161. Memorandum of Conference With President Eisenhower 0


  • Secretary Herter, Mr. Bohlen, Mr. Kohler, Mr. Wilcox, Mr. Hagerty, General Goodpaster

[Here follows discussion of unrelated subjects.]

Mr. Herter next took up the subject of the RB–47 case in the UN. He said we are trying to marshal our facts into the strongest possible case. Mr. Kohler commented that there are a number of problems of classification, or declassification, that still remain. He said that he wanted to put merely a general pitch before the President during the meeting, with detailed language yet to be developed. He said we are being guided by the determination not to make use of any [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] even though this is some of the best that we have as to the location of the plane. He said a map is being prepared which will show a generalized track, and that there will be a general statement as to sources, not pinpointed to one specific method. The President stressed that we should not let ourselves be caught out in any story, as in the U–2 case, where we have to change our story subsequently or acknowledge an untruth. During further discussion I raised the question as to whether there had been consideration of the necessity for such flights maintaining radio silence, indicating that I saw no reason for this. The President agreed, and asked that I take the matter up with General Twining (which I did on the morning of Wednesday, July 20).1

[Page 546]

Mr. Herter said he had some information that an American aircraft, which he thought was of C–47 type, had earlier on July 19th, through navigation error, flown directly over the Kuriles. The Soviets had apparently tried to bring it down but were unable to locate it in the fog and clouds.

Mr. Herter next took up the letter sent to the President from Mr. Macmillan enclosing the British reply to the Soviets on the RB–47 case, together with a personal letter from Macmillan to Khrushchev.2 He commented that Macmillan has taken a very stout stand. The President read the letter (which I carried up to him) and said that he was glad to see it, commenting that many people have been saying that the British are being soft these days.

Mr. Herter then said that the question should be considered why the Soviets are taking the line that they have been taking. Their action gives real grounds for concern, since they are deliberately engaging in saber-rattling. He said that he and his associates, particularly Mr. Bohlen, have been giving some thought as to how best to handle this situation. One action that they have thought of is to work for something of major psychological effect through bringing our defense forces to a greater state of readiness. He asked Mr. Bohlen to outline this line of thought. Mr. Bohlen said the Soviet actions were now going beyond their usual ugly, angry reaction to every event they dislike. There has been a considerable shift in the Soviet behavior, evidenced by widespread campaign of inciting violence and disorder all around the world. He said that the threat to use force is something new in the Soviet tactics. This has now become something more than just words and needs to be met with more than words, since polemics and arguments are something they love for creating tension and disturbing world affairs. He said he had been casting about for some action that might quiet them down and show the world that the Soviets are not in position to rule the roost.

[Here follows discussion of unrelated subjects.]

In further discussion Mr. Bohlen said there are two hypotheses with regard to this change of Soviet line. The first, which he does not believe, is that they might have decided this is the best year for a show-down—that the correlation of forces is in their favor, and that the U.S. is paralyzed because of the forthcoming election. The second, which he is inclined to favor, is that they are having a good deal of trouble with Peiping and are adopting a militant line in order to cut out the Chinese.

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[Here follows discussion of unrelated subjects.]

Mr. Kohler then raised one point with regard to flights such as the RB–47. The British have apparently stopped theirs for the present and have suggested that we suspend our flights. We have held up certain of them but if we were to stop them for very long, it would be difficult and dangerous to start them up again. The President recalled his question (which Colonel Eisenhower had conveyed to General Twining) as to why the British could not take on the sector of northwest Europe for such operations. He agreed that if we suspend the flights for very long it would be very hard to start them up. The President thought that on the next such flight we ought to give consideration to announcing the route in advance.

[Here follows discussion of unrelated subjects.]

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DDE Diaries. Secret. Drafted by Goodpaster on July 21.
  2. No record of this meeting has been found.
  3. See Document 157.