Oral History Interview with
Served as Foreign Service officer, U.S. Department of State, 1931-62. In addition to his other service, served as 1st sec., American Embassy, London, 1945, Brussels, 1946; director for Western European Affairs, Dept. of State, 1947; U.S, vice deputy, North Atlantic Council, London, 1950, and minister at Paris, 1952. Attended the UN Conf. on Internat'1 Org., San Francisco, 1945; Council of Foreign Ministers, London, 1945; first session UN General Assembly, London, 1946, 2nd session, New York, 1947; Paris Conference, 1946; North Atlantic Pact negotiations, 1948-49, NATO, 1950, 1952, 1960; and CENTO, SEATO, and Colombo Plan Conferences, 1960. Also served as Ambassador to Peru, 1956-60.
November 13 and December 18, 1972
Richard D. McKinzie
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This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee, but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
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Opened March, 1976
Harry S. Truman Library
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Oral History Interview with
November 13, 1972
Richard D. McKinzie
MCKINZIE: Ambassador Achilles, at the end of the Second World War I believe you were First Secretary in the Embassy in London, is that correct?
ACHILLES: A bit later. From 1941 to 1945 I was here in Washington as Chief of the British Commonwealth Division in the State Department. I went back to London as First Secretary shortly after V-J Day, but actually at the end of the war I was still here in the
MCKINZIE: Do you have any personal recollections of Mr. Truman's coming to office?
ACHILLES: Yes, I do. Little things. At that time my office was on the east side of the State Department, on the third floor, overlooking the White House. Fairly late one afternoon I saw the White House flag starting down the flagpole and I thought, "It isn't quite sunset yet, somebody's being a little bit early." The flag stopped at half-staff, and a few minutes later, a secretary came in out of breath saying, "President Roosevelt is dead."
I remember hearing a few days later that in the next two hours after President Roosevelt's death had been on the radio that the new President and Mrs. Truman had something like twelve telephone calls asking to rent
My first sight of President Truman came at the San Francisco Conference, which took place shortly after that. Our Secretary of State [Edward R., Jr.] Stettinius, put on a large reception for President Truman to meet the delegates, and my first impression of Mr. Truman was, "This little fellow looks much more like the president of a very small-town country club than like the President of the United States," but we learned to develop a great respect for that little fellow in the years to come.
In September of that year I was assigned to London and also detailed as Secretary of our delegation to the first Council of Foreign Ministers which met in London immediately after V-J Day to try to negotiate peace treaties with Italy and Germany and the eastern
Secretary of State [James F.] Byrnes, who had just become Secretary of State, was chairman of our delegation. John Foster Dulles went and represented Senator [Arthur H.] Vandenberg, who was then chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Jimmy [James C.] Dunn was the second-ranking member of the State Department. Chip [Charles E.] Bohlen was there as interpreter and also adviser on Soviet affairs. Jimmy Byrnes was quite new to the process; he had been in Congress, in the Senate, and a Supreme Court justice.
At the end of the first day's meeting, as usual, I typed up a telegram to the State Department reporting what happened that day. I took it to Jimmy Dunn who initialed it, and took it to Secretary Byrnes for signature. Secretary Byrnes looked at it and said, "What's
I said, "This is the usual telegram to the State Department reporting what happened."
Byrnes said, "God Almighty, I might tell the President sometime what happened, but I'm never going to tell those little bastards at the State Department anything about it."
There was a fairly tough situation the next few days in the Council of Foreign Ministers. We were making a little progress towards negotiating a treaty of peace with Italy. The Russians were being obstinate and difficult, but no more so than usual. But, one morning Molotov opened the session by declaring that unfortunately the whole procedure was illegal. There were five governments represented at the talks: our United States, Great Britain, Soviet Union, France, and China. Molotov announced, obviously on the basis of
new instructions overnight, that the French and Chinese had no business to be there and he would not participate any further in the Conference.
