Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file

Memorandum of Discussion at the 190th Meeting of the National Security Council, Thursday, March 25, 1954 1


top secret
eyes only

Present at the 190th Meeting of the Council were the President of the United States, presiding; the Vice President of the United States; the Secretary of State; the Secretary of Defense; the Director, Foreign Operations Administration; the Acting Director, Office of Defense Mobilization. Also present were the Secretary of the Treasury; the Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Acting Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission (for Item 5); Mr. Slezak for the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Acting Secretary of the Air Force (for Items 3, 4 and 5); the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force, and the Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps (for Items 3, 4 and 5); the Director of Central Intelligence; Mr. Cutler and Mr. Jackson, Special Assistants to the President; the Deputy Assistant to the President; Mr. Robert R. Bowie, Department of State; Brig. Gen. Barksdale Hamlett, Department of Defense; the Executive Secretary, NSC; and the Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC.

Following is a summary of the discussion at the meeting and the chief points taken.

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[Page 638]

4. Continental Defense: Report on the Seaward Extensions and Contiguous Radar (NSC 5408; NSC Action No. 966–f; Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, subject: “Continental Defense: Report on the Seaward Extensions”, dated March 24, 1954)2

The National Security Council: 3

Noted the memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (enclosure to the reference memorandum) on current operational plans for the seaward extensions of the Southern Canadian early warning system and the contiguous radar coverage; and the Department of Defense will continue to review these programs in relation to the Soviet threat and the possibilities of improvements therein.

5. United States Objectives in the Event of General War With the Soviet Bloc (NSC 5410; Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated March 22, 1954)4

Mr. Cutler reminded the Council of the problem which the Planning Board believed its present report on war objectives would serve. It met the need to provide the military with a general basis on which to develop war plans, and it also provided guidance for the prosecution of the cold war by the psychological warfare planners. Mr. Cutler pointed out that the previous statement of U.S. war objectives had been written back in 1948 and that the many changes, notably in the development of atomic weapons, since that time required reconsideration of this policy.

Mr. Cutler then referred to the split views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with respect to this paper. One position had been taken by the Chairman of the JCS, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Mr. Cutler briefly summarized this view. A different position had been taken by the Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of Staff of the Army. Mr. Cutler also summarized this position. He then suggested that, before hearing [Page 639] the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he understood that the Secretary of State wished to comment on the paper.

Secretary Dulles said that he had a general observation to make. It seemed to him a danger that the present paper, which was supposed to develop U.S. objectives in a war against the Soviet bloc, was becoming confused with the question of ways and means of achieving such objectives. Was this paper actually designed to produce a review of the previous decisions of the NSC with respect to basic security policy and strategy?

Mr. Cutler said that this was not the intention of the Planning Board, and that the paper had no other purpose than to replace the old annex to NSC 162/2,5 which set forth U.S. objectives in the event that a war was forced upon us by the Soviet Union. In that case, replied Secretary Dulles, the State Department was prepared to accept the paper as it stood.

After reading the first eight paragraphs of the draft in order to clarify the nature of the problem and the purpose of the paper, Mr. Cutler invited Admiral Radford to comment on the split views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Admiral Radford said that the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and he felt that the present draft provided adequate guidance with respect to planning for the contingency envisaged. Admiral Carney and General Ridgway, however, believed that the paper suffered from two very serious deficiencies. The first of these, said Admiral Radford, related to paragraph 3,6 which Admiral Carney and General Ridgway desired to revise in order to define more precisely the degree to which measures necessary to achieve victory over the Soviet bloc should be carried out. Quoting from the portions of the memorandum which set forth the views of Admiral Carney and General Ridgway, Admiral Radford indicated their fear that full exploitation of our nuclear capability might inflict such chaos and destruction and suffering in the Soviet Union as had not been known in Europe since the end of the Thirty Years War. Indeed, in the circumstances it was impossible to visualize how the United States could cope with the victory it might achieve over the Soviets, or how it might hope to establish a workable occupational regime. In sum, any proposed assault upon the capabilities of the USSR to wage war ought to be evaluated in terms both of its possible [Page 640] contribution to victory and in the light of the limiting factors discussed above.

As for himself, Admiral Radford felt that the views of Admiral Carney and General Ridgway should not have been directed to a paper dealing with U.S. objectives in the event of war with the Soviet Union, but instead should have been directed toward current basic national security policy as set forth in NSC 162/2. The changes proposed by Admiral Carney and General Ridgway were in fact introduced in order to effect a change in our basic military planning and strategy, and it confused the issue to criticize the war objectives paper.

