Bohlen files, lot 74 D 349, “PSB Meetings 1953”

No. 562
Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Smith) to the Acting Director of the Psychological Strategy Board (Morgan)1

top secret


  • Comments by Department of State on the Draft Outline of Plan for Psychological Exploitation of Stalin’s Death2


  • NSC Action 728, para b (3)3
The following are the preliminary comments of the Department of State on the reference paper which was prepared by an ad hoc PSB Working Party.
With respect to the “Plan for Psychological Operations” outlined in Part II, Section 1c and 1d and Section 2, the Department understands that operations are now being carried out along these lines and believes that the agencies concerned should continue to operate along these general lines. Paragraphs 2a(3), 2a(7), and 2a(11) should be reconsidered with a view to determining whether these tasks should be undertaken covertly and might be contra-productive if undertaken overtly.
With respect to Part I, Assumption 3a, it should be noted that these and other relevant policy papers are now under review by the NSC and that in the course of this review changes in policy with respect to specific countries and areas may be made to which psychological operations would have to be adjusted.
With respect to Assumption 3b, the Department believes that the assumption is correct. It does not follow, however, that the best way to exploit Stalin’s death at this time is by an aggressive heightening of cold war pressures, especially in the field of covert propaganda. Indeed, increased pressures at this time will probably tend to assist the new regime to consolidate its position and might thus prevent the later emergence of opportunities which could be exploited.
With respect to Assumption 3d, the Department does not believe that a major Presidential speech along the lines indicated would be an advantageous move at this time, and that indeed it might well be contra-productive. The Department has the following specific comments:
There should be thorough prior consultation with our major allies, particularly the U.K. and France. Without such consultation and agreement on the purposes to be pursued in such a meeting of Foreign Ministers, the Soviet regime might be able to use the meeting to create divisive tendencies.
The Department has seen a draft of the proposed speech which would commit the United States in advance to lay specific and concrete proposals before the meeting of Foreign Ministers on a wide range of subjects. The preparation of such proposals and consultation with our allies would require several months. In any event, the U.S. should not commit itself to make such proposals before it has formulated these proposals. To do otherwise might result in serious embarrassment to the President. If there are overriding reasons outside the field of foreign affairs for a Presidential speech at this time, the Department strongly recommends that the speech should not propose a meeting of Foreign Ministers or commit us to make specific proposals for the relaxation of international tensions.
The Department believes that any speech of this kind will almost certainly delay progress on EDC.
With respect to Part I, Section 4, the Department is in general agreement with the estimate but believes that an additional point [Page 1113] should be added to the effect that the peoples of the Soviet Union are definitely not playing a major role in the present situation. The Department also believes that paragraph b(3) overstates the degree to which the role of the military has increased.
With respect to Part I, Section 5b (“Aims”), the Department believes that efforts to pursue all of these aims simultaneously would tend to be self-defeating. Once the main direction of our effort has been established, it will be possible to develop a psychological plan to support this main effort.
With respect to Part III, the Department believes that a sharp heightening of cold war pressures at this time would not be advantageous as a means of exploiting Stalin’s death. The Department further believes that Part III should be dropped for the time being. As decisions along the lines suggested or along other lines are taken, psychological plans can be revised and adjusted in order to take advantage of these decisions.4
  1. Drafted by Robert W. Tufts of the Policy Planning Staff.
  2. The “Draft Outline” is not printed. The final version of the plan, reviewed and revised by the PSB on Mar. 19, was circulated as PSB D–40, Apr. 23. (PSB files, lot 62 D 333, “PSB Documents”)
  3. See footnote 6, Document 550.
  4. In a four-page memorandum to C. D. Jackson on Mar. 10, Tufts outlined in some detail his dissatisfaction with the “Draft Outline” printed here. Tufts circulated his memorandum to Jackson to Matthews and Nitze under cover of a memorandum of Mar. 10 that reads in part as follows:

    “Over last weekend I worked at the PSB headquarters on an ad hocPSB Working Party to develop a ‘crash’ plan for the psychological exploitation of Stalin’s death, having been directed to do so by Mr. C. D. Jackson, Special Assistant to the President.

    “In the course of this effort I had a long discussion with Mr. C. D. Jackson in which I tried to develop the reasons why, although I thought the U.S. Government should fully exploit any opportunities afforded by Stalin’s death, I did not think the plans being discussed were wise. My major point was that a psychological plan should be developed to support the main effort of the U.S. Government, whatever that might be, and that it was difficult to devise a satisfactory psychological plan until the direction and nature of this main effort were known.

    “The attached memorandum is an effort to develop the underlying rationale for my position, for I did not feel sure that I had succeeded in clearly developing this in my discussion with Mr. Jackson.” (761.13/3–1053)