67. Memorandum for the Record of a Conversation Held in the President’s Office, White House, Washington, August 6, 1956, 3 p.m.1


  • Egypt—Suez


  • The President, The Secretary of State, and Dillon Anderson

As I entered the President’s office, Mr. Dulles was saying that he felt, in view of the critical conditions now obtaining in the area, the U.S. course did not lend itself so much to Council action as it did to decisions day by day by the President to meet developments and rapidly emerging problems; that an effort to chart a course by a Council paper might unduly freeze our position and thus destroy needed flexibility. The President apparently agreed with this view.

I called attention to a memorandum of July 31 from the Joint Chiefs to the Secretary of Defense, forwarded to the National Security Council by a letter of transmittal dated August 2, 1956, from the Acting Secretary of Defense.2 I raised the question of Council consideration of these and related matters at the meeting on Thursday, August 9th. With reference to the recommendation at the top of page 2 of the JCS memorandum that the NSC

“determine whether the western world can reasonably expect to obtain the necessary results without recourse to military action by any western power”, the Secretary expressed doubt that this was the type of issue which could, at this juncture, be resolved in the Council.

The President, while appearing to agree with this conclusion, nevertheless indicated that he felt this would not be an inappropriate subject for discussion in the Council. He also agreed that other aspects of the Suez crisis be considered at the upcoming NSC meeting. In this connection, he said he would like for the Secretary of State to introduce the subject by advising the Council of the status of the situation at the Thursday meeting, including last minute developments.

I gathered that the President felt that formal NSC action at this time would not be appropriate on the recommendations contained in [Page 152] the first and second sentences of paragraph three of the Joint Chiefs memorandum.

There was no discussion while I was present of the recommendation contained in the third sentence of paragraph three of the JCS paper—namely, that

“the NSC should appraise the desirability of a U.S. guarantee to give political and economic support to military action by the U.K., whether taken alone or in concert with France, while abstaining, ourselves, from direct military participation; and of a public commitment to prompt direct military participation by U.S. forces in the event that third parties intervene militarily on behalf of the Egyptians.”

However, in another connection, the President did express the view, with the Secretary concurring, that (1) we should in no event indicate what our military course would be should other nations intervene militarily, at least not until after we had seen the results of the call for a 24 nation conference; (2) that our position then should be that no affirmative U.S. military course of action would be determined except with concurrences of the Congress. On this subject the Secretary observed that in two world wars and in Korea a clearer indication of our position and our intentions might have operated as a deterrent to the outbreak of hostilities. He agreed however that in the instant situation there should be no suggestion of U.S. military support pending the outcome of the conference.

I called the President’s attention to the four subjects now being studied by the Joint Chiefs (paragraph 4, a, b, c, d, of JCS memo), and he stated that he would like to have the Defense representatives present at the Council meeting on August 9 [make] a brief statement as to the progress made on these studies, and such tentative conclusions as are now possible as a result thereof.

He said here that the discussion of these and other recommendations made by the Joint Chiefs should be confined to a severely limited group, and in this, the Secretary strongly concurred, adverting to the dangerous consequences of any possible leaks as to areas of military planning.

The President also indicated he would like a report from Dr. Flemming on the status of the studies now being made by the U.S. oil companies, as to the continuity of petroleum supplies in the event the Middle East sources are impaired.

I am advising Defense and Dr. Flemming of the President’s wishes in regard to their presentations.

Dillon Anderson

P.S. In the same meeting, the Secretary advised the President of some recent communications intelligence on the attitude and intentions [Page 153] of Spain and Syria. This part of the discussion is omitted for obvious reasons.

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Anderson. The time of the meeting is from the record of the President’s Daily Appointments, which also indicates that Anderson joined the meeting at 3:17 p.m. Dulles left at 3:42 p.m., and Anderson left 5 minutes after that. (Ibid.)
  2. Document 50.