PPS Files, Lot 64 D 563

Memorandum for the Record of State-Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting Held in the Pentagon Building, January 24, 1951, 11 a. m.1

top secret


  • General Bradley2
  • General Collins3
  • Admiral Sherman4
  • General Twining5
  • Admiral Duncan6
  • General Bolte7
  • General Landon8
  • Admiral Davis9
  • Admiral Wooldridge10
  • General Maddocks11
  • Admiral Robbins12
  • General Rogers13
  • Admiral Lalor14
  • Colonel Cress
  • Colonel Ladue
  • Ambassador Jessup15
  • Mr. Matthews16
  • Mr. Nitze17
  • Mr. Tufts18
  • Mr. Marshall19
  • Mr. Lay
  • Mr. Gleason

[Page 34]

Method of Approaching the Review Called For by NSC 68/4

1. The group decided to take up certain questions (see para. 2) of over-all political-military strategy at this first meeting and to take up specific major areas of the world at subsequent meetings. In the light of these discussions and the guidance thereby provided, joint staff work might be undertaken for the preparation of papers for the group’s consideration.

questions bearing on over-all political-military strategy

2. The group had before it the following questions:

  • “(1) If general war comes within the next five years, would our prospects be better if it broke out early, midway, or late in this period?
  • “(2) In light of the foregoing and of domestic and foreign political considerations, how important is it to avoid general war early, midway and late in this period? What are the circumstances which would require us to fight?
  • “(3) Since the decision to initiate war is not wholly within our control and may be taken at any time by the Kremlin, are there additional measures—including foreign political measures—which we should be taking to prepare for general war?
  • “(4) In view of the continuing danger that the Kremlin will exploit local situations to its advantage, how can we avoid both general war and a disastrous deterioration of our over-all position through a series of local defeats?
  • “(5) How can we best conduct ourselves in light of the importance of having allies and in light of the danger that the U.S. may be restrained or committed by its alliance or by its participation in international institutions in a manner contrary to its interests?
  • “(6) How can the U.S., if possible, take the offensive or best prepare to take the offensive to undermine the Soviet system by means short of war?
  • “(7) How do we apply the general principles and general considerations developed in the foregoing discussion to the concrete problems which face us?”

discussion of factors bearing on over-all political-military strategy

3. Precise answers to the above questions cannot be obtained without considerable discussion of the over-all factors bearing on our political-military strategy and of the specific problems we confront, area by area.

4. With reference to the time factor (see para. 2, Questions 1 and 2), the Joint Chiefs of Staff made the following points:

The capabilities of the Army and the Air Force will greatly improve in 18 to 24 months, largely because substantial and steadily increasing quantities of equipment will begin to flow off the production lines in about 12 months.
The Soviet Union has the capability of overrunning Western Europe at any time during the next two or three years. Thereafter, this Soviet capability will decline relative to Western defense capabilities until in perhaps five years—depending on the rate and scale of Western European defense efforts—we could be fairly confident of defending Western Europe against a Soviet attack.
A key factor in our evaluation of future trends is the Soviet production of atomic bombs. General Collins is somewhat skeptical of Russia’s ability to translate a laboratory bomb into a mass production bomb and feels that there is a need for intensive efforts to obtain better information on Soviet atomic capabilities.
Our ability to defend the United States against air attack is steadily improving, but, in view of the nature of modern weapons, the chances of a successful attack probably increase more rapidly than the capabilities for defending the United States against an attack.
In general, from a military point of view, time is on our side, and our prospects for victory in the event war comes are steadily improving. The critical period, in terms of relative military strength, is the period of the next two or three years. If war comes during this period, though we would probably not lose it, we would have a difficult time winning it.

5. The State representatives felt that time is also on our side politically. The realization that Western Europe can be overrun is directly related to the tendency of certain Western European countries, notably France, to take a “soft” attitude towards the Soviet Union.

