: Our allies are probably going to ask us what we are going to do next now that there is a stalemate in Panmunjom.

General Bradley: Johnson and Bolte are going to draft a message raising the point of a rescreening before an armistice.11

Mr. Matthews: We can probably get by for a bit.

General Bradley: I think the question is whether we continue as we are or enlarge the action. If we enlarge it I think we would have to go to Congress. I think a blockade is an act of war.

Mr. Matthews: If we enlarge the fighting we would certainly have to talk to our allies.

Mr. Nitze: I still feel we might consider an idea we took up earlier of some unilateral action in which we withdrew, leaving the South Koreans to hold the line and announcing if the line were violated we would take action against China. As a last resort, this might be better than extending hostilities or staying in Korea forever.

Mr. Hickerson: What bothers me is whether you would do this before doing something about our prisoners. There are other things you might want to offer first. Maybe you would offer to exchange 70,000 of their prisoners for ours without an armistice and stop the air attack.

Mr. Nitze: You could not stop the air attack until you were able to get your forces out.

Mr. Johnson: There have been instances when you have had an exchange of prisoners without an armistice.

General Bradley: Those are possibilities but I think we should try out the screening idea first.

Mr. Hickerson: That is right.

Mr. Matthews: Another idea is whether we should go to the Russians. Kennan is there now.

General Bradley: Maybe we should ask the Russians to go in and talk to the POWs and convince the Chinese that they really don’t want to go back.

Mr. Matthews: They would not want to do that. I had in mind telling them we can’t give up on this principle and see what they can suggest to bring about an armistice.

[Page 202]

Mr. Hickerson: There is a certain logic in making an approach to the Russians. It was Malik’s speech that led to the negotiations.

Mr. Matthews: It is not as simple as that.

General Bradley: We approached them once, did we not?

Mr. Matthews: Yes, Kirk saw Vishinsky last fall.

Mr. Bohlen: In the Kirk-Vishinsky exchange12 they blew it right off. It may or may not have had an effect on the resumption of meetings since the talks were stalled then, but I have not checked. I think the resumption came after that.

Mr. Stelle: It did.

Mr. Bohlen: You would not expect a direct result, but it still could affect the negotiations. What Stalin would have to do would be to weigh the risks. We have Kennan there now who could do it to the queen’s taste.

General Bradley: I think the thing to do now is to get ahead with the rescreening idea.

Mr. Bohlen: One other possibility is to proceed ourselves with a rescreening by an international body and tell them to have observers there if they want to.

. . . . . . .

  1. A note on the title page read: “State draft. Not cleared with any of participants.” Chairman of the JCS General Bradley, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Fechteler and Vice Chiefs Generals Twining and Bolté attended. The Department of State contingent was headed by Matthews. General Ruffner attended for the Department of Defense and Gleason represented the NSC. In all, 23 persons were present. In addition to the discussion on Korea, Berlin was a topic at this meeting.
  2. For information on the Colson agreement, see footnote 2, supra.
  3. Presumably the reference was to a statement on the Koje-do incident made at Panmunjom on May 14, 1952; the text was included in telegram C 68446, Clark to JCS, May 14, 1952 (FE files, lot 55 D 128, tab 92).
  4. The official record is located in teletype conference, DA TT 5819, May 13, 1952, not printed (FE files, lot 55 D 128, tab 86). For Clark’s own recollection of these telecons, see his From the Danube to the Yalu, pp. 47–48.
  5. The reference was to telegram CX 68425, Clark to Department of the Army, May 14, 1952, not printed (795.00/5–3152).
  6. The reference was to JCS 908433 to Ridgway, May 9, 1952, not printed (795.00/53152).
  7. The references were to telegrams CX 68269, Ridgway to JCS, and JCS 908528 to Ridgway, both May 10, 1952, neither printed (795.00/5–3152).
  8. Bohlen was presumably referring to Clark’s press release of May 12, 1952, which is described in Clark, From the Danube to the Yalu, pp. 46–47.
  9. For a transcript of this conference, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, 1952–1953, pp. 334–339.
  10. The text of the statement to be made by Clark was transmitted in telegram JCS 908789 to Clark, May 14, 1952, not printed (795.00/5–3152).
  11. Johnson and Bolte did not include the issue of rescreening prior to an armistice in their draft, which was transmitted as JCS 909104 to Clark, May 17, p. 208. Instead they omitted the issue altogether to allow further State-JCS consideration. Department of State comment on telegram JCS 909104, in draft, can be found in the memorandum by Johnson to Matthews, Bohlen, Nitze, et al, May 16, 1952, not printed (FE files, lot 55 D 128, tab 3).
  12. For background, substance, and results of the Kirk-Vishinsky conversations in Moscow, see Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. vii, Part 1, pp. 970 ff.