That presented everyone else with a real choice. Should we ask the French and the Chinese to leave, try to work out agreements with the Russians and the British; or, should we stand firm and insist that they continue there and risk the breakup of the conference? I remember at the time thinking that that might mark the transition from a short-lived postwar era to the beginnings of a potentially prewar era.
Secretary Dulles records in his book War and Peace, that he followed Secretary Byrnes up to his bedroom that night and insisted that Secretary Byrnes take the hard line, that France and China should stay regardless of whether the Russians broke off
the conference or not. Byrnes was of two minds, but Dulles was quite persuasive. As I say, Dulles recalls that in his book. Shortly after the book appeared and I had read it, I met Mrs. Dulles at a cocktail party and told her that I had just read that chapter and vividly recalled that day at the London Council of Ministers.
She said, "Foster wrote that he had followed Jimmy Byrnes into his bedroom to tell him that, but he didn't write in his book that he'd also followed him into his bathroom and told him that if he took any other course Senator Vandenberg would denounce him on the floor of the Senate the next day."
After a year in London and a year in Brussels I returned to Washington as Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs, and it became my duty with Jack Hickerson, to concentrate for the next year and a half
on negotiating the North Atlantic Treaty and getting it ratified.
Somehow, the North Atlantic Treaty will always be associated in my mind with fishhouse punch. The Metropolitan Club in Washington always holds open house on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. Christmas Eve they serve free drinks and charge you for lunch and New Year's Eve they charge you for drinks and serve free lunch. Between the two they make a tidy profit. But, having just come back from abroad, I forgot to go to either of them. On that New Year's Eve [December 31, 1947] I was sitting at my desk, slightly drowsy in the middle of the afternoon, when my immediate chief, Jack Hickerson, Director of the Bureau of European Affairs, came into my office, well mellowed by fishhouse punch and said, "I don't care whether entangling alliances have
been considered worse than original sin ever since George Washington's time. We've got to negotiate a military alliance with Western Europe in peacetime and we've got to do it quickly."
I said, "Fine, when do we start?"
He said, "I've already started it. Now it's your baby. Get going."
He sat down and elaborated. He had been with General [George C.] Marshall, who succeeded Jimmy Byrnes as Secretary of State, at the last meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers in London in December . That meeting had broken up with no progress on negotiating the treaties which they had been trying to negotiate for the last two years. The night it broke up the British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, invited General Marshall to dinner alone in his apartment. That night,
after dinner, he made a statement to General Marshall, which was almost word for word the same one he made in the House of Commons two or three weeks later. He said, and I quote, "There is no chance that the Soviet Union will deal with the West on any reasonable terms in the foreseeable future. The salvation of the West depends upon the formation of some form of union, formal or informal in character, in Western Europe, backed by the United States and the dominions, such a mobilization of moral and material force will inspire confidence and energy within and respect elsewhere."
At that point Western Europe was devastated, prostrate and demoralized and it badly needed confidence and energy within. With the Soviet armies halfway across Europe and still at their full wartime strength and the Communist parties
the largest single political elements in France and Italy, something to inspire Soviet respect was equally essential.
The only moral and material force adequate to deter further Soviet expansion was a combination of that of the United States and Western Europe together. Some form of union was definitely essential, but there was a great question as to what form and between whom.
The next morning Secretary Marshall told Dulles and Hickerson of Bevin's words. He was impressed, but he thought that the union should be purely European, with the United States supplying material assistance. He had made his famous Marshall plan speech at Harvard only six months before and was still trying to get Congressional authorization for it. He did not want to complicate that
task any more than was absolutely necessary.
Secretary Marshall flew home. Dulles and Hickerson came by sea. Jack Hickerson was convinced that a European union backed by U.S. material assistance would not be enough, that only a moral commitment by the United States to do whatever was necessary, including to fight if necessary, to restore and maintain a free and solvent Europe could create that "confidence and energy within and respect elsewhere."
By the time they reached Washington, Foster Dulles had substantially accepted that line of reasoning. Dulles undertook to convince Senator Vandenberg, then Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Hickerson undertook to convince Marshall. Jack Hickerson and I had both read Clarence Streit's, Union Now, and had been deeply impressed by it. We shared
enthusiasm for negotiating a military alliance and getting it ratified as a basis for further progress towards unity.
