71. Memorandum of a Conversation Between the President and the Secretary of State, White House, Washington, August 8, 1956, 11:30 a.m.1

The President spoke of his press conference.2 He said it had not been a very satisfactory one. He had had the impression that most of the questions were tricky ones with some political motivation, designed to trap him into indiscretions rather than to elicit light. He recapitulated briefly what he had said about the Suez matter.
I reported to the President on the status of acceptances of the invitations to the London Conference, indicating that the acceptances had mounted to a point where it seemed as if the Conference would be held as planned.3 I said we still did not know about Egypt, although it was almost surely a negative, or about the Soviet Union and Indonesia.
I mentioned to the President that there was some indication that Panama was getting into contact with Egypt. The President indicated considerable annoyance and stated that if we left the Panama Zone we would take the locks with us. He again reverted to [Page 164] a suggestion that he had made once or twice before that we should consider the desirability of building an alternative route in Nicaragua so that we would not be subject to blackmail.
I said I expected to be in New York on Friday to lunch with Hammarskjold and talk to him about the Arab-Israel business and also Suez.4
I said I had given a great deal of thought to some possible personal role for the President in this Suez situation. The President had greater prestige throughout the world than any single man had ever had before. This was something which on the one hand should not be dissipated; on the other hand it should, if necessary, be used. However, the problem of using it was a very difficult one. I recalled how Wilson had dissipated his prestige at the Paris Peace Conference. The President said that he felt clearly that the forthcoming Conference was no place for him, particularly as I had indicated that Nehru would probably not be there personally, but only Krishna Menon. I said there might develop a situation after the Conference where some personal intervention by the President might be required. The President acknowledged that possibility. We agreed it would have to be studied very carefully.

I discussed with the President possible Congressional participation in terms of Senators Mansfield and Alex Smith going with me and possibly having Knowland and Lyndon Johnson, if available, come to Washington in advance for consultation with me or perhaps with the President. The President concurred in this plan and thought that Mansfield and Smith would make a good couple.

[Here follows discussion of the Cyprus question.]

I referred to the President’s message from Eden, which I pointed out was a reply to the President’s prior message to Eden.5 I thought that all it required was a cordial acknowledgment. The President agreed.6
[Page 165]

[Here follows discussion of thermonuclear weapons.]

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, Meetings With the President. Secret; Personal and Private. Drafted by Dulles.
  2. For an extract from the transcript of the White House news conference, held on August 8, see The Suez Canal Problem, July 26–September 22, 1956, pp. 45–46. For the complete text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1956, pp. 660–671.
  3. During a telephone conversation between Dulles and Eisenhower which began at 8:54 that morning, the Secretary noted that 18 countries had accepted the conference invitation. (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries)
  4. A memorandum by Dulles of this conversation with Hammarskjöld which took place in New York on August 10, is in Department of State, Central Files, 680.84A/8–1056.
  5. Documents 64 and 35.
  6. At 6 p.m. that day, Dulles forwarded to the White House a suggested reply to Eden’s letter, which reads:

    “Dear Anthony. I have read very carefully, and with a great deal of sympathy, your response to my message dated July 31, 1956, which Foster left with you in London last week. It was extremely good of you to send me so promptly your thinking on this subject.

    “What you say is very much in our thoughts and we are devoting the major part of our time to this important problem.

    “I was glad to hear from Foster that you are looking so well. With warm personal regard, Sincerely, DE.” (Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, White House Memoranda)

    The message was transmitted to London in telegram 845 on August 9, and delivered to Eden on August 10. Department of State, Central Files, 611.41/8–956 and Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International File) The telegram indicates Dulles as the drafting officer.