The second major area of disagreement by General Ridgway and Admiral Carney occurred in paragraph 9–f.7 As presently written, they believed (and Admiral Radford again quoted from the JCS memorandum) that political planning should not be delayed until the outbreak of war, but should instead be initiated as far in advance as possible. It was further necessary to point up the necessity for determining in greater detail and more precisely how the United States and its allies intend to enforce the terms of peace and to exercise physical control over the Soviet bloc. After quoting these views, Admiral Radford expressed his own opinion that it was impractical to attempt detailed advance planning with respect to political warfare and the post-hostilities settlement.

At the conclusion of Admiral Radford’s statement, the President, with considerable vehemence and conviction, expressed the opinion that the subjects that Admiral Radford had discussed came pretty close to the area of prerogatives of the Commander-in-Chief. He said he was speaking very frankly to the Council in expressing his absolute conviction that in view of the development of the new weapons of mass destruction, with the terrible significance which these involved, everything in any future war with the Soviet bloc would have to be subordinated to winning that war. This was the one thing which must constantly be borne in mind, and there was little else with respect to war objectives that needed to worry anyone very much. The President said that ten years ago he might very well have subscribed to the limitations and restrictions which the Chief of Staff of the Army and the Chief of Naval Operations now recommended with regard to the exploitation of our great [Page 641] atomic capabilities. But in the present situation it was impossible and impractical even to consider these suggestions. In illustration of his point, the President turned to paragraph 1 of the draft report, which read: “To achieve a victory which will ensure the survival of the United States as a free nation and the continuation of its free institutions in the post-war period.” This, said the President, he would change by putting a period after “victory” and deleting the rest of the paragraph, if not the rest of the paper. We can’t tell what we will do after we achieve a victory in what will be total and not in any sense limited warfare. Accordingly, he disagreed, said the President, with the limitations and qualifications suggested by the Planning Board, just as he disagreed with the restrictions and limitations suggested by General Ridgway and Admiral Carney in their comments on this report.

Again to illustrate his views, the President referred to the strike in the coal fields which had been called by John L. Lewis 8 at the end of 1942 or in the early part of 1943. That such a strike was possible in the midst of a terrible war was to be explained only by the fact that the United States was a free nation. We could never, however, tolerate such a development in any war we envisaged with the Soviet Union. Obviously we were desperately anxious to maintain our free institutions, and we were anxious to help our friends and allies abroad, but we were in no position to count on it or plan on it, in view of the catastrophic nature of the third world war if it should come. In such a war the United States would be applying a force so terrible that one simply could not be meticulous as to the methods by which the force was brought to bear. He could assure the Council, said the President, that with respect to any decision he might be obliged to make regarding a war plan, his decision would be based on his judgment of just how much such a war plan would hurt the enemy. For the time being, at least, no other considerations would be of significance. This, of course, did not mean that he would exclude from his judgment the question of how much harm or hurt the United States itself would suffer as a result of the methods chosen to prosecute the war. It was quite appropriate to keep this consideration in mind. The President concluded by admitting that his point of view might seem brutal, but in view of the fact that we would never enter the war except in retaliation against a heavy Soviet atomic attack, he simply could not conceive of any other course of action than the course of action which would hit the Russians where and how it would hurt most.

Mr. Cutler then raised the question as to whether the President and the other members of the Council believed that there was any [Page 642] value whatsoever in attempting to set forth U.S. objectives in the event of global war with the Soviet bloc. The paper was by no means hogwash. It had been most carefully worked over, not only as a basis for war planning, but as a guide to propaganda and cold war programs in the near future, as was indicated by paragraphs 6 and 89 and by paragraph 9–f, which set forth the principle of non-predetermination with respect to terms of surrender, border and territorial arrangements, and the forms of administration of government in enemy territory, the independence of national minorities, etc.

With respect to the paragraph dealing with post-war organization, the President expressed skepticism as to whether any nations as we now know them would continue to exist at the conclusion of this war, and whether we or any other nations would be in a position to create the post-war organization called for in this paragraph. The President said that, of course, his imagination as to the horrors of a third world war might be overdeveloped, but he believed that every single nation, including the United States, which entered into this war as a free nation would come out of it as a dictatorship. This would be the price of survival.

Secretary Humphrey pointed out that the present report said as much as this in paragraph 9–a, which called for the full mobilization of the moral, human and material resources of the United States.

Secretary Dulles expressed his agreement with the President’s doubt as the practicality of any discussion of the post-war organization. Its character would depend on the kind of world that existed when the war was over. It was accordingly utterly academic to discuss such a subject in this paper.

The President then stated that in spite of his own views, the present report might be very useful to Mr. Jackson and to Mr. Streibert for propaganda and cold war purposes. That was one thing, but of course quite different from providing a basis for war plans.

Mr. Cutler replied that a good example of the paper’s concern with the cold war was provided in paragraph 9–f, which stressed nonpredetermination with regard to the fate of the enemy territories [Page 643] as opposed to the call for unconditional surrender in the second world war. Mr. Cutler then asked Admiral Radford whether he believed the paper would be of any use to the war planners in the Pentagon.

