33. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Kingdom to the Department of State1
550. Eyes only for Secretary and Under Secretary from Murphy. Today and this evening Barbour and I have had private separate and lengthy talks with Eden and Macmillan. These will be recounted in greater detail in other messages2 but I want to segregate one urgent [Page 61]note both men struck which they requested be communicated in utter secrecy to you and the President. They said British Government has decided to drive Nasser out of Egypt. The decision they declared is firm. They expressed simple conviction military action is necessary and inevitable. In separate conversations each said in substance they ardently hoped US would be with them in this determination, but if we could not they would understand and our friendship would be unimpaired. If we were with them from beginning chances of World War III would be far less than if we delayed. They seem convinced USSR will not intervene but they assert that risk must be taken. Macmillan repeated over and over in language similar to that employed by Eden that Government had taken the decision and that Parliament and British people are with them. They both repeated wish that the President clearly understand decision is firm and has been arrived at calmly without emotion. They see no alternative. Macmillan in referring to our close wartime association in French North Africa emphasized several times his belief that as a former adviser and member of President’s wartime staff he felt he could assure the President that Britain had no intention of submitting to Nasser’s dictation, that British stake in ME is vital, that a demonstration of force provided only solution. Macmillan described some of the military planning which contemplates he said the landing of three British divisions in Egypt in an operation which would take six weeks to mount. The British estimate of importance of Egyptian resistance is low. Macmillan talked about costs. He said this operation would cost four to five hundred million pounds which they couldn’t afford but they would pay. All British shipping would be allocated to it except the two Queens.3
During these conversations I advanced I believe all of the considerations which you and the President as well as the Under Secretary have raised. Eden, Macmillan and Lloyd showed throughout unexpected calm and no hysteria. They act as though they really have taken a decision after profound reflection. They are flexible on procedures leading up to showdown but insist over and over again that whatever conferences, arrangements, public postures and maneuvers might be necessary, at the end they are determined to use force. They hope we will be with them and believe French are with them.[Page 62]
Macmillan indulged in much graphic dissertation on British past history and stressed that if they had to go down now the Government and he believed British people would rather do so on this issue and become perhaps another Netherlands. To do another Munich leading to progressive deterioration of ME position and in end the inevitable disaster is he said something he Eden and his colleagues in Government are simply not prepared to do. At dinner4 Macmillan and Field Marshal Alexander (Harold Caccia only other person present) urged repeatedly that President as their former C in C fully appreciate finality of British decision. Macmillan several times expressed wish he could explain all this orally to President.
I apologize for length of this message but I am persuaded that flavor of these calm and very serious statements should be conveyed urgently as they request to the President.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 674.84A/7–3156. Top Secret; Niact; No Other Distribution. Received at 10:17 p.m., July 30.↩
- No other messages relating to Murphy’s private talks with Eden and Macmillan on July 30 have been found in Department of State files. “London Tripartite Conversations”, (p. 31a) indicates that an Anglo-American meeting between Murphy and Eden took place at 5 p.m. on July 30, but notes that “the substantive record of this meeting is filed in the Office of the Secretary of State.” (Ibid., Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 724) Such a “substantive record” has not been found in Department of State files.↩
- Presumably reference is to the British passenger liners the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth.↩
- Murphy gives an account of this dinner conversation in his memoirs (Diplomat Among Warriors (London: Collins, 1964), pp. 462–464), but he describes it taking place on Sunday evening (i.e., July 29).↩