Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file

No. 79
Memorandum of Discussion at the 145th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, May 20, 19531

top secret
eyes only

Present at the 145th meeting of the Council were the President of the United States, presiding; the Vice President of the United States; the Acting Secretary of State; the Secretary of Defense; and the Acting Director for Mutual Security. Also present were the Secretary of the Treasury; the Director of Defense Mobilization; the United States Representative to the United Nations; the Secretary of the Army; the Secretary of the Navy; the Secretary of the Air Force; Lt. Gen. Willis D. Crittenberger, USA (Ret.) (for item 2); the Director of Central Intelligence; the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army (for item 3); the Chief of Naval Operations (for item 3); General Twining for the Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force (for item 3); the Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps (for item 3); Robert Cutler, Special Assistant to the President; C.D. Jackson, Special Assistant to the President; Maj Gen. Clark L. Ruffner, USA (for item 2); Lt. Col. Edward Black, USA (for item 2); Col. Paul T. Carroll, Military Liaison Officer; the Executive Secretary, NSC; and the Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC.

There follows a summary of the discussion at the meeting and the chief points taken.

[Here follows a briefing to the Council by Allen Dulles on significant world developments affecting United States security, including the situation in Egypt and the recent serious decline in Anglo-American relations.]

[Page 214]

2. A Volunteer Freedom Corps (NSC 143 and NSC 143/1; NSC Action No. 724; Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated May 15, 19532)

General Crittenberger briefed the Council on the subject report (NSC 143/1) with particular reference to the costs of the project, to illustrate which he distributed charts to the members of the Council.

At the conclusion of General Crittenberger’s oral statement, the President said he was not clear as to whether the report recommended that the commanders of the battalions of the Volunteer Freedom Corps were to be in all cases Americans.

General Crittenberger answered that in most cases this would be the rule, although there could certainly be an exception to it if a very competent foreigner demonstrated a capacity for leadership which would warrant placing him in command of a battalion.

The President then inquired whether General Crittenberger’s committee envisaged the possibility of sending any of the battalions of the VFC for combat service in Korea.

General Crittenberger replied that if one or more of the battalions developed capabilities which would justify its despatch to Korea, there was no reason why this could not be done. He doubted, however, that this would be likely at an early date.

The President observed that the development might be hastened if the inducement of United States citizenship at the end of three years, instead of at the end of five, could be held out to members of the VFC who served in Korea.

Mr. Cutler then inquired of Ambassador Lodge his view of NSC 143/1.

Ambassador Lodge commenced by indicating that since the VFC was an instrumentality to be used in the cold war, its role would obviously have to be subordinated to the objectives of our foreign policy, and the State Department would have to control its use. With this limitation in mind, however, Ambassador Lodge believed that the VFC would be valuable to this Government in a number of ways. It would provide us with new intelligence material. It might prove very helpful in developing leadership against future contingencies in Eastern Europe. It was highly desirable also from the point of view of American public opinion, which erroneously believed that we were doing all the fighting in the Far East. Finally, [Page 215] there was no doubt in Ambassador Lodge’s mind that the creation of the VFC would be very disquieting to the Soviets. They found it painful in the extreme to contemplate any kind of defection, and it was highly desirable that their disquiet be increased.

The President noted that Soviet fear of defection was precisely what was causing them to take their present position regarding prisoners of war in Korea.

Mr. Jackson expressed complete agreement with the views of Ambassador Lodge, and added that, from the point of view of his own responsibility for cold war operations, the VFC would prove of great value. He warned, however, that announcement of the activation of the Corps and publicity about it needed to be most carefully worked out in advance, in order to avoid the misunderstanding attendant upon announcement of the Kersten Amendment earlier. It also seemed important to Mr. Jackson that as soon as possible a unit of the VFC be transferred outside of Germany where these forces would be trained. Otherwise the Russians were certain to argue that the United States was preparing battalions of ruffians to rape and ravage the satellite states.

It then became the turn of Secretary Smith to express his views on the VFC. Secretary Smith stated that he recognized all the advantages which creation of the Corps would confer, but he did wish to point out that there were disadvantages. He noted that it was going to cost some $71 million over a period of years to create the six battalions initially contemplated in the report. While this would be cheaper than the cost of an equivalent number of U.S. troops, there were other methods of raising forces in Europe which would be less costly. You could, for example, produce many more West German battalions if EDC was ratified, for what it would cost to produce six battalions of the VFC.

In response, the President pointed out that the raising of the West German military contingents was primarily the responsibility of the Bonn Government, and our role was merely to assist that Government in raising these troops. He did not think, therefore, that the VFC was incompatible with the regular German contingents, and we wanted both.

