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: A few days ago the President asked me when I was over at the White House whether I had any ideas as to a new proposal which we might make to the Communists and which might offer a way out of the deadlock. I told him about the following idea which we have kicked around some here in the JCS. We might tell the Communists that the Chinese Communist prisoners are all theirs and that they can come and get them. We would of course tell them that they could not use force. In that way, we would avoid a violation of our principle. The President thought that the idea had some merit, and he asked me to send him a paper on it. The Staff prepared a paper2 which was sent over to him in my absence. Apparently the President thinks the idea has some propaganda value. When he gets well I am sure that he will want to discuss it with Secretary Acheson.

Mr. Matthews: Will this appeal to the Chinese Communists? Personally, my first reaction is that it can’t do us any harm. I do have doubts, however, about the timing. I don’t think it would be wise to make such a proposal at this time while the discussions are going forward on the present basis.

General Bradley: I agree that the timing would not be good right now. This is something we might do later if we run into a deadlock.

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Mr. Hickerson: If the Chinese Communists were unarmed, would it not be likely that there would be a hell of a rhubarb when they tried to interview the prisoners?

General Bradley: There might be. For that reason we would want to insist on neutral observers, perhaps including India, to make sure that no force was employed.

Mr. Matthews: Does this proposal have any facesaving value for the Chinese Communists?

Mr. Bohlen: Not much, I think. One thing that concerns me about this proposal is that the first announcement, unless it was very carefully worded, might have very bad effects in this country if we announced that the prisoners were all theirs and that they could come and get them. I think our people would feel that we have really yielded to the Communist position.

General Bradley: Of course it involves no real change in our position.

Mr. Bohlen: I think the proposal should be stated somewhat differently than the way you outlined it to us. I think we would have to say that the Chinese Communist prisoners are all in our hands and that the Chinese Communists can come down and participate in a re-screening.

General Bradley: We would merely be saying to them that they could take back with them all the prisoners that they could persuade to return.

Mr. Hickerson: We have always agreed that any who could be persuaded to change their minds were free to return. Under this proposal, however, unless we are very careful, the Chinese Communists will be able to use a rather different kind of persuasion than we have had in mind. They might go to the prisoners and say that they have a list of all their relatives in China, and that all of these people would be killed unless the prisoners returned. We have to be careful to avoid any such situation as that.

General Bradley: Our position has been that there must be no forced repatriation but that there could be a re-screening. The only difference between this position and the proposal I have outlined is that heretofore we have insisted on re-screening by a neutral body. Perhaps this is a change of some importance.

Mr. Hickerson: I think that does represent a considerable change. We know what kind of screening the Communists did in Germany after World War II.

Mr. Matthews: I see no reason why we cannot forward this proposal to General Clark and ask his opinion of it.

General Bradley: We do not have a paper in the right form to send out to General Clark. All we really have is a basis from which we could work. Would it be helpful if Mr. Johnson and one of our people worked up a message to General Clark, using our paper as a basis?

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Mr. Matthews: That would be fine with us. Have you received any explanation why the Communists have requested a new recess?

General Hull: No. They made a request and made no explanation of it.

General Bradley: Colonel Cams will work on this message3 with Mr. Johnson.

(At this point Colonel Cams and Mr. Johnson left the meeting.)

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  1. A note on the title page read: “State Draft. Not cleared with any of participants.” Chairman of the JCS General Bradley, and Vice Chiefs Generals Hull and Twining and Admiral Duncan attended for the JCS; Matthews headed the Department of State contingent. Gleason represented the NSC. In all, 23 persons were present. In addition to Korea, the following topics were discussed at this meeting: Southeast Asia, the Middle East Command, Trieste, and Japan.
  2. Not printed.
  3. The message was transmitted as JCS 913758 to Clark, July 17, 1952; for its text, see infra.