758. Letter 50 from Johnson to McConaughy1

Letter No. 50
Dear Walter:
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I have just returned from the meeting and dictated my summary telegram. As you can see it was a sterile performance with absolutely nothing new except my ability to introduce Lew’s return and their reply to O’Neill. I debated also throwing in their refusal to let O’Neill take the initiative in seeing the other prisoners but decided to stick for today to the more basic points, particularly on the McCarthy case. My occasional stubborn streak came out in the last part of the meeting when I determined I was just not going to let him have the last word and kept it going until he cried uncle. I could hardly keep from smiling toward the end when he got himself wound-up in to the point he was just mixing up his words and at one point even stuttered. It was some emotional satisfaction and I hope might have some slight effect in demonstrating to them how weak their public case on implementation really is. Our release of Lew has immensely strengthened my hand. I also had debated refuting today their allegations on FBI interference with correspondence by counterattacking with their registration of families and “bringing of pressure” by their letter writing campaign. However, as the meeting went I feared this would sidetrack us from the main issue and saved it for possible use next time. I hope that [Facsimile Page 2] Herman will concur in my little lecture on American jurisprudence.

After learning of Nehru’s prospective visit to the States I entirely concurred in your estimate that they would mark time today. However, I am still of the opinion that they consider they have now placed themselves in a position to break at a time of their choosing. I hope I have been able somewhat to shake their confidence on this but am not too sanguine I have done so.

I know that you will inform me of anything of significance to me during Nehru’s visit. I would be very surprised if with everything happening elsewhere he would do much carrying of the ball for Peking.

Thanks very much for your letters of November 23 and 26 which were both here when I arrived. I particularly appreciated the most interesting report of Suhrawardy’s visit and am returning it to you. Don’t you feel it would be a good idea pretty thoroughly to brief such persons on the prisoner issue before they talk with the Chinese, not with the objective of having them take it up, but so that when Chou comes back with his torturous position they would be somewhat forewarned and not lead Chou to feel they are impressed with his position?

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I am not sending any comment telegram this time as I really have nothing but the obvious to say.

I presume the Department will be agreeable to arranging the longest Christmas recess that seems feasible. As I have to get Jennifer back to school in Lausanne about January 9, it would be of considerable personal help to me if I could make the subsequent meeting during that week. Ekvall’s orders expire December 30. Would you please do the necessary to set the machinery for their renewal in motion.

Wang was with me on the plane from Prague on Wednesday. We had the roughest flying I have had [Facsimile Page 3] since I was caught in a typhoon in the Pacific during the war. It looks as if it may be another long cold winter, literally and figuratively.

Regards to all,


U. Alexis Johnson
American Ambassador

P.S. If you have the opportunity tell the Secretary we are all delighted he has made such a marvellously quick recovery and is able to be back on the job.

  1. Source: Department of State, Geneva Talks Files, Lot 72D415. Secret; Official–Informal. Johnson signed the original “Alex.” The postscript is handwritten.