6-100 Memorandum for Mr. Lovett, August 8, 1947

Date: August 8, 1947

August 8, 1947
Washington, DC

At the Cabinet meeting this morning the President called on me for a statement on the general situation in the world. I read the two messages you gave me, referred to Griswold’s message, particularly as to troops, and commented regarding the various factors relating to England, France, Italy and the State and Treasury Departments’ attitude at the present moment.1

I also went over the Palestine situation and described the various pressures and the procedure which we were quite certain was being followed to stir up trouble in Palestine.

The President then questioned me as to the necessity for an extra session of Congress at this time. I told him that my information was not sufficient at the moment to give him a well-founded reply; that the Treasury Department was still in the process of analyzing the British situation and we were still on an indefinite basis as to just what the British requests would be. I stated that I thought a special session without definite facts or a definite, that is a prepared basis for action, would be most unfortunate because of the uncontrolled debates that would occur while the Congress was waiting for the definite material on which to act. I went on to say that in each section—Griswold in Greece, British political leaders in London, Bidault in France and officials in Italy—there was a very natural tendency to press their position and their demands vigorously; that it was typical of theater commanders in war whose full requirements could seldom be met. Furthermore, I felt that the British were too free-handed in dumping their political crises in our laps for us to carry the burden. Under the pressure of the Left or back-benchers, they were making statements or taking action which was highly explosive, and they were doing this without due regard for the position in which it placed this Government. I cited the most notable example—the announcement of the withdrawal of the British troops from Greece the day after the Soviet veto.2 I made clear that I thought a special session at this time would be most unfortunate.

The President questioned the other members of the Cabinet or their representatives and all were practically of the same opinion as I had voiced, particularly as to the disadvantage of having Congress to assemble and debate at length without a definite basis for action.
Harriman made the definite proposal that first action should be for Italy and he thought that if anything could be done in the way of an additional loan of $100,000,000 or some other action of this kind, it would be very helpful. He placed France next and made reference to the possibilities of a loan of $250,000,000 from the International Bank. He placed England third and stated that he was not fully convinced that the British had done all they could do for themselves or that their crises would come to a head before the first of the year.
The President expressed himself in general accord with the statements and added that he thought that while I had the leadership in these international matters it was important for all of the others to understand the situation, and it was equally important that they say as little as possible.
After the meeting Mr. Royall told me he had accepted my views regarding a tripartite meeting with the French in London on the Clay and Roberts level of industry agreement. In other words, he apparently approved of the meeting in London with Douglas our representative. He stated he had talked to Clay this morning and wished Hilldring to show me the record of the talk. He stated that Clay had indicated something about his resignation but he, Royall, was going to give him orders and drop further discussions.3

G. C. M.

NA/RG 59 (Central Decimal File, 711.00/8–847)

1. Dwight P. Griswold, former Republican governor of Nebraska from 1940 to 1946, had been director of Internal Affairs and Communications in the US zone of Germany. On June 10 the Senate confirmed his appointment as chief of the American Mission for Aid to Greece (AMAG). His staff included thirty economic and twenty-six military and naval members. The mission was in charge of distributing the $350 million Congress had recently appropriated for aid to Greece. (Department of State Bulletin, 16 [June 22, 1947]: 1219; New York Times, July 6, 1947, p. 26.)
On July 30, the British government notified the State Department that “they must, on financial and manpower grounds, withdraw British troops from Greece and reduce those in Italy.” This would add five thousand to the nine thousand they had already withdrawn from Greece since the end of March. On August 5, Griswold wrote the State Department that if the British carried out their withdrawal, it would “make impossible the effective operation of AMAG,” Greek morale would plummet, the communists would be emboldened, and US prestige could suffer a “severe blow.” He proposed putting all Greek military training under US command. (Foreign Relations, 1947, 5: 268, 279–80.)

2. On July 29, the UN Security Council voted 9 to 2 (USSR and Poland opposed) on a US resolution to establish a semipermanent commission in the Balkans to investigate instances of frontier violations. As a permanent member of the council, the Soviet vote constituted a veto. On July 30, British Prime Minister Clement Attlee announced a lengthy list of cuts in overseas expenditures as well as a number of domestic initiatives to meet the country’s economic crisis. (New York Times, July 30, 1947, p. 1, and July 31, 1947, p. 1.)

3. Kenneth C. Royall, undersecretary of war from November 1945 until July 19, 1947, became secretary of war on the latter date. Sir Frank K. Roberts was the British minister in Moscow from 1945 to 1947 but it is more likely that Marshall was referring to General Sir Brian Robertson who, as commander in chief and military governor for the British zone of occupied Germany from 1947 to 1949, was Lucius Clay’s equivalent. Lewis W. Douglas was US ambassador to Great Britain from 1947 to 1950.