Early in January, Bevin made his historic speech in the Commons saying substantially what he had said to Marshall, and he inquired in a private message to Secretary Marshall what the U.S. might be prepared to do about it.
Jack Hickerson drafted a reply, but Marshall balked. Jack's draft reply would have given Bevin very substantial encouragement. The reply Marshall finally signed insisted that the nations of Western Europe first show what they were prepared to do for themselves and each other, after which we would consider sympathetically what we might do to help. That was to be our theme song for the next few months: "Show what you're prepared to do for yourselves and each other, and then we'll think
about what we might do."
Bevin's message also stated that he hoped to realize a network of bilateral alliances between Britain, France and the Benelux countries, each ostensibly aimed at any new threat from Germany, but actually and equally valid against any Soviet aggression.
We had recently concluded, and the Senate had ratified, the Rio Treaty by which the nations of the Western Hemisphere constituted themselves a collective defense arrangement under the U.S. Charter to respond individually and collectively to any armed aggression.
Jack's draft reply to Bevin contained, and Marshall accepted, the suggestion that a similar collective defense arrangement between Britain and France and the Benelux countries would be far preferable to .a network of bilateral alliances. Bevin bought the
idea. Senators Vandenberg and [Thomas] Connally, who had been on the delegation that negotiated the Rio Treaty, and to safeguard its provisions had fought at San Francisco for authorization for collective defense arrangements under the UN Charter, heartily approved.
It would be a long time before anyone would admit publicly that we were even considering a treaty. But, Jack and I knew clearly from the beginning what we were working for.
The international situation at the time, including actual and threatened Soviet territorial expansion, the increasingly vigorous and violent threat of the Communist parties in Western European countries, are well-described in the official NATO book, NATO: Facts about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, published in 1965.
As far as we were concerned, Jack, right from the beginning, laid down two important ground rules. One was that the Senate, through the Foreign Relations Committee, was to be involved from the start. Its "advice" was to be sought constantly all the way through, rather than merely its "consent" to a signed and sealed treaty. The other was that the process be kept thoroughly bipartisan--essential in an election year with Democratic administration, a Republican Congress, and the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee a potential candidate for the Presidency.
During January and February of 1948, Bevin, having accepted our suggestion of a collective defense arrangement, pushed on with negotiations with the French and Benelux governments which resulted in the Brussels Treaty, signed on March 17th. Our official position
was still, and continued to be, "First show us what you are prepared to do for yourselves and each other, and then we will see what we can do." Yet, we had been pushing quietly ahead on two fronts. One was ultra-secret political and military talks with the British and Canadians about a treaty. The talks were held in the Joint Chiefs of Staff war room in the bowels of the Pentagon, and the very existence of the talks was so secret that the Joint Chiefs sent staff cars to pick up the various participants and deliver them directly to a secret entrance in the basement. It was so secret that one Pentagon chauffeur got lost trying to find it.
The United States was represented by Bob [Robert A.] Lovett, then Acting Secretary of State; General Alfred Gruenther, then director of the Joint Staffs; Jack; and myself.
The Canadians were represented by Hume Wrong, the Ambassador; General Charles Foulkes, Chairman of their Joint Chiefs; Tommy Stone, Minister in the Embassy, and Louis Rogers, Second Secretary.
The British team was Lord Inverchapel, the Ambassador; Sir Derick Hoyer-Millar, the Minister; the Chairman of their Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Donald McLean, Second Secretary of the Embassy.
The talks--even their existence--were ultra, ultra secret, and to this day I don't believe anything has been written or said publicly about them. Yet, it was only two or three years later that Donald McLean defected to Moscow. The Russians must have been getting a daily play by play account.
The talks lasted about two weeks and by the time they finished, it had been secretly
agreed that there would be a treaty, and I had a draft of one in the bottom drawer of my safe. It was never shown to anyone except Jack. I wish I had kept it, but when I left the Department in 1950, I dutifully left it in the safe and I have never been able to trace it in the archives.
