Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file

No. 73
Memorandum of Discussion at the 134th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, February 25, 1953 1

top secret
eyes only

Present at the 134th 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; and the Director for Mutual Security. Also present were the Secretary of the Treasury; the Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission (for Item 3 only); General Vandenberg for the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army (for Items 1, 2 and 3 only); the Acting Director of Central Intelligence; the Assistant to the President; the Administrative Assistant to the President for National Security Matters; the Special Assistant to the President for Cold War Operations; the Military Liaison Officer; the Executive Secretary, NSC; and the Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC.

There follows a general account of the main positions taken and the chief points made at this meeting.

[Here follow a comment by the President on the receipt of a message from Argentine President Perón and discussion of significant world developments affecting United States security.]

2. Proposal for a Volunteer Freedom Corps (NSC 143;2 Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated February 24, 19533)

After Mr. Cutler had explained the two reports on this item, he informed the Council that recent soundings on the Hill indicated that members of the House were much more favorably inclined to a Volunteer Freedom Corps than they had been previously to such proposals. There was still worry, however, over the provision that U.S. citizenship might be granted to members of the Corps after a certain term of service. Opinion in the Senate had always been stronger in support of this proposal.

[Page 190]

The President inquired the views of the Department of Defense as to the probable morale and efficiency of such a corps as was envisaged in NSC 143.

In response, General Collins noted that morale in the existing labor battalions, made up of refugees from behind the Iron Curtain, was good. He thought morale in a Volunteer Freedom Corps would also remain good if the members of the Corps were not stationed too far from home. If they were sent to Korea there might be some difficulty.

Mr. Cutler informed the Council of the State Department’s anxiety as to the effect on our international relations of a proposal which involved recruiting of potential members of this Corps in certain nations which would be sensitive to the Soviet reaction, notably France.

The President replied that in this instance he did not see why we could not adopt a policy quite on our own. The French showed no hesitation, he noted, in recruiting Germans for the French Foreign Legion. He went on to say that if the individuals who composed the Corps could be charged against the immigration quotas of the country of their origin, the United States would benefit by the reception of some very good citizens.

Secretary Dulles said that there was another point to bear in mind in considering this proposal. We are already short in our deliveries of certain items of military equipment to our allies abroad. If we subtract any more in order to arm the proposed Freedom Corps, we might expect an unpleasant reaction from our allies.

The President seemed not greatly impressed by this argument, and pointed out that the Freedom Corps would be armed with United States equipment; that they would cost much less to maintain than United States troops, and that there were great advantages if ultimately they could be trained and armed to replace United States forces in Korea.

General Collins pointed out that if it was proposed to pay these troops less than American soldiers were paid and that they were nevertheless sent to Korea, there was the probability of a real morale problem.

The President thought, nevertheless, that with respect to past proposals under the Lodge Act4 and the Kersten Amendment,5 the various qualifications and restrictions which were placed by the United States on the type of individuals to be recruited had been [Page 191] far too stringent. The standards we insisted upon were much too high.

Mr. Stassen reminded the Council that the MSA had certain funds which could be used for implementing the proposal for a Volunteer Freedom Corps if the project was approved. It seemed to him that the logical action for the Council to take was to approve NSC 143 in principle and refer the report to an ad hoc committee to work out the details. Thereafter a modest beginning could be made on the basis that these forces would be of the ranger type and would be sent to Korea. While lacking many items of heavy military equipment of conventional U.S. standards for its own forces, there was plenty of light equipment with which to arm ranger forces.

Secretary Wilson raised the question as to whether the proposed Volunteer Freedom Corps would fight under the American flag and whether the Freedom Corps would go into action as a separate unit or be interspersed with U.S. or UN units.

It was the general view that it made little difference whether these forces fought under the U.S. or the UN flag, and the President stated that the United States Army should be left to decide the issue of their assignment to U.S. units or being kept separate.

The President expressed approval of Mr. Stassen’s proposed Council action on this report, and stated his belief that a high-ranking and retired officer, such as General Crittenberger, would be the logical individual to head the proposed ad hoc committee. He again expressed his belief that the Council should get moving on this project.

Secretary Dulles raised the question as to whether NSC approval in principle of NSC 143 would bind the ad hoc committee to start its work with the preconception that the proposal was approved and feasible.

This did not seem to be the opinion of the Council, and Mr. Lay suggested that the phraseology of the Council action should run “Approval in principle subject to review by the Council of the ad hoc committee’s report.”

General Collins said that he had one last point to raise. It was not clear to him now, as it had not been in the past, whether the individuals composing such a corps would bear allegiance to the United States. He felt that the ad hoc committee should study this point carefully and look up the law on it.

The President seemed less concerned about this point than General Collins, and confined himself to stating that obviously the troops within the corps would be obliged to take the enlistment oath and obey military orders.

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The National Security Council:

Approved in principle the proposal in NSC 143, but agreed that all aspects of the proposal should be studied for feasibility in the light of a detailed plan for its effectuation to be prepared by an ad hoc committee, such detailed plan to be submitted to the Council for further consideration. The ad hoc committee is to be composed of representatives of the Departments of State and Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Acting Director of the Psychological Strategy Board, and chaired by a retired high-ranking Army General.

[Here follows discussion concerning armaments and American policy and basic national security policies.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Prepared by Gleason on Feb. 26.
  2. Document 70.
  3. No memorandum dated Feb. 24 on this subject has been found in Department of State files; reference is possibly to a memorandum by Lay, Feb. 23, which transmitted to the NSC a Department of Defense proposal for the implementation of NSC 143. (S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, NSC 143 Series)
  4. Alien Enlistment Act of 1950,P.L. 81–597 (64 Stat. 316), June 30, 1950.
  5. Section 101 (a)(1) of the Mutual Security Act of 1951, P.L. 82–165 (65 Stat. 373), Oct. 10, 1951.