Secretary’s Daily Meetings,1 lot 58 D 609

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Executive Secretariat (McWilliams)



  • Mr. Acheson
  • Mr. Webb
  • Mr. Matthews
  • Mr. McFall
  • Mr. Nitze
  • Mr. Thorp
  • Mr. Fisher
  • Mr. McWilliams
  • Mr. Battle
  • [Mr. Bohlen]

Item 1. Korean Briefing

Mr. Armstrong gave his usual briefing.2

Item 2. Prisoner of War Issue in Korean Talks—German Agreement3

The entire meeting was taken up by a discussion of two items. They are as follows:

(a) Prisoner of War Issue in Korean Talks

This discussion consumed the bulk of the meeting and revolved around the point as to whether or not we wish to agree to forced repatriation of all prisoners of war or whether we will be willing to break off the talks on this point after the Communists adhered to this position.

There was a long discussion of this matter with some alternative courses offered. Mr. Bohlen proposed that a census be taken of the prisoners of war we now hold to find out how many want to return and how many wished not to return. He said he felt that the reason for the Communists sticking to this position was that they are afraid we would rig the situation so that none of the prisoners of war we now hold would be returned. He felt if we had a definite number to offer to them which we would return we could get by this point without breaking off the talks. All agreed this was a good idea and should be pursued. However, since General Ridgway needed word of our final position immediately, it was agreed to tell him we would not agree to forced repatriation. He should be warned, however, that before coming to a final break in the talks he should get instructions from Washington.

[Here follows a summary of the discussion of the German Agreement.]

  1. As of Jan. 28, 1952, Secretary of State Acheson set up a dual system of staff meetings: small meetings held Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 9:30 a.m. in his office attended by Department of State personnel he specifically designated to be present at that particular meeting (usually from 7 to 15 persons) and large staff meetings, held Tuesday and Thursday at 9:30 a.m., at which a regular group of principal officers of the Department of State (about 25 in number) or their deputies were present.

    This system replaced daily meetings with the Secretary of State as well as the Under Secretary’s meetings, both of which had proved unsatisfactory. The same persons who had attended the Under Secretary’s meeting now attended the Tuesday and Thursday meetings, which were officially designated “Secretary’s Staff Meetings”.

    After the small meetings in the Secretary’s office, the Executive Secretariat prepared short memoranda of conversation (of which the source text is one) in summary form with extremely limited distribution. The Executive Secretariat also prepared informal summary notes of the large staff meetings, which had no official status and no directive authority. These notes, often more informative than the short summaries of the small meetings, were given wider distribution.

  2. An intelligence briefing by W. Park Armstrong, Jr. usually began these small meetings with the Secretary.
  3. For documentation on negotiation for a contractual relationship with the Federal Republic of Germany, see volume vii.