Secretary Smith then said that apart from the doubtful economy of the VFC, there were also elements of danger from a psychological point of view. The Soviets were certain to raise the issue of the VFC in the United Nations. Ambassador Lodge would have to handle that problem. But we should be prepared to face a barrage of Soviet propaganda to the effect that the members of the VFC were mere cannonfodder for the United States. The creation of the Corps would likewise cause another hassle with our allies. They will be frightened of the proposal, as they have lately become [Page 216] frightened of every other move we made. The VFC might conceivably have a bad effect on the prospects for ratification of the EDC. In conclusion, therefore, Secretary Smith stated that he felt obliged to point out that the VFC was not an unmixed blessing, either psychologically or economically.

General Bradley stated that the Joint Chiefs believed the proposal feasible if it were initiated on an austere basis. The effectiveness of the Corps would depend, however, on continued support, financial and otherwise, from the Congress. The principal value of the project, continued General Bradley, would be in the psychological field. General Bradley also expressed agreement with the doubts raised by Secretary Smith, and notably did not feel that it would be honest to attempt to sell the VFC to Secretary Humphrey on the basis of economy. General Bradley also spoke emphatically against any argument that battalions of the VFC should be looked upon as replacements for American battalions. Most American soldiers came home from their service in the Army better citizens than when they went.

Mr. Cutler reminded the Council that there was no idea that the VFC was to replace a like number of U.S. soldiers, but that it was designed to augment American military manpower.

Secretary Wilson also expressed the opinion that the factor of economy in the creation of the VFC was less important than other advantages that it would confer. He believed that the kind of individuals that would be recruited in Germany for the Corps would in the future become useful American citizens. He believed that it might even be wise to allow them to transfer from the VFC into our own armed forces, and after serving in the latter for five years, be given the reward of U.S. citizenship. According to Secretary Wilson, such an arrangement would confer on the United States the benefit of a five-year period of service, and would enable the Defense Department to avoid drafting a certain number of American citizens for military service, with all the disruptions in their normal life that such service involved.

All these factors seemed more important to Secretary Wilson than the savings in money.

Secretary Humphrey also agreed that in the first phase, at least, of the VFC there was no financial problem, since the outlay would be very small and the number of battalions only six. If the VFC developed into a larger undertaking, we would have to take a new look at the financial aspects.

Ambassador Lodge interposed to express his strong conviction that there was no substitute for military service for our own young men. VFC, in his view, was an augmentation of our military manpower and not a substitute.

[Page 217]

Reverting to the question of difference in pay between the VFC and our own troops, the President expressed the conviction that it was perfectly possible to create an effective VFC even though its members were paid less than American troops. We had had excellent results with such forces as the Philippine Scouts, whose pay was less than that of our own armed forces. The President stated his agreement with Secretary Wilson’s point that we were trying to make this group worthy of U.S. citizenship.

The President went on to warn of the dangers of leaks about the VFC prior to its activation. No one should talk of the subject until we were ready to lay our plans for creating this force before the Congress. It was a very touchy subject.

The Vice President informed the Council that he anticipated no difficulty in selling the idea of the VFC to the Congress. They would love it, and would be ready to buy the proposal as soon as the Executive branch was ready to offer it.

Secretary Smith expressed the opinion that leaks were more likely to come when we reached the point of discussing the proposed Corps with our allies.

General Collins, speaking as Chief of Staff of the Army, noted his support of the project and particularly his agreement with Ambassador Lodge’s position that we must not look upon the VFC as a substitute for military service by our own young men.

The President quickly replied that he had never had any such idea in mind. This was a very modest beginning for something which might grow and develop, and he again warned of the need for careful and correct handling from this point on, in order to ensure that no false impressions were broadcast as to the purposes of the Volunteer Freedom Corps.

The National Security Council:

Discussed the subject in the light of an oral briefing by General Crittenberger and comments by Ambassador Lodge.
Adopted the draft statement of policy on the subject contained in NSC 143/1, subject to the insertion of the words “commanded by United States officers and” at the end of the first line of sub-paragraph 3–e thereof.
Noted the President’s desire that General Crittenberger, with the aid of Major General Clark L. Ruffner, should continue to assist in the development of this project until such time as the Volunteer Freedom Corps is ready to be activated.
Noted the President’s desire that the Department of State expedite action under paragraph 4 of the draft statement of policy in NSC 143/1.
Noted the President’s directive that there be no public disclosure or discussion of this project until such time as it is officially announced.

[Page 218]

Note: The statement of policy in NSC 143/1, as approved by the President, subsequently circulated as NSC 143/2 and transmitted to the Secretaries of State and Defense for implementation.

[Here follows discussion concerning possible courses of action in Korea and negotiations with Spain.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Prepared by Gleason on May 23.
  2. NSC 143, Document 70; NSC 143/1, “A Volunteer Freedom Corps,” May 5, became, subject to the textual change specified in NSC 143/2, infra; NSC Action No. 724 was the directive contained in the NSC memorandum of discussion, Document 73; Lay’s memorandum of May 15 transmitted to the NSC the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on NSC 143/1. (S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, NSC 143 Series)