Document: Minister for External
Affairs Percy Spender's account of his meeting with President Harry
S. Truman, 13 September 1950
Source [link within this page]:
Sir Percy Spender, Exercises in Diplomacy:
The ANZUS Treaty and the Colombo Plan (Sydney, Sydney University
Press, 1969), pp. 40-41.
Spender pressed the Australian case for a security agreement
with the United States in meetings with American officials in Washington
and New York in September-October 1950. Although they warned him of
the difficulties involved in achieving an agreement, they also gave
some encouragement. Spender was especially heartened by his meeting
with President Truman.
When I paid my call upon the President of the
United States he greeted me warmly and expressed the great goodwill
we enjoyed with the American people.
My purpose was to enlist President Truman's sympathy and, I hoped,
his support. I started off, as soon as an opening presented itself,
by drawing attention to the fact that although Australia in two world
wars and within the United Nations and in Korea, had shown her readiness
to discharge its international responsibilities, and would without doubt
continue to do so in the future, there existed no organized political
body, certainly none to which Australia was a party, for determining
global strategy. I pointed out the iso¬lation and vulnerability
of Australia in the Pacific while at the same time emphasizing her strategic
importance in the whole area of the western Pacific as had been proved
during the recent war. I said that Australia was entitled to a voice
in determining the course of events in this area. I hoped that through
some regional security arrangement, with a reproduction in substance
of Article 5 of the Atlantic Treaty, it would prove possible for her
to play some part in framing global strategy.
The point, I reiterated more than once, was that since Australian lives
would be involved in any world war, should one break out, we were entitled
to a fair say in the determination of the events upon which war, or
no war, might depend and to protect ourselves from aggression in that
part of the world. I said I could see no reason why some arrangement
could not be made in the Pacific under which an attack on one of an
agreed number of nations would be regarded as an attack upon all, as
was provided for under the Atlantic Pact. I said, however, that any
such pact, unless the U.S.A. was a party to it, would be meaningless.
I told him quite frankly of my failure within the Commonwealth to make
any headway with the idea.
The President heard me through. I recall apologizing for taking up
so much of his time on what was after all a formal call, but he invited
me to go ahead and not to hurry.
When I had finished he said that he had much sympathy with the views
that I had expressed, and spoke of the admiration he had for the Australian
soldier, of whom he had had some experience in World War I. He spoke
also of our ready response in Korea. Australians were reliable friends
in good weather and bad. However he could do no more than say that he
would ask the Secretary of State to have his officers give careful consideration
to my views. I might then, he added, with a smile, get a less discouraging
response from the State Department to what I had grown accustomed to
I have no means of knowing what, if anything, the President did. Of
one thing, however, I was confident: the President would never have
given me any ground for hope, as he did, unless he intended to do something,
if only to indicate that my views should be sym¬pathetically considered.
He was not the kind of man to mislead anyone, he was what used to be
called in the early days of his country `a straight shooter'. I do know
that, when I left his room, for the first time I felt that I had found
someone outside Australia who thought the ideas I was canvassing had
some merit. It is my conviction that the talk with Truman was crucial
to the events which followed.