36. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, January 25, 1955, 12:52 p.m.1


  • Operation Oracle


  • Sir Robert Scott—Minister, British Embassy
  • The Secretary
  • Mr. KeyIO, Assistant Secretary
  • Mr. Wainhouse, IO, Deputy Assistant Secretary
  • Mr. Martin, Deputy Director for CA

Sir Robert said that he had a message from Sir Anthony Eden indicating that the British would be happy to meet the Secretary’s request for a slight delay in the contemplated UN action. The Secretary replied that a long delay would be unnecessary and thought that we could go ahead on Friday2 if the papers were in shape. He said that hearings in the two Senate Committees which were meeting in joint session3 would probably be concluded today and a vote taken. Debate on the floor of the Senate might take several more days. Once the joint resolution was out of Committee, UN developments would not interrupt progress. However, there was a strong element in Congress opposed to the cease-fire idea and the Chinese Nationalists were strongly opposed.

Sir Robert said their opposition was excelled only by that of Peiping. He then referred to a telegram just received from Trevelyan (British Chargé in Peiping), expressing the view that the UN exercise would do more harm than good and suggesting the possibility that, without going to the Council, Hammarskjold might be asked to explore the situation. Mr. Eden had asked that Trevelyan’s views be brought to the Secretary’s attention.

The Secretary replied that we were pretty strongly committed to UN action. The Chinese Nationalists were against it as much as the Chinese Communists but the President was committed and the Secretary himself had reinforced the commitment in Committee hearings. The Secretary emphasized that we were confronted with the [Page 121] threat to peace in the area and we were committed to get some form of UN action. It might be possible, however, to wait a week or so.

Sir Robert said that as an alternative to the New Zealand Resolution, the matter might be brought into the Security Council, which would then suggest that Hammarskjold explore the situation.

The Secretary felt that this would arouse suspicions in this country that there was some sort of a “deal” on, in view of Hammarskjold’s mission to Peiping in connection with the release of the imprisoned airmen. The Secretary had the feeling that Hammarskjold had been a bit naive and had really not gotten anything at all but a mandate from the Chinese Communists to tell us to be more reasonable. He said we could not turn over this matter to Hammarskjold at the present stage.

Sir Robert indicated that the British Government does not exclude going ahead with operation Oracle; if we were ready to proceed, the British were ready. Mr. Eden simply wanted to check on our reaction to Trevelyan’s suggestion. Mr. Eden felt it important, however, that we make definite efforts to exercise restraint and to secure Chinese Communist attendance at the Security Council discussions. The Secretary replied that as to the latter we could not contribute but we had no desire to hinder Chinese Communist attendance.

Sir Robert felt the big question was what action to take in the event the Chinese Communists failed to come. Should we drag our feet or push the resolution through?

The Secretary said we would have to feel our way and see what the situation was. We would not want to commit ourselves.

Sir Robert agreed that we should keep an open mind as to what action should be taken in such an event.

The Secretary said that we would not want to press action if it would break up the UN. He recalled that Senator Saltonstall had asked whether putting the matter into the UN might not place too great a burden on it. The Secretary said that if we adopted the theory that the UN couldn’t do anything and by-passed it, you couldn’t get support for the UN and it would never grow up to its responsibilities. Its main value lay in its being a forum for world opinion where influence was exerted on nations to conform to the standards of world opinion. The Secretary said that we were committed to take this matter up in the United Nations and if we couldn’t agree on it the U.S. would have to take action there itself. He had said in Committee hearings that the U.S. would not necessarily take the initiative, but would if a third country did not. The Secretary said that he assumed the UK was with us on this question.

Sir Robert said that the UK was with us but wished to take into account the Chou En-lai statement.

[Page 122]

The Secretary said that he thought Chou’s statement was stupid and would help get the resolution through.

Sir Robert then asked if we should not go ahead on Friday.

The Secretary agreed it was the consensus that the New Zealand letter should be sent to the Secretary General on Friday and the first meeting of the Security Council be held on Monday. This would be the last day which Ambassador Munro would preside over the Council.

Sir Robert indicated that it was his understanding that there were no commitments as to what action should be taken in certain events, such as the failure of the Chinese Communists to come to the Security Council. The Secretary affirmed that we did not wish to be committed.

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199. Secret. The time indicated on the memorandum of conversation is 11:30 a.m., but, according to Dulles’ appointment diary (Princeton University Library, Dulles Papers), the meeting took place at 12:52 p.m.
  2. January 28.
  3. The Senate Committees on Foreign Relations and on Armed Services held joint hearings on S.J. Res. 28 on January 24 and 25 in executive session; Secretary Dulles appeared before the committees on January 24 and the Joint Chiefs of Staff on January 25. For the record of the hearings and the committees’ meeting on January 26, when they reported out the resolution, see Executive Sessions of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Historical Series), vol. VII (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1978), pp. 65–283.