182. Delegation Record of the First Plenary Session of the Geneva Conference, July 18, 1955, 10 a.m.1

The curtain rose on the Conference at 10 Monday morning July 18, after Dag Hammarskjold had welcomed the four Heads of Government on behalf of the United Nations whose facilities had been placed at their disposal. The First Plenary Session of the Conference was in the Council Chamber of the old League of Nations Headquarters, the Palais des Nations, overlooking the lake on the outskirts of Geneva. In the center of the ample floor was a four-sided table, open in the center. Around all four sides of the room and behind a railing were a half dozen or so rows of banked seats. Then higher a balcony overlooked the room. [Here follows a description of the chamber.]

In this chamber all the meetings of the Conference were held, except during the final tense days when, in the effort to resolve the impasse on the terms of the Directive, each Chief of Government, with only three members of his Delegation, retired to a smaller adjacent conference room.

[Here follows a description of the seating arrangements.]

There had been a bustle as the four Delegations drove up in rapid succession to the Palais des Nations. Dag Hammarskjold greeted the four Heads of Government at the entrance.2 Then all trooped in to the Council Chamber. There were greetings of friends and acquaintances in the several Delegations. The President walked over to speak to Zhukov whom he had not seen for years. I looked at the Marshal carefully and was impressed by his dignity, his soldierly bearing and the intelligence in his face. Of all the Russians he made to me the best appearance by far.3

[Here follows a paragraph describing President Eisenhower’s subsequent meetings with Marshal Zhukov.]

After ten minutes of shutter clicking the press balcony was cleared and the President opened the proceedings with friendly informality.4 He offered to write letters on behalf of all four Delegations to the President of the Swiss Republic and to the Secretary General of the United Nations for their welcome and for all the facilities [Page 365]which had been provided.5 All agreed. He then suggested that the Heads of Government meet again that afternoon but that thereafter, barring need, they meet only after lunch, leaving the mornings for the four Foreign Ministers to prepare the discussion for the Heads. This met with quick agreement for it had been worked out in advance.

Faure, Eden and Bulganin, each in turn, responded briefly to the President’s opening remarks. Each referred to the wide hopes aroused that this meeting would be fruitful. The Conference then got down to business.

The President spoke first.6 What he said was short but it covered all the ground. He spoke with force and great earnestness. “We are here in response to a universal urge”. He then went on to say that while we could not solve in a few days all of the problems of the world, it was “necessary that we talk frankly about the concrete problems which create tension between us and about the way to begin in solving them”. Then the President undertook to catalogue and describe the issues he thought should be discussed: the unification of Germany by free elections, taking into account “the legitimate security interests of all concerned”; the right of peoples to choose their own form of Government and the fact that certain peoples of Eastern Europe had been deprived of this right, notwithstanding wartime pledges; the problem of communication and human contacts among our peoples; the problem of international communism and its 38 years of subversive activity throughout the world; and, finally “the overriding problem of disarmament”. He spoke of the possibility of frightful surprise attacks and the need for effective mutual inspection. The President closed, after a reference to the need “to press forward in developing the use of atomic energy for constructive purposes”, with an appeal to inject “a new spirit into our diplomacy; and to launch fresh negotiations under conditions of good augury”. For all this he said he was sure “all humanity will devoutly pray”. The statement was simple but eloquent. It set a tone which every intervention by the President thereafter would support and reinforce.

After the translation Faure spoke.7 His statement was long—nearly three times the President’s. He spoke well and confidently. The first two-thirds dealt exhaustively and effectively with the problem of Germany. To end the cold war it is necessary to end the [Page 366]“brutal fact” of the division of Germany, he said. Faure then disposed of the hypothetical solution of the German problem by the “neutralization” of Germany. He first stated and supported with detailed reasons why Germany “cannot and must not be neutralized”. It was an impressive exposition and doubly so coming from a Frenchman.

Then Faure came to “the constructive organization of peace: Disarmament”. He left the impression that his scheme for economic and budgetary controls which he had sprung on us the day before and from which the President and Eden had been unable to shake him—would provide all the necessary safeguards.8 For my money his speech would have been infinitely more effective and realistic had he figuratively sat down when he had completed his analysis and his proposals on Germany. When Faure finished it was lunch time and the Conference recessed until 2:45 when Eden and Bulganin would have their turns.9

  1. Source: Merchant, Recollections, pp. 26–29.
  2. For text of Hammarskjöld’s greeting speech, see Geneva Conference, p. 17.
  3. According to a brief memorandum of conversation, USDEL/MC/19, July 18, President Eisenhower shook hands with the eight principal members of the Soviet Delegation, and with Bohlen interpreting, also chatted briefly with Bulganin and Khrushchev. (Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–GE/7–1855)
  4. The U.S. Delegation minutes (USDEL/Verb/1); its very brief summary of the proceedings, transmitted in Secto 35 from Geneva, July 18; and the records of decision, CF/DOC/RD/1, are Ibid., Conference Files: Lot 63 D 123, CF 510, CF 524, and CF 510, respectively. For text of President Eisenhower’s opening remarks, see Geneva Conference, pp. 17–18; for his account of this session, see Mandate for Change, pp. 513–516.
  5. Copies of these letters are in Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 63 D 123, CF 515.
  6. For the full text of President Eisenhower’s statement, circulated as CF/DOC/1, see Geneva Conference, pp. 18–22; Cmd. 9543, pp. 7–9; or Department of State Bulletin, August 1, 1955, pp. 171–173.
  7. For text of Faure’s statement, circulated as CF/DOC/3, see Geneva Conference, pp. 22-31, or Cmd. 9543, pp. 9–14.
  8. See Document 176.
  9. Immediately following adjournment of the session at 12:40 p.m., Hagerty held a press conference. The verbatim transcript for the press conference is in Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 63 D 123, CF 503.