6. With reference to our relations with our Allies (see para. 2, Question 5), the following points were brought out:

Some of our Allies believe that the United States is divided on the importance of avoiding war in the period immediately ahead.
In some Allied quarters there is a view that the U.S. is moving towards actions, particularly in the Far East, which would greatly increase the danger of war. Although it should be evident that the U.S. desires to avoid war, it might be helpful in our relations with our Allies to make clear to them our evaluation that time is on our side.
Ambassador Jessup pointed out, with reference to the position of the U.N. on such problems as Korea and the condemnation of Communist China as an aggressor, that the real problem for the United States is not our position vis-à-vis the U.N. but the working out of common policies with the British, the French, and other members of the U.N.
General Bradley indicated that it is difficult to educate the U.S. public on the importance of having Allies and of reaching agreement with them on policy problems without informing the Soviet Union of our plans and without putting ourselves in a poor bargaining position with our Allies. General Collins felt that this underlines the need for and importance of a coordinated program of public information and psychological warfare.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff felt that it is very important to have reliable Allies. Admiral Sherman suggested that it might help to clarify the problems of our relations with our Allies were we to identify our allies. The list is longer than NATO—which excludes, for example, Germany, Japan, and Turkey—and shorter than UN. Ambassador Jessup thought it might be useful to divide the list of Allies into two parts:
those nations which are already firmly allied with us and
those potential Allies with which it is still necessary to work out the necessary arrangements.

7. With reference to the problem of halting Soviet expansion (see para. 2, Question 4), the following points were brought out:

It is important to draw a line somewhere against further local acts of aggression, even though time is working in our favor.
The problem of deterring local acts of aggression has been increased, Admiral Sherman and General Collins felt, by the fact that the United States, under the pressure of the U.N. and its Allies, has indicated that it will not retaliate against China for its aggression in Korea. Therefore, the Soviet Union and its satellites can undertake further acts of aggression with more confidence that they will escape retaliation than if we had not given these indications and had kept them guessing whether we would retaliate.
. . .

8. The discussion of political warfare (see para. 2, Question 6) brought out the following points:

The purpose of political warfare, Mr. Nitze indicated, is to exploit all possibilities for creating breaks and increasing tensions between Russia and the satellites and for developing “mushiness” within China and, if possible, in other areas.
General Collins emphasized the importance of leading from strength in the conduct of political warfare and felt that we would have to be somewhat circumspect for perhaps 18 to 24 months while our power position is relatively unfavorable. Mr. Nitze suggested that we can initiate strong political offensives when we have the strength to react locally. Admiral Sherman felt that it is important to undertake [Page 37] political warfare activities in the countries which are in danger of falling into or being taken into the Soviet camp, such as Iran.22 General Collins pointed out that we are doing a good deal in Iran militarily but that we are not doing enough politically and economically, as, for example, by using our influence to obtain a satisfactory agreement between the AIOC and Iran.

Next Meeting

9. The group decided to meet Tuesday, 30 January 1951, at 1500 to discuss the Far East.

  1. This meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and representatives of the Department of State was the first of a series held throughout the year, generally on a weekly basis. The purpose of the conferences was to exchange information and opinions rather than to achieve agreement on the various issues discussed. Records of these meetings, 1951–1953, are in Lot 64 D 563, the files of the Policy Planning Staff, 1947–1953; records for the period 1951–1959 are in Lot 61 D 417, the files of the State–JCS Meetings, retired by the Executive Secretariat of the Department of State.
  2. General of the Army Omar N. Bradley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  3. General J. Lawton Collins, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army.
  4. Admiral Forrest P. Sherman, Chief of Naval Operations.
  5. General Nathan F. Twining, Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force.
  6. Vice Admiral Donald B. Duncan, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Operations).
  7. Lieutenant General C. L. Bolté, Assistant Chief of Staff, GS-3, Operations, U.S. Army.
  8. Major General Truman H. Landon, Director of Plans, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, U.S. Air Force.
  9. Rear Admiral Arthur C. Davis, Director of the Joint Staff, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  10. Rear Admiral Edmund T. Wooldridge, Representative of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the Senior Staff, NSC.
  11. Major General Ray T. Maddocks, Army Member of the Joint Strategic Survey Committee, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  12. Rear Admiral Thomas H. Robbins, Jr., Navy Member of the Joint Strategic Survey Committee, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  13. Major General Elmer J. Rogers, Jr., Air Force Member of the Joint Strategic Survey Committee, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  14. Rear Admiral William G. Lalor, U.S. Navy (ret.), Secretary, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  15. Philip C. Jessup, Ambassador at Large; Representative of the Department of State on the Senior Staff of the National Security Council.
  16. H. Freeman Matthews, Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.
  17. Paul H. Nitze, Director of the Policy Planning Staff, Department of State.
  18. Robert W. Tufts, Member of the Policy Planning Staff.
  19. Charles Burton Marshall, Member of the Policy Planning Staff.
  20. Documentation on United States policy with respect to Iran is presented in volume v.