Bermuda, December 1953

In researching how Eisenhower got to his December 8, 1953 “Atoms for Peace” speech, I paid a little bit of heed to the five days he spent in Bermuda from the 5th, just prior to his United Nations address. Various historians or writers recount how the U.S. president pitched his upcoming speech to Winston Churchill and the French Prime Minister (very much a bit player). You can see the three of them sunning themselves in this screenshot of a famous photo. In the end, I didn’t need to mull over the proceedings because Eisenhower rode roughshod, at least on this issue, over the venerable (read: near over the hill) British Prime Minister. Eisenhower’s speech turned out to be, after all, his speech and his speech alone.

But until I hunted up this photograph today, what I hadn’t quite realised was that those five days in Bermuda had a wide-ranging agenda well beyond one future public speech. Topics included summitry, nuclear cooperation, Suez, Germany, the Soviet Union. The British and French leaders came to Bermuda as supplicants. Churchill had little interest in nuclear energy (his preoccupation, both parochial and global, concerned nuclear weapons) and Joseph Laniel had even less. It must have been a fascinating gathering – the list of nearly fifty “principal participants” includes, among the Americans, Dulles, C. D. Jackson, MacArthur, Bowie, and Strauss, and, among the British, Eden, Lindemann, and Brook.

And now you don’t even need to go to the archives in Washington, D.C. to obtain at least the American record of the events: an online collection of over two dozen minutes/papers is available here. You budding historians out there, go ahead and dive in!


Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954, Western European Security, Volume V, Part 2. “F. Bermuda Conference of the Heads of Government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, December 4-8, 1953.”