S/SNSC files, lot 66 D 148, “Misc. NSC Memos”

Memorandum by the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (Cutler) to the Secretary of State

top secret

1. While briefing the President yesterday in Denver about the Council meeting on August 27: (a) the President read again the report signed by the four new Joint Chiefs; (b) he then read my memo of 1 Sept. 53, entitled “August 27/53 NSC Meeting”, of which you have a copy; (c) I then gave him the substance of Stassen’s comments on these two papers, Stassen having read them on September 1 on his return from Europe; and (d) I lastly outlined to him the substance of the views which you expressed in your office to Bowie and me Tuesday night.1

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2. The President was much interested. In approving the Council Action, reading—“agreed to recommend to the President that the Secretary of State be authorized to explore from the point of view of foreign policy the possibility of adopting the concept set forth in this report,” He added, for the final version of the record of action the following words of his own: “This concept is a crystallized and clarified statement of this Administration’s understanding of our national security objectives since World War II.” He reiterated several times that the concept was not new; must and could not properly be thought of or mentioned as new.

Then he had me write down the following as he walked up and down the room:

“From the beginning, people who really studied foreign and military problems have considered that the stationing of American troops abroad was a temporary expedient.

“It was a stop-gap operation to bring confidence and security to our friends overseas, who were desperately exposed to Communist aggression.

“Any thinking individual, in the services or out, always understood that the basic purpose of so stationing American troops was to produce among our friends morale, confidence, economic and military strength, in order that they would be able to hold vital areas with indigenous troops until American help could arrive.

“This idea from the beginning placed a premium on

safety of the US from surprise and destructive attack,
existence of highly mobile forces,
comprehensive mobilization plans quickly to marshal our entire strength in support of our national security (ourselves and our friends).”

Then he went on that I was to add to the foregoing that this idea of the JCS must never be presented as a “new concept”—that it was a “reaffirmation and clarification of what he had always understood.”

3. I told him that you had similarly spoken to me on Tuesday night. When I told him the further views you had expressed at that meeting of the only way you now saw to work the matter out, he was extremely interested and reacted favorably. He said that, of course, our friends would have to understand our basic thinking at some time. He took to the dramatic idea which you stated and the reason you expressed for mentioning extreme secrecy.

4. In answer to a question, I said that I did not understand that you proposed now to hold diplomatic conversations with our allies [Page 457] about the matter, but only to explore ways and means with your own associates.

5. He said he would be interested to see you any time you would come out to Denver. Simply call up Tom Stephens and make a convenient time (Tom will be expecting a call). The President expects to be in Denver constantly until he comes East about the 17th or 18th. The sooner you see him, the better.

6. After he approved the Record of Action of the Council Meeting as above-noted, he indicated in reply to a question that he thought this return to our original thinking could and should be included in the Solarium Policy Paper, kept appropriately quiet and without attribution.

7. The new H-bomb development, which we discussed,2 was on his mind. Even before that, he had doubts he said about how much we should poke at the animal through the bars of the cage.

Robert Cutler
  1. Neither the report, the memorandum, nor any record of the substance of Stassen’s comments under reference has been found. For that portion of the memorandum of discussion at the 160th meeting of the NSC on Aug. 27, 1953 dealing with the report of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, see p. 444. Secretary Dulles’ appointment book indicates that Dulles, Bowie, and Cutler met at 6 p.m., Tuesday evening, Sept. 1, 1953. (Dulles papers, “Daily Appointments”)
  2. For documentation on the reaction of the Eisenhower administration to the detonation of a Soviet thermonuclear device in August 1953, see pp. 1185 ff.