62. Memorandum of Conversation With President Eisenhower0


  • Secretary Dulles
  • Under Secretary Herter
  • Assistant Secretary Walter S. Robertson
  • Mr. Allen W. Dulles

We first discussed the question of whether or not the United States should be tolerant of U.S. nationals acting on a purely private and “soldier-of-fortune” basis (e.g. CAT) in performing services for the patriots in Sumatra. The President indicated that he did not want any U.S. Government personnel or persons detached from the U.S. Government only for the purpose of taking part in any operations partaking of a military character in Indonesia. But he did not think we should extend this principle to private persons operating on their own.

I then discussed the future, pointing out that it did not seem likely that the patriots could gain a victory or in the long run sustain themselves [Page 110] without overt support from outside. On the other hand it seemed as though their willingness to fight needed to be better demonstrated before they would be entitled to overt support. This willingness to fight might, however, in turn be promoted if they knew that if they fought vigorously and well and accepted some casualties, there was some future ahead.

I suggested [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] a communication to the leadership of the patriots on a highly confidential basis that our feeling is if they put up a stubborn resistance to the imminent attack by the Central Government threatened on the West Coast off Padang, the United States would be disposed to consider some form of recognition which might permit of overt support from the U.S. or Asian countries which might join in that recognition. On the other hand, if they did not show a real will to fight and dedication to their cause, they could not expect such support.

We discussed various alternatives which recognition might take. One was the recognition of belligerency against the Central Government. Another was recognition of the government of the Sumatran State on the assumption, however, that that state would be part of an Indonesian federation as soon as an appropriate constitution was adopted. A third step was merely to recognize them as the de facto government of the area they controlled. A fourth measure that might be considered was for the United States to land forces for the protection of American life and property on Sumatra, notably at the oil fields.

I recommended against this latter course on the ground that the use of the U.S. military to protect oil interests in that part of the world would receive a very adverse reaction. The President authorized a message, as indicated, leaving for further study the question of what form of recognition should be favored in the event that there was the kind of active fighting by the patriots which would justify giving consideration to such a move given the international practice in these matters and the national interest of the United States which was also a factor, often indeed a controlling factor, in matters of diplomatic “recognition”. [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 756D.00/4–1558. Top Secret. Drafted by Secretary Dulles. Another copy of this memorandum of conversation, initialed by Dulles, is in the Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, Meetings with the President.