It drew heavily on the Rio Treaty, and a bit of the Brussels Treaty, which had not yet been signed, but of which we were being kept heavily supplied with drafts. The eventual North Atlantic Treaty had the general form, and a good bit of the language of my first draft, but with a number of important differences.
The other front was the Senatorial one. The Europeans were, with reason, becoming increasingly frightened of Soviet expansion, and their pleas for U.S. action were becoming
increasingly insistent. Hungary, Bulgaria, Rumania, and Poland had been taken over by the Communists by the fall of 1947. The Czech coup came in February, 1945 and the murder of Masaryk in March.
After the signature of the Brussels Treaty on March 17th, Bevin and [Georges] Bidault then French Foreign Minister, said in effect, "Now we've shown what we expect to do for ourselves and each other, what are you going to do? For God's sake, do something quick."
We were all deeply disturbed by the Soviet westward pressure, but to the Europeans we still kept saying, "You made a start, but it's still a small start. Put some military 'bones' on that Treaty, preferably some collective ones." We were sufficiently disturbed, however, to contemplate a declaration by President Truman that he was prepared to negotiate a
military alliance with the Parties to the Brussels Treaty and that, should there be Soviet aggression against any Parties to the Treaty pending its negotiation and entry into effect, the United States would consider it an unfriendly act.
Lovett tried that out on Vandenberg, and got a resounding "No:" "Why," asked Vandenberg, "should Truman get all the credit?" It was not an unnatural reaction on his part, for it was an election year and Vandenberg was interested in being the Republican candidate. But, he was a statesman as well as a politician and his counterproposal was excellent. "Why not," he asked, "get the Senate to request the President to negotiate such an alliance. Wouldn't that give you a long start toward eventual bipartisan Senate approval?" How right he was.
We accepted his approach with enthusiasm and he and Lovett set out to draft a "Sense of the Senate" resolution with Jack's and my assistance. Vandenberg had played a substantial role in San Francisco during the negotiation of the UN Charter and in the Senate for its ratification.
In 1948 there was much public and congressional discussion of the need to strengthen the U.N. and several congressional resolutions on the subject were pending. Vandenberg wished to capitalize on these. Accordingly, the preamble of the Vandenberg resolution called upon the President particularly to pursue the following objectives within the U.N. Charter. Its paragraphs 1, 5, and 6 referred to strengthening the U.N. itself. Paragraphs 2, 3 and 4, were, with the exception of one phrase, my language.
2. Progressive development of regional and other collective arrangements for individual and collective self-defense in accordance with the purposes, principles, and provisions of the Charter.
3. Association of the United States, by constitutional process, with such regional and other collective arrangements as are based on continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, and as affect its national security.
4. Contributing to the maintenance of peace by making clear its determination to exercise the right of individual or collective self-defense under Article 51, should any armed attack occur affecting its national security.
The words "by constitutional process" were Vandenberg's, and they proved very useful in the Resolution and in the Treaty itself.
"One-page Vandenberg," as he was called, insisted that the drafts be all on one page; and he typed it [the resolution] himself, although he had to use very narrow margins and almost ran off the bottom of the page. He also did
his best to keep things bipartisan by insisting that the resolution be referred to as a "Resolution of the Foreign Relations Committee" rather than as the "Vandenberg resolution." However, he could not have been displeased when the press and everyone else preferred the latter.
As soon as the resolution was introduced, President Truman hailed it.
Paragraph 4 with its recommendation that the U.S. react to any armed aggression affecting its national security went far to contemplate the warning that we thought that the President should give. We were on the way, and the British and French were heartened, but still gravely worried and impatient. We did not dare move until the resolution passed the Senate and we pressed the Europeans to get them going on developing some collective military
At the end of April, the Benelux military authorities began discussions, but only in September was the Western Union Defense Organization created with Field Marshal Montomery as Chairman of the Commanders-in-Chief Committee at Fontainebleau. Montgomery did not mince words and the British showed us one of his early secret telegrams from Fontainebleau. "My present instructions are to hold the line at the Rhine," said Montgomery. "Presently available allied forces might enable me to hold the tip of the Brittany Peninsula for three days. Please instruct further."
