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.
In the years 1964–68, the Labour
government of Harold Wilson coincided with the Democratic presidency of
LyndonB. Johnson. David Bruce, US Ambassador to London 1961–69,
regarded the relationship between Wilson and Johnson as an especially
interesting one, because ‘seldom if ever have two heads of state been
such long-time master politicians in the domestic sense as those
two’. 1 Many writers have
Harold Wilson and Lyndon B. Johnson: a ‘special relationship’?
This work has examined the question of
Harold Wilson, LyndonB. 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
For accounts of the MLF see Philip Geyelin,
LyndonB. Johnson and the World (London: Pall Mall, 1966 ), pp. 159–80; Helga Haftendorn, NATO and
the Nuclear Revolution: A Crisis of Credibility (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1996 ), pp. 115–23ff; Donette Murray,
Kennedy, Macmillan and Nuclear Weapons (Basingstoke: Macmillan,
2000 ), pp. 122–43; and John D. Steinbruner
NARA, Subject-Numeric 1964–66, POL 7 UK,
Visits and Meetings 11.1.64, ‘Tentative Arrangements for Visit of
PM Wilson’, 25 November 1964; VHS, Diary of David K. E. Bruce, MSS
5:1B8303:50, entry for 7 December 1964.
Quoted in Philip Geyelin, LyndonB. Johnson and
USGPO, 1998), p. 658.
LyndonB. Johnson, The Vantage Point:
Perspectives on the Presidency (New York: Holt, Rinehart and
Winston, 1971 ), p. 252.
NARA, Subject-Numeric 1967–69, POL 27–14
Viet/Sunflower 2.21.67, 2.21.67, ‘Sunflower
Alec Cairncross, The Wilson Years: A Treasury
Diary (London: Historians’ Press, 1997 ),
p. 244, entry for 13 November 1967.
LyndonB. Johnson, The Vantage Point:
Perspectives on the Presidency 1963–1969 (New York: Holt,
Rinehart and Winston, 1971 ), p. 316. On
structure. For the American response see Schwartz, Lyndon Johnson and
Europe , pp. 92–140; H. W. Brands, The Wages of Globalism:
LyndonB. Johnson and the Limits of American Power (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1995), pp. 85–121.
Wilson also wanted American support for economic
sanctions against Rhodesia, which had
In the months January–July 1966
there was particular strain in the relationship between Harold Wilson and
LyndonB. Johnson. The Labour government won the general election of 31
March with a comfortable majority of ninety-four, but this margin of victory
gave rise to a vigorous ‘New Left’ within the Labour Party which
would bedevil Wilson’s commitment to Washington. To placate this
From January to April 1965 the character of the Harold Wilson-Lyndon B. Johnson relationship traversed the spectrum from discord to cordiality. Discord erupted over the Vietnam War when Wilson telephoned Washington in the early hours of 11 February to suggest to Johnson an urgent visit to the White House. Wilson agreed to the US initiative, even though the visit might have caused a political storm in Britain had it become public knowledge - it would appear that the United States was dictating British economic measures. Wilson noted that unlike the December summit and the telephone conversation in February, Johnson did not make 'any suggestion of our committing troops to Vietnam nor even any reference to police, medical teams, or teams to handle the flow of refugees'. On 10 April, Patrick Dean advised that to help strengthen the Anglo-American relationship, Britain should provide more support for the United States in Vietnam.