66. Memorandum of a Conversation Between Secretary of State Dulles and Foreign Minister von Brentano, London, August 23, 19561

Seated next to each other at dinner last night, we had a rather animated conversation on the subject of US military dispositions. Von Brentano said that it was very embarrassing to get these reports in the press, and particularly when the Chancellor had recently been in the US and had heard nothing of any such plans.

I said that there were no plans in the sense in which Von Brentano spoke. At this time of year when the future budgets were being estimated, each branch of the services made its plans based upon its own concept of its role in a future war. Usually the Army, the Navy and the Air Force each assumed that it alone could win the war and that it alone needed large sums. These were unbalanced positions [Page 144] generally prepared in the first instance by junior officers; all of them finally came together and only then did they begin to take on any official status. The reports that had alarmed the Germans had emanated from a study which reflected the views of one branch of the services. It was utterly impossible that we should communicate such reports to foreign governments. As a matter of fact I myself knew nothing of them and paid no attention to them at that level. Nor of course did the President. I could assure Von Brentano that when it came to taking decisions at the high level which would materially affect US military disposition, none would be taken having a major impact upon Germany without prior consultation with the German Government.

Von Brentano said that for the first time he understood the situation, that what I said was very reassuring and would enable them to deal better with their own political situation where the newspaper studies were given full credence as definitive decisions.2

John Foster Dulles
  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199. Secret. Drafted by Dulles on August 24. He was in London to attend the Conference on the Suez Canal, August 20–21.
  2. On August 24, Dulles drafted another memorandum of this conversation:

    “Last night at dinner Von Brentano said his information was that the Germans did want to buy all their tanks from the US, but he could not yet say this on the personal authority of the Chancellor, whom he expected to see as soon as he got back to Germany, but that he was confident that would be the decision.” (Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, General Memcons)

  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.