The attached questions and answers relating to the President’s announcement
of January 31, regarding work on the so-called hydrogen bomb, have been
prepared by the Department of State with the assistance of the Department of
Defense and the Atomic Energy Commission.
This material is not intended for publication or attribution. It is intended
solely for the background and guidance of principal Departmental officers
and of our Missions abroad. The answers set the limit within which comment
may be made in response to questions. The officers concerned would be
instructed that no further comment is to be made without specific
authorization of the President. The [Page 525] Department believes that this background information is necessary in
order to establish the limits of comment and to channel otherwise
uncontrolled public discussion at home and abroad along lines most favorable
to the achievement of U.S. foreign policy objectives.
The Atomic Energy Commission has concurred informally in the questions and
answers, and in the view that they should be made available as described
The Department of Defense considers that any further information beyond that
contained in the President’s announcement of January 31 would serve no
useful purpose at this time. It agrees, however, that if a decision is made
that it is necessary to provide background information, these questions and
answers are satisfactory.
This material is submitted for the President’s approval in accordance with
the third paragraph of his decision of January 31 regarding work on the
Questions and Answers Prepared in the Department of
[Washington,] February 8, 1950.
1. Does scientific evidence make it appear likely that hydrogen bombs can
The hydrogen bomb is theoretically possible. The principles
underlying it have been known to scientists here and abroad for a
number of years. There have been many papers published as to the
scientific possibility of such a weapon in the last ten or twelve
2. What is the cost of the program?
A definite answer cannot be given, but it appears that some of the
press estimates are exaggerated.
3. How long would it take to produce one?
To answer this question would not be compatible with national
4. Would our possession of this weapon make a foregone conclusion that it
would be used in case of war?
No. The decision as to use would be made at the proper time in the
light of all relevant considerations.
5. Is the President’s announcement regarding the hydrogen bomb likely to
cause any change in Soviet policies?
We should like to believe that all nations genuinely desirous of
peace will recognize the increased urgency of coming to agreements
that will tend to relieve international tension.
6. Do we know whether the Russians are working on the hydrogen bomb?
We have no reason to doubt that they are working on all types of
7. Do we know how advanced the Russians are in the development of the
It would not be compatible with our national security to give out any
information on this subject at this time.
8. Do we know whether the Russians have produced a hydrogen bomb?
9. Is there a danger that the hydrogen bomb could pollute the earth’s
atmosphere to a dangerous extent?
10. Will the British and Canadians work with us in the development of the
11. What will be the effect of our development of this weapon on the
possibility of war?
We hope that it will prove a deterrent to war. We shall continue to
do everything in our power to prevent war, including faithful
observance of the letter and spirit of the U.N. Charter. There is,
of course, always the possibility of war, but we do not believe that
it is inevitable.
The purpose of our security program as a whole is to maintain
reasonable preparedness in order to deter aggression and thus insure
conditions under which we and the other free nations can develop our
economic and social well-being and contribute to international peace
12. Will our development of this weapon cause any change in our policy
toward the international control of atomic energy?
The plan approved by the United Nations for the international control
of atomic energy and the prohibition of atomic weapons is the only
plan developed that is considered would be effective, but we are
prepared to explore carefully and with good will any other proposals
which give promise of being equally or more effective and workable.
Meanwhile, and unless and until a better plan is devised, we shall
continue to support the U.N. plan which has the approval of the vast
majority of the United Nations. We continue to believe that
unilateral action on our part to restrict our capabilities will not
serve [Page 527] as a deterrent to
war, and we hold that any proposals which do not provide for
effective controls are illusory.
13. In the light of the President’s announcement, should we make a new
approach to the Russians, direct or through the United Nations, in an
effort to secure agreement for the international control of atomic
We have never ceased to try to reach agreement with the U.S.S.R. on
the problem of international control, and we are prepared, with
other interested nations, to explore carefully and with good will
any proposals from any source consonant with effective and
14. Would the U.N. plan for the international control of atomic energy,
if established, cover the hydrogen bomb?
Yes. The U.K. plan, if established, would apply to both atomic and
15. Will our work on the hydrogen bomb cause any serious reduction in our
program looking to the development of atomic energy for peaceful
16. If we develop this weapon, could we cut back our military
expenditures in other directions?
No. No security program can rely on any single weapon.
17. Were other than purely military considerations taken into account in
reaching the decision on the hydrogen bomb?
Yes. The decision was based on all the factors involved, which
obviously included moral, economic, and political, as well as