On April 28th Prime Minister St. Laurent of Canada made first overt proposals for a treaty. Speaking in the House of Commons, he proposed a collective mutual defense system, including Canada, the United States
and the Brussels Treaty parties. Bevin promptly welcomed it. Francis Wilcox, who was then Chief of Staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bill Galloway, whom I had gotten out of uniform and into the Western European Division and who was then working with me, and I worked all day for two or three weeks drafting the Committee's report on the resolution. There were ulcer lunches of stale sandwiches or gummy beans from the scruffy newstand snack bar across the hall from the Committee Room.
Fran was an exacting taskmaster and a stickler for detail; but able as hell and knew his Committee thoroughly.
They adopted the report unanimously and the Senate approved it by the highly satisfactory vote of, I believe, 84 to 6, on June 11. Now we could move.
A similar resolution had been introduced in the House and approved unanimously by the Foreign Affairs Committee. We waited a bit, hoping the House would pass it, but the House adjourned for the election campaign without action. We didn't care too much; it was the Senate that counted.
On July 6, talks began between Acting Secretary Lovett and the Ambassadors of Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Holland, and the Luxembourg Minister, ostensibly, on problems connected with the defense of the Atlantic area, including the possibility of a treaty of alliance. It would still be several months before we would admit out loud that we were negotiating a treaty.
The Acting Secretary and the Ambassadors met once in a while, but the treaty was actually negotiated "despite them" in Jack's words, by
a "Working Group," whose members became life-long friends in the process. Many of them have since subsequently been prominent in their own Foreign Services, in their own Foreign Offices, or as Ambassadors, or in the United Nations.
We met every working day from the beginning of July to the beginning of September. That was before the days of air-conditioning and we all worked with our coats off. Most of us were already on a first name basis and we all were by the third day. No records of any kind were kept.
The NATO spirit was born in that Working Group. Derick Hoyer-Millar, the British Minister, started it. One day he made a proposal which was obviously nonsense. Several of us told him so in no uncertain terms, and a much better formulation emerged from the
discussion. Derick said, and I quote, "Those are my instructions. All right, I'll tell the foreign office I made my pitch, was shot down and try to get them changed."
He did. From then on we all followed the same system. If our instructions were sound, and agreement could be reached, fine. If not, we worked out something we all, or most of us, considered sound, and whoever had the instructions undertook to get them changed. It always worked, although sometimes it took time. That spirit has continued to this day, I believe, although the size to which NATO has grown makes it far less easy.
Two years later we began in London to put the "O" on the NAT by creating the organization. Some of the members of the delegations had been members of the Working Group, some had not. I was our representative on one
committee; the French representative had not been. He made some unacceptable proposal and I told him it was unacceptable. "Those are my instructions," he said flatly.
From force of habit I said bluntly, "I know, but they're no good, get them changed to something like this."
He was sorely offended. A little later in the meeting, I made a proposal under instructions I knew to be wrong. He and several others objected. I said, "I know, those are my instructions. I'll try to get them changed."
I have never seen a more puzzled looking Frenchman. "What," I could see him thinking, "is this crazy American up to? Is he stupid, or Machiavellian, or what?" But, he got the idea in due course. He was Etienne Burin Des Roziers, for several years my colleague as
Minister in NATO and later, after some years in the wilderness, General de Gaulle's Chef de Cabinet for many years. I was always confident that he kept the NATO spirit, but there wasn't much he could do about it at the Elysee. But, that is far ahead of the story.
The French, of course, were difficult. They always are in a working group; they boggled at everything. For weeks they insisted on a treaty having a duration of 50 years. I thought of that often in the years when de Gaulle had the world wondering whether France would pull out as soon as she legally could--after twenty years.
