The Chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy (McMahon) to the Secretary of State


Dear Mr. Secretary: For several years I have felt that the most devastating action, propaganda-wise, which the Soviets could take would consist in going before the United Nations—after appropriate fanfare and build-up—and declaring that they unilaterally pledge themselves never to be the first nation to use atomic weapons in war. I have deliberately avoided mentioning this thought to anyone, feeling that such a tactic on the part of the Soviets could be sufficiently dangerous to us that the matter should not be discussed for fear of its “leaking.”

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However, in recent months, it has come to my attention that several other people, out of contact with one another and in separate locations, have had the same thought and the same feeling of concern. No doubt the possibility has occurred to officials in your own Department and has been studied.

I would be grateful if you could let me know your Department’s thinking on how we might respond to such a Soviet move, insofar as planning in advance is feasible before the fact. It has crossed my mind that possibly our best reply would be to say that we unilaterally pledge ourselves not to be the first nation to use ground armies in war.

I would be grateful indeed for your comment on this matter.

Sincerely yours,

Brien McMahon