155. Memorandum From the Counselor of the Department of State (Nimetz) to Secretary of State Vance1


  • Crown of St. Stephen

We should now make a firm decision on the date for the Crown’s return and, if possible, the head of the delegation. The reasons for my recommendation are as follows:

—We need about two weeks to carry out necessary technical preparations for delivering the Crown (the examination of the items by National Gallery experts will take place next week at Fort Knox). The Hungarians need time for their preparations.

—Lee Hamilton is coming under pressure from Congresswoman Oakar for a vote on her bill when Congress returns next week. He can easily defeat the bill in sub-committee, but prefers to dispose of it without a vote. He has asked us to announce a date and a head of delegation by Wednesday to counteract this pressure. We should help Hamilton and Zablocki by removing the heat from them.

—As we continue to delay an announcement on the timing and circumstances of return, Hungarian-American groups have more opportunity to protest our decision and possibly embarrass the Administration.

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We have spoken to the U.S. Catholic Conference leadership and hope to have some expression of support from them. (Separate memo will follow on this.2) In addition, we are trying to stimulate a positive statement from the Vatican.3

For these reasons, as well as the President’s most recent written comment that he did not want to return the Crown timidly, I believe we should seek a White House decision on the date—whether it be in December or January.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Mr. Matthew Nimetz, Counselor of the Department of State, Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance, Science and Technology, January 1977 thru December 1980, Lot 81D85, Box 1, MN Chron—Official, July–December 1977. Confidential; Exdis.
  2. In a memorandum to Vance dated November 23, Nimetz reported his conversation earlier that day with Father Brian Hehir and Ed Doherty of the International Affairs Office of the U.S. Catholic Conference. (Ibid.) On November 29, Hehir and Doherty returned to discuss their effort to obtain a positive statement from the church. Nimetz reported: “Although Hehir had earlier assured me that he would be able to obtain this support, in a poll of key Catholic Bishops, completed this afternoon, the majority opposed the issuance of a strong supportive statement. Father Hehir was apologetic, but indicated that the lobbying against support was strong, whereas there is no lobby in the Church favoring return.” (Ibid.)
  3. On November 11, Brzezinski wrote Vance: “Just a reminder arising out of this morning’s breakfast: Could you initiate efforts to obtain Papal approval in some overt form for the initiative on the Hungarian crown.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Europe, USSR, and East/West, Hunter Subject File, Box 14, Hungary: Crown of St. Stephen: 11/77)