We did not think the Senate would take a duration of more than 10 years and told Berard, the French Minister, so repeatedly. He said France would not sign unless it ran for 50 years. We told him bluntly that we didn't give a damn
whether or not France signed, and that we couldn't go beyond 10, and everybody else would sign, and that he knew damn well the French Government was wetting its collective pants at least once a day for fear the U.S. wouldn't sign or ratify if it did. That was the informal nature of our negotiations.
Eventually we reached agreement on an indefinite duration, with provision for review of the Treaty at the request of any Party after 10 years, and the right of withdrawal after 20 years. Now ten years have passed and so have 20 and no one has yet suggested any review of the Treaty, let alone withdrawal.
The French were not the only ones to be difficult. We had some on our own side. Chip Bohlen and George Kennan were strongly adverse to the idea of any treaty. Chip
was then Counselor in the Department, which at that time meant being in charge of Congressional relations, and George, head of the Policy Planning Staff. In the Departmental hierarchy they both ranked above Jack, and naturally above me. Any telegrams for the Secretary's signature or memoranda to him which we originated were supposed to have their initials before it went to the Secretary. They usually didn't have their initials. Sometimes we got by with it, sometimes we didn't.
One time, Pat Carter, General Marshall's executive assistant, bawled me out for it: "There is too much half-assed staff work around here." I couldn't tell him why, but every time we eventually did get the Secretary's or Acting Secretary's approval. Chip's opposition was due to his belief, pretty
much a conviction, that the Senate would never consent to ratification of a military alliance. His recommendation was that we get Congress to approve a massive military assistance program and let it go at that.
His fallback position was the "dumbbell" one, that there be a bilateral agreement of some sort between the U.S. and Canada on one side and the parties to the Brussels Treaty on the other. He more or less fought a rearguard action against the Treaty all the way through. It was obvious that someone who did not believe in the Treaty or that the Senate would ever approve it was not the man to get it through the Senate for us.
Jack convinced Bob Lovett of the situation and Chip was transferred to Paris. We cooked up a new job for him, that of regional supervisor for the military assistance program--
which didn't yet exist, but which we were confident Congress would approve.
Somewhere along the line George Kennan dropped his opposition and did make one positive contribution. The Rio Treaty provided that in the event of armed aggression against any Party, the other Parties would "assist in meeting the attack." He pointed out that it might be far more effective to hit the enemy somewhere else, rather than where the attack occurred. The language was, therefore, changed to "take such action as may be necessary to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area." In other words, to beat the hell out of the aggressor wherever and however seemed best. Aside from that positive contribution, and occasionally seeing memoranda in drafts, George had nothing whatever to do with the negotiations. In his memoirs,
he makes the amazing statement that he was the Department's representative on the working group. Jack Hickerson was, assisted by Bill Galloway and myself. George was never on it and I do not think he ever attended a meeting. Success has plenty of fathers, even Chip became one after the Treaty was ratified.
More than any human being Jack was responsible for the nature, content, and form of the Treaty and for its acceptance by the Senate. He had insisted from the beginning that we consistently seek the advice on a bipartisan basis of the Foreign Relations Committee. He was the one who insisted that it be a collective defense arrangement as authorized by the U.N. Charter. He was determined, although in deference to the Senate he was very careful about saying so, that it be a binding military alliance with real teeth. He was convinced, and
succeeded in convincing many others, that World War III could best be avoided by convincing the Russians, in advance, that any armed attack on any country in Western Europe would bring in the might of the United States "including the industrial might of Pittsburgh and Detroit," as he said, "immediately."
Jack also insisted that we not waste time arguing about a preamble until the rest of the treaty was finished. "No applesauce until we finish with the meat and potatoes." and he insisted that the whole Treaty be short, simple, and flexible, permitting maximum freedom for evolution, development, and response to unforeseeable circumstances. And early on he read a newspaper correspondent's comment that treaties should be drafted in language that the Omaha milkman could understand. Whenever anyone proposed any complicated language
Jack would remind him of that Omaha milkman, who thus became the spiritual stylist of the Treaty. It was a one-man Hickerson treaty.