Admiral Radford replied in the affirmative, but Mr. C.D. Jackson stated that he simply wouldn’t know what to do with the paper if it were sent to him as guidance for the cold war. It seemed to him “dream stuff, and there was no conceivable way of implementing it.

Secretary Humphrey pointed out that if paragraphs 6 and 8, dealing with the post-war situation and events subsequent to a U.S. victory, were deleted, the rest of the paper was self-contained and made good sense. The President expressed agreement with Secretary Humphrey’s suggestion, and Governor Stassen added that of course a point might come in the course of the war when victory for the United States and its allies would be in sight, at which time the objectives set forth in the paper might prove useful guidance.

Mr. Cutler proposed that the Council adopt the suggestion made by Secretary Humphrey, and the President expressed his tentative approval and indicated his willingness to talk to Admiral Carney and General Ridgway about their views, as expressed in the JCS memorandum, at any time they wished. It was pointed out that General Ridgway and Admiral Carney were present and prepared to discuss their views, but the President replied that there were also too many other people present on this occasion.

The National Security Council: 10

Discussed NSC 5410 in the light of the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff contained in the reference memorandum.
Adopted the statement of policy contained in NSC 5410 subject to the following changes:
Paragraph 1: Delete the words following “the United States”.
Paragraph 2: Insert the word “effective” before “allies”.
Delete paragraphs 6 and 8, and renumber the remaining paragraphs accordingly.
Paragraph 9–a: Insert the word “fully” after “mobilize”.
Paragraph 9–g: Renumber as paragraph 8, and reword the beginning as follows: “The United States should maintain after the …”
Noted that the President gave his tentative approval to the statement of policy as adopted by the Council, with the understanding that he is prepared to discuss this matter further with the Joint Chiefs of Staff if they so request.

[Page 644]

Note: NSC 5410, as amended and approved by the President, subsequently circulated as NSC 5410/1.

. . . . . . .

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Drafted by Deputy Executive Secretary Gleason on Mar. 26.
  2. For text of NSC 5408, Feb. 11, see p. 609. NSC Action No. 966–f was taken at the close of discussion on continental defense at the 172d meeting of the NSC, Nov. 23, 1953, and noted the “President’s request for an estimate by the Joint Chiefs of Staff of a reasonable patrolling program for the seaward extension of the Southern Canadian early warning system”. (S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) files, lot 66 D 95, “NSC Records of Action”) The memorandum for the NSC from Lay, Mar. 24, is not printed. It enclosed a memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in response to the President’s request of Nov. 23 and also to further requests and reports on this subject from both Lay (of Dec. 7, 1953) and the Joint Chiefs (Jan. 11, 1954). Copies of the JCS memorandum setting forth specific force goals and warning capabilities of the seaward extension of the Southern Canadian Early Warning System and Lay’s covering memorandum of Mar. 24 are in S/PNSC files, lot 62 D 1, “Continental Defense-Seaward Extension”.
  3. The following paragraph constitutes NSC Action No. 1076. (S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) files, lot 66 D 95, “NSC Records of Action”)
  4. NSC 5410 is not printed; NSC 5410/1, Mar. 29, is printed infra. Lay’s memorandum has not been found.
  5. For text of NSC 162/2, including the two-page annex entitled “U.S. Objectives Vis-à-vis the USSR in the Event of War”, see p. 577.
  6. Paragraph 3 of the draft statement on “U.S. Objectives in the Event of General War With the Soviet Bloc”, prepared by the NSC Planning Board on Feb. 19, and designated NSC 5410, reads: “To reduce by military and other measures the capabilities of the USSR to the point where it has lost its will or ability to wage war against the United States and its allies.”
  7. Paragraph 9–f of the draft statement reads: “While avoiding premature decisions or commitments, commence formulation of, and keep under continual review, plans arrangements, the forms or administration of government in enemy territory, independence for national minorities, and the degree of post-war responsibility to be assumed by the United States in readjusting the inevitable political, economic and social dislocations resulting from the war, and the expert U.S. influence at every opportunity during the war to shape political and other developments in ways favorable to U.S. post-war objectives.”
  8. John L. Lewis, President of the United Mine Workers.
  9. Paragraphs 6 and 8 of the draft statement read:

    • “6. To insure that postwar regimes in the former enemy territories will not follow totalitarian and aggressive policies and practices that would threaten the security and freedom of other peoples.”
    • “8. To facilitate postwar development of an international organization composed of the United States and friendly nations (and ultimately a world organization) which will have sufficient power and authority to enforce a just, peaceful and secure international order.”

  10. Paragraphs a–c constitute NSC Action No. 1077. (S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) files, lot 66 D 95, “NSC Records of Action”)