16. Editorial Note

On March 19, President Eisenhower announced the appointment of Harold E. Stassen as Special Assistant to the President with responsibility for developing, on behalf of the President and the Department of State, studies and recommendations on disarmament. The position was announced as one of Cabinet rank. For Eisenhower’s announcement, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1955, pages 343–344.

Stassen’s appointment to the task of devising new approaches to the question of regulation of armaments resulted from the inability of the various agencies of the government, especially State, Defense, and AEC, to agree on new proposals and strategies. On at least two occasions, January 4 and February 9, Bowie urged the appointment of a qualified person of national prestige as a possible way out of the impasse on the armament question. See Documents 1 and 6. NSC Action No. 1328–b, February 10, recommended that the President select “an individual of outstanding qualifications, as his Special Representative to conduct on a full-time basis a further review of U.S. policy on control of armaments, reporting his findings and recommendations to the National Security Council.” This action went on to specify the chosen individual’s access to information and selection of advisers and consultants. Regarding NSC Action No. 1328, see footnote 22, Document 7.

Though the Departments of State and Defense and Atomic Energy Commission advanced several names for this position, none of them included Stassen’s name as a possible choice. In any event, President Eisenhower apparently decided at an early date to appoint Stassen to the position. Stassen was then serving as Director of Foreign Operations Administration whose functions were soon to be transferred to the Departments of State and Defense. Secretary Wilson’s and Admiral Strauss’ suggestions for this Special Representative are listed in a memorandum from Robert Cutler to the President, February 16, not printed. (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Administration Series, Cutler) A Department of State list of 12 names developed through informal discussions with O, S/AE, and S/P is contained in a memorandum from David McK. Key to Robert Murphy, March 4, with recommendation that this list be forwarded to the White House. (Department of State, Disarmament Files: Lot 58 D 133, Chronological File—Disarmament—General) By that date, however, Eisenhower had already decided to offer the position to Stassen.

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On February 28, Eisenhower drafted a cable to Stassen, who was then visiting Karachi, Pakistan, and after cabling it to Secretary Dulles, then in Saigon, Vietnam, for his revisions and comments, had it sent to Stassen on March 1. (Telegram 1196 to Karachi, March 1; Department of State, Central Files, 101/3–155) Stassen replied from Karachi:

“As you are aware my basic inclination is to accept any responsibility which you decide you wish me to carry and then to endeavor to fulfill it in the manner you desire to have it conducted. This personal guideline flows both from my deep devotion to you and your objectives and from my understanding of the full measure of the responsibility which you, as President, shoulder for our country and for mankind. This concept of mine certainly applies to the development of policy on the question of disarmament which you describe and which I have studied for many years.

“I trust you also realize that this attitude of mine would apply equally to an assignment not of Cabinet rank as it is the task for you and not the rank that is decisive.” (Telegram 1162 from Karachi, March 3; ibid., 103–FOA/3–355)

Stassen added that he assumed he would have time to guide the substance of the President’s mutual security program for fiscal year 1956 through Congress and ease the transition of Foreign Operations Administration to the form of organization determined before taking on the disarmament task. He preferred, if agreeable to the President, to postpone any announcement of his appointment until his return to Washington on March 13.

Copies of this EisenhowerStassen exchange of telegrams as well as Eisenhower’s telegram to Secretary Dulles, February 28, and Dulles’ reply of March 1, indicating his comments and revisions on the President’s proposed message to Stassen, are in the Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Administration Series: Stassen. The President incorporated all of Dulles’ suggestions, including one giving the position Cabinet rank, in his telegram to Stassen of March 1.

Eisenhower and Stassen met in the White House on March 14 (Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower Records, President’s Appointment Book for 1955) and agreed on Stassen’s appointment and the general guidelines for the forthcoming reorganization of FOA. The President assigned Joseph Dodge to work with Stassen on the pending transfer of FOA functions. These facts are documented in memoranda of Eisenhower’s telephone calls to Secretary Dulles, Dodge, and Stassen on March 15. (Ibid., DDE Diaries) The announcement on March 19 of Stassen’s appointment as Special Assistant to the President on disarmament matters indicated that Stassen would begin his new task immediately but would continue as Director of FOA for the time being.