47. Memorandum of a Conference With the President, White House, Washington, May 28, 1956, 11 a.m.1

OTHERS PRESENT

  • Under Secretary Hoover
  • Mr. Allen Dulles
  • Admiral Radford
  • General Twining
  • Colonel Goodpaster

The President indicated he had wanted to have this meeting in order to see just what we are doing, and how we are handling the matter of special reconnaissance flights. He referred to a recent protest by the USSR. 2 He said he wanted to give the Soviets every chance to move in peaceful directions and to put our relations on a better basis—and to see how far they will go. For this reason, during this period, it is particularly desirable to be wise and careful in what [Page 106]we do. Mr. Hoover read the draft text of a reply to the Soviets. 3 The President thought a passage might be added to the effect that our Government had instructed its aviation services to be especially careful in this regard (possibility of navigational error in Arctic regions).

Turning then to a discussion of the Soviet invitation to General Twining,4 the President said he had wondered why they picked out one Chief, rather than the JCS as a whole, since they function as a body—specifically he wondered whether they did so for personal reasons or with some other purpose in mind. General Twining said that the invitation was for Soviet Aviation Day, and that they were inviting air officers of many other countries. Admiral Radford recalled that at Geneva Khrushchev had said laughingly that the Soviets might send their chiefs over to look at U.S. war plans, and that he had said that might be all right if it were fifty-fifty. He added that the JCS had considered the matter and were disposed to accept an invitation if extended, indicating that they would want to look seriously at what the Soviets have.

The President said that if General Twining wanted to go, he saw no reason why he should not. He would not foresee that the visit would be of any particular intelligence value, however. General Twining said there was a good possibility that he might go in the Boeing 707, flying non-stop from the United States to Moscow. The President (and the others present) thought this was a splendid idea if it could be worked. The President said that General Twining could say while he was there that if the Soviets want to trade military visits, and go around and really see what the other country has in a military sense, they might invite our Chiefs, who would be prepared to visit the Soviet Union providing the Soviets were willing to have their chiefs visit us.

The President next discussed certain other reconnaissance efforts.

He then returned to the subject of the invitation to General Twining and indicated he thought it should not have come directly to the Air Force, but should have come through diplomatic channels, inasmuch as the Soviet Embassy is accredited to the President. He indicated that he thought an answer ought to go to the Soviets through the American Ambassador to the effect that the Chief of Staff of the Air Force is authorized to attend, and that he will [Page 107]provide his own transport. All things considered, he felt it was best for General Twining to go.

The President repeated that he is very anxious to see how far the Soviets are ready to go in making offers and working for better relationships. General Twining said the operation protested has been stopped. All actions were completed. It was set up last February and conducted in recent weeks.

G
Colonel, CE, US Army
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File. Top Secret. Drafted by Goodpaster.
  2. The text of the Soviet note, May 14, was transmitted to the Embassy in Moscow in telegram 1273, May 15. (Department of State, Central Files, 761.5411/ 5–1456)
  3. The draft has not been found, but on May 29 the Department of State presented to the Soviet Embassy a note explaining that navigational difficulties in the Arctic region may have caused unintentional violations of Soviet air space, which, if they in fact had occurred, the Department regretted. The text of the note was transmitted in telegram 1332 to Moscow, May 29. (Ibid.)
  4. See Document 105.