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Harold Wilson, Lyndon B. Johnson and Anglo-American relations ‘at the summit’, 1964–68
Author: Jonathan Colman

This book is based mainly on government sources, namely material from the White House, State Department, Foreign Office (FO), Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Prime Minister's Office (PREM) and Cabinet (CAB). Private papers consulted include those of Harold Wilson, Foreign Secretary George Brown and Undersecretary of State George Ball. The book explores a period of the Wilson-Johnson relationship. It considers the seven weeks from Wilson's election until he went to see Lyndon B. Johnson on 7-9 December, a formative period in which Britain cultivated American financial support and which saw pre-summit diplomacy over the NATO Multilateral Force (MLF). The book covers the summit in detail, examining the diplomatic exchanges over the Vietnam War, the British commitment East of Suez and the MLF, as well as the interplay of personality between Wilson and Johnson. By exploring the relationship of the two leaders in the years 1964-1968, it seeks to examine their respective attitudes to the Anglo-American relationship. The book then assesses the significance of an alleged Anglo-American strategic-economic 'deal', Wilson's 'Commonwealth Peace Mission' to Vietnam, and another Wilson visit to Washington. It also considers why the personal relationship between Johnson and Wilson suffered such strain when the Labour government 'dissociated' the UK from the latest American measures in Vietnam. Next, the book addresses the period from August 1966-September 1967, during which Wilson launched an intense but abortive effort to initiate peace negotiations over Vietnam, and London announced plans to withdraw from military bases East of Suez.

Open Access (free)
Jonathan Colman

. More and more ‘influential Americans have come to believe that Britain has been claiming influence out of proportion to its power’. 14 New, documentary based interpretations of the Anglo-American relationship underlining the unifying impact of culture and sentiment are less common than those emphasising shared political interests, periodic crises and frequent compromise – what Alex Danchev calls the

in A ‘special relationship’?
Jonathan Colman

go-ahead to investigate the possibility of peace negotiations with North Vietnam. In these months, then, Wilson was notably compliant with American wishes and willing to tolerate poor treatment from Washington. A ‘close’ or ‘special’ Anglo-American relationship remained of great importance to him, both personally and as a means of trying to magnify Britain’s influence in the world. Wilson’s telephone call to Washington, 11

in A ‘special relationship’?
Jonathan Colman

indeed about Anglo-American relationships’. 37 Johnson vetoed Bundy’s efforts to try to force the British to commit troops to Vietnam. After a talk with the Cabinet Secretary, Burke Trend, on 2 August, Bundy told the President that ‘In accordance with your instructions I kept the two subjects of the pound sterling and Vietnam completely separate’. 38 Bundy’s account to Johnson on 10 September of Ball’s talk with Wilson also indicates the

in A ‘special relationship’?
Jonathan Colman

in foreign commitments meant that there was no real interest in providing help, and by now the Americans had grown confident that they might be able to handle the impact of devaluation. Johnson and his colleagues accepted with good grace the modest 15 per cent devaluation of sterling on 18 November, realising that Wilson had fought the prospect as long as possible. Devaluation did not then put a great strain on the Anglo-American

in A ‘special relationship’?
Jonathan Colman

actions in Vietnam would strain the Anglo-American relationship. As early as 30 December 1965, Patrick Dean told Paul Gore-Booth, Permanent Under Secretary of the Foreign Office, that Averell Harriman, Washington’s Ambassador-at-Large, and Dean Rusk had indicated that ‘if HMG were to maintain their influence with the President it was most important that there should be no statements of “dissociation” from American policy’. In

in A ‘special relationship’?
Open Access (free)
Harold Wilson and Lyndon B. Johnson: a ‘special relationship’?
Jonathan Colman

This work has examined the question of Harold Wilson, Lyndon B. Johnson and Anglo-American relations ‘at the summit’, 1964–68. By exploring the mutual dealings of the two leaders, it seeks to examine their respective attitudes to the Anglo-American relationship and to one another; how they approached the matters of mutual interest and the extent to which their personal relationship was in any sense a

in A ‘special relationship’?
Open Access (free)
Janet Beer and Bridget Bennett

twentieth century and the United States, seemingly, has been out of kilter with the international mood. For a period it seemed as if the special relationship had foundered. The events of 11 September 2001 have changed all that. At the time of writing, the revived and newly strengthened Anglo-American relationship is being redrawn as the Blair government continues to play an active 2 Janet Beer and Bridget Bennett role in support of President Bush’s call for an international response to terrorism. The special relationship appears to have re-emerged with a new agenda

in Special relationships
Jonathan Colman

, combined with Wilson’s personal disenchantment with the White House, made this period a transitional one in the Anglo-American relationship. A ‘hell of a situation’: the phase A–phase B affair George Brown, the new British Foreign Secretary, was in Moscow in November 1966, when Januscz Lewandowski, the Polish representative of the International Control Commission, was involved in a

in A ‘special relationship’?
Jonathan Colman

strengthen the Anglo-American relationship, Wilson affirmed Britain’s intention to retain its traditional position as a world power. The second main topic of the Wilson–Johnson summit concerned the war in South Vietnam, with Johnson requesting a British troop presence, to support the anti-communist effort of the United States. As there was no constituency in Britain for committing troops, and because he wanted to reserve the option

in A ‘special relationship’?