759. Letter 61 from McConaughy to Johnson1

Letter No. 61
Dear Alex:
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We are immersed in the preparation of briefing papers for Nehru’s impending conversations with the President. We are doing a paper on the Geneva talks, as well as one on China policy in general. We are also doing one on Chinese Representation Issue in the UN. It is a problem to get everything that needs to be said within the one page that is allowed for each subject. We will send you a copy of each briefing paper as soon as they are multigraphed. Since the Secretary is leaving for Europe and will not be able to brief the President in advance, we understand the President himself may read these briefing papers.

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There is increasing evidence that the Chinese Communists are getting ready to release some or all of the 10 American prisoners as a part of the big play Nehru is expected to make for some modification of our China policy. We sent you the text of an AP dispatch out of New York yesterday which quoted Krishna Menon’s speech. It is clear that Menon would not have made such a speech without something pretty [Facsimile Page 2] definite to go on and probably some form of clearance from the Chinese Communists. We also have it from Kuh of the Chicago Sun Times that Indian Ambassador Mehta said the day before yesterday that he expected the prisoners to be released before Nehru’s arrival in Washington. Nehru is due here on the 16th.

We are preparing ourselves for the eventuality of release of the prisoners. We expect to have a statement ready, and John Lindbeck’s study of the maltreatment of Americans over the entire seven year period is being dusted off, although it might not be used immediately.

If the release of all the prisoners should take place just before your next meeting on the 13th, we would have something of a problem as to how the next meeting should be handled. I should think that after taking note of the action in proper fashion we would concentrate on renunciation of force. We certainly would not want to open up any new subjects, and I don’t believe we will be ready to take up the missing servicemen again as early as December 13. However, the Department continues to receive numerous letters from Congressmen and relatives of missing military personnel pressing for further action with regard to them and we will probably want you to bring this matter up again soon, although we are not sanguine that it will produce any results. At least we would go on record as having pressed the Communists as far as we could on specific cases where there is evidence the Communists should have information. There are enclosed additional materials on nine Navy [Facsimile Page 3] and two Army cases which may be useful to you. They have just reached us and we have not had time to study them. Defense is making the review of these cases a continuing project, requiring reports on a quarterly basis, so you can expect to receive additional material.

We anticipate that the matter of travel of newsmen to Communist China will come up immediately in acute form, if and when the prisoners are released. We are committed to reexamine the whole question at that time, and I don’t imagine we can delay the reexamination very much.

I am enclosing the full text of the speech that Ernie Gross made before the American Assembly at Harriman, New York on November 17. Ernie was not very happy about the points in the speech which the New York Times chose to highlight, and wrote a letter to the Editor of the Times which was published on November 25. He argued that the report was unbalanced and conducive to misunderstanding of his point of view. You will note the reference to the Geneva talks in the speech.

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I am also enclosing as of some background interest a copy of a recent letter from Karl Rankin to Joe Grew.

We have had no reply from you to the questions we raised in our letter No. 58 about Helenka’s status. Don’t you want that question pursued further?

Bill Sebald and I expect to arrange a Geneva meeting today or tomorrow and we count on getting your instructions out by the close of business on Monday.

It seems to me that unless some special reason for an earlier [Facsimile Page 4] meeting develops, we should seek to pass up a meeting during Christmas and New Year weeks, and arrange to have the next meeting on January 10. There will be something on that in your guidance telegram.

Regards and the very best holiday greetings and good wishes to you, Dave, Helenka and Col. Ekvall from Bill, Ralph and Doug as well as myself,


Walter P. McConaughy


Dossiers on 11 Missing Military Personnel
Copy of Letter to Joseph Grew dated Nov. 28, 1956.
Copy of letter to Mr. Tichenor dated Nov. 21, 1956
Article from Wash. Post dated Dec. 4, 1956 by Sokolsky.
Speech by Ernest Gross at American Assembly.

  1. Source: Department of State, Geneva Talks Files, Lot 72D415. Secret; Official–Informal.