Policy Planning Staff Files

Memorandum by the Secretary of Defense (Forrestal) to the National Security Council

top secret

Subject: The Position of the United States with Respect to Soviet-Directed World Communism.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have studied NSC 7, a report by the National Security Council staff on “The Position of the United States with Respect to Soviet-Directed World Communism”, and have submitted their views with respect thereto to me. In order to give every member of the Council the maximum opportunity to study these views before the paper comes up for final consideration by the Council, I am, not delaying their transmittal pending my own study thereof.

The views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are as follows:

They are in general agreement with the analysis contained in this paper, particularly as to the critical nature of the world situation and the necessity for a United States policy directed toward preservation of our national security.

Their comment follows on those conclusions in the report which have military implications. (The conclusions in each case are reproduced for ready reference.)

9. The defeat of the forces of Soviet-directed world communism is vital to the security of the United States.

10. This objective cannot be achieved by a defensive policy.

[Page 562]

11. The United States should therefore take the lead in organizing a world-wide counter-offensive aimed at mobilizing and strengthening our own and anti-communist forces in the non-Soviet world, and at undermining the strength of the communist forces in the Soviet world.

These conclusions are concurred in. It is assumed that they are to be construed in a general sense, with reference to general attitude and objectives, and not as having implications literally involving military action of consequence at this time, since appropriate readiness is an essential prerequisite to such action.

12. As immediate steps in the counter-offensive, the united States should take the following measures:

12. a. (1) Strengthen promptly the military establishment of the United States by:

Initiation of some form of compulsory military service.
Reconstitution of the armaments industry.

12. a. (4) To the extent necessary to implement (1) above, initiate civilian and industrial mobilization.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff fully agree with the intent of these conclusions. From the military viewpoint they regard the proposed measures not so much as “immediate steps in the counter-offensive” as steps in arriving at appropriate military readiness in light of the obviously worsening world situation.

They believe that measures that should now be taken should provide not only for increased military manpower (not limited to present peacetime strength) but also for increased appropriations necessary for strengthening our National Military Establishment. With respect to the proposed initiation of civilian and industrial mobilization they believe, from the military point of view, that because of the inherent and quite possibly critical length of time required for legislative action, the necessary statutory authorizations should be sought now for civilian and industrial readiness, such authorizations to correspond to those found essential during World War II and to be invoked as and to the extent required.

If political considerations should result in determination that this step is not now practicable, every possible effort should be devoted now to advance planning directed toward reduction to a minimum of the time lag between decision and action when legislative steps of this nature do become politically expedient.

In essence, the basic objectives should be that measures taken now for strengthening promptly the National Military Establishment should meet at least the requirements for effective emergency action, and that, to every practicable extent, provision should be made for extending the scope of such measures to all-out war effort without avoidable delay.

[Page 563]

12. a. (2) Maintain overwhelming united States superiority in atomic weapons. (In the event of international agreement on the control of atomic weapons this conclusion should be reconsidered.)

This conclusion is concurred in.

12. b. (1) In our counter-offensive efforts, give first priority to Western Europe. This should not preclude appropriate efforts in the case of other countries of Europe and the Middle East, which are immediately threatened by world communism and where loss of freedom would most seriously threaten our national security.

This conclusion is concurred in

12. b. (4) Work out an appropriate formula which will provide for:

Military action by the United States in the event of unprovoked armed attack against the nations in the Western Union or against other selected non-communist nations.
Initiation of political and military conversations with such nations with a view to coordination of anti-communist efforts.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff do not disagree with the intent of the conclusion in subparagraph (a) above. From the military viewpoint, however, they must point out the extreme importance to our national security of keeping our military capabilities abreast of our military commitments. Thus, effective implementation of the conclusion in subparagraph (a) above would be impracticable if “unprovoked armed attack” should occur while our military capabilities are inadequate. Therefore, this conclusion, if approved, will make it more than ever essential to accomplish at once at least the degree of military strengthening set forth in comment on conclusions 12 a (1) and 12 a (4) above.

With reference to conclusion in subparagraph (b) above, the general intent is concurred in. Military conversations should, of course, not antedate political decisions and commitments, and should remain within the scope of such commitments and decisions.

12. b. (5) Assist in building up the military potential of selected non-Communist nations by the provision of machine tools to rehabilitate their arms industries, technical information to facilitate standardization of arms, and by furnishing to the extent practicable military equipment and technical advice.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff are unable to subscribe fully to this conclusion. They believe that machine tools should be supplied only when their exportation does not interfere with our own needs and that due consideration should be given to the possibility that the Soviets may easily capture armament plants in certain locations.

12. b. (10) Develop, and at the appropriate time carry out, a coordinated program to support underground resistance movements in countries behind the iron curtain, including the USSR.

[Page 564]

With reference to military equipment implications that might be embraced in this conclusion, the provision of such equipment would necessarily be subject to availabilities and priorities with respect to our own direct military requirements and those included in authorized aid programs.

12. b. (12) Make unmistakably clear to the Kremlin at an opportune time, and in an appropriate manner, United States determination to resist Soviet and Soviet-directed communist aggression so as to avoid the possibility of an “accidental” war through Soviet miscalculation of how far the Western Powers might be pushed.

Because of the ambiguity of the phrases “unmistakably clear”, “opportune time” and “appropriate manner”, there is considerable doubt as to how it may be intended to implement this conclusion. Possible interpretations are so broad, however, that the Joint Chiefs of Staff must again point out the danger that would be involved in commitment to a policy inappropriate to military strength. That is, they believe there should be due recognition of the possibility (one with historical precedent) that we ourselves may miscalculate how far we may go in opposition to the USSR, particularly opposition unaccompanied by appropriate readiness, without causing the Soviets to determine that immediate initiation of open warfare is, from their viewpoint, mandatory.

James Forrestal