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July 11, 1960, 3 p.m.
The President telephoned from Newport about ticker reports that the Soviets have shot down our RB - 47,(1) missing since July 1, over the Bering Sea and have picked up two survivors. The President said he had been told this plane was 30 miles off the coast when it was last heard from.(2) The President said this may be true, but said he has gotten to the point where he doesn't trust them to the slightest degree. The President said they have two of our people and if these two people say maybe they were lost then we are in for it again. The President said if we can prove it was not over territorial waters when it was shot down, will we break relations or what do we do.
The Secretary said it was a very serious situation; that Mr. Gates was with him now and they had been going over this; that they were now in a briefing for the trip to Ottawa(3) but would resume discussion of the plane incident following that. The Secretary said we still do not have the actual note; all we have so far are ticker reports but we have our Code Room alerted to get us the text of the note the moment it is decoded.(4)
The President said he guessed we have the plot of the plane's course, but the President said he supposed our plot can be inaccurate. The President said he would be available to the Secretary except about 4:30 - 5:00 p.m. when he is going out on a ship. The Secretary said just as soon as we get the Soviet note, which will probably be after that time, we will get in touch with the President.
Source: Eisenhower Library, Herter Papers, Telephone Conversations. No classification marking. Drafted by "ms," presumably Marian S. Stilson, Secretary Herter's personal assistant. The President was in Newport, Rhode Island.
(2) Memoranda of telephone conversations between Goodpaster and Herter, July 11 at 12:55 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:15 p.m., and 2:30 p.m., indicated that Goodpaster was keeping the President fully informed on the plane incident as reports came in over the ticker. (Eisenhower Library, Herter Papers, Telephone Conversations). Back
(4) According to a memorandum of a telephone conversation with John Eisenhower on July 11 at 7 p.m., Herter still had not received the official text of the Soviet note. (Eisenhower Library, Herter Papers, Telephone Conversations) Presumably he had the official text by the next morning when the United States drafted the reply to the Soviet note. Regarding the texts of the July 11 Soviet note and the July 12 U.S. note, see Document 157. Back