Article 5 was the guts of the treaty, the "go to war" article and naturally it was the most intensively scrutinized and argued over, both in the Working Group and within the Foreign Relations Committee. It began with Article 3 of the Rio Treaty as a model. It read in part:
The high contracting parties agree that an armed attack by any state against an American state, should be considered as an attack against all the American states, and, consequently, each one of the said contracting parties undertakes to assist in meeting the attack in the exercise of the inherent right of individual or collectively for self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations.
The Omaha milkman promptly threw out the "High Contracting" since "Parties" alone was just as good. I have recounted George Kennan's contribution to provide for "winning the war"
rather than "meeting the attack."
In the beginning the draft Article 5 read:
The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America should be considered an attack against them all. And consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as may be necessary to restore and maintain security of the North Atlantic area.
There we ran into trouble with the Foreign Relations Committee. "Does this mean war?" "Is it constitutional?" "Don't forget that only Congress can declare war."
We were working primarily with Arthur Vandenberg, then Chairman, and Fran Wilcox, Chief of Staff of the Committee, although we met informally a number of times with the other members. Certainly Vandenberg and Wilcox did
not object to a strong treaty, but they constantly had in mind the need to get the approval of two-thirds of the Senate. It was Vandenberg who suggested replacing the words "such action as may be necessary," by "such action as it deems necessary." This would not only give the U.S. full freedom of action, but enable Congress to decide whether or not war was necessary.
The Committee was happy, the Europeans were not. To them this took the heart out of the binding commitment to go to war which they so badly wanted from us. We argued for days, that it still provided that we must regard an attack on any of them an attack on us, and act accordingly, and that we could be counted on to be reasonable as to what action we deemed necessary. They were not convinced. What if them were a prolonged debate
in Congress? Could we do anything quickly? Might not our eventual action be too late? Did not this greatly weaken the deterrent of making clear to the Russians that we would go to war immediately? We had to admit that their fears had considerable justification. On the other hand, as we reiterated constantly, there would be no U.S. commitment of any kind unless the Senate accepted the treaty. Eventually we agreed to insert the word "forthwith," making the sentence read, "by taking forthwith such action as it deems necessary." Also inserting "including the use of armed force." This was acceptable to the Committee and to the Europeans although they were not overly enthusiastic. With agreement on this the critical point reached, the final language, therefore, read:
The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or
North America should be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Chapter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
Thus the treaty would be activated by any armed attack "in Europe or North America," but that required somewhat more precision. How about ships, aircraft, island possessions, occupation forces in West Germany or Berlin?
Article 6 spelled this out:
For the purpose of Article 5 an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France, on the occupation forces of any Party in Europe, on the islands under the jurisdiction of any Party of the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer or on the vessels or aircraft in this area of any of the Parties.
The French made an effort to have the treaty cover all of their colonial possessions including Indo-China. The Foreign Relations Committee was insistent that we not get into the question of going to war to uphold colonialism. The British, the Belgians and Dutch understood, and left the French alone. The latter insisted that the three northern departments of Algeria were constitutionally part of metropolitan France, and dropped the fight when we agreed to include them.
The article covers islands, ships and aircraft in the North Atlantic area, rather than the North Atlantic Ocean, thus covering the Western Mediterranean and Malta. I picked the Tropic of Cancer running between Florida and Cuba as a convenient southern boundary to avoid complication with "the good neighborhood." That limitation has
often been criticized by the Allied Supreme Commander, Atlantic, in preventing the use of NATO forces south of that line.
This did create a serious problem during the Cuban missile crisis when Britain objected to the use of NATO naval forces near Cuba. I have always maintained that there was nothing in the Treaty to prevent their being used south of the Tropic. They were merely not under its protection south of it, and whether or not they were sunk there or anywhere else outside of the Treaty area was a political matter with decisions by governments having naval forces assigned to NATO, in the light of circumstances at any given time. As far as I know our Government has never given a definitive position on this point, but I gather that SACLANT and the