State–JCS Meetings, lot 61 D 417

Memorandum of the Substance of Discussion at a Department of State–Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting1


top secret

. . . . . . .

Korea—Show of Force

General Bradley: Another question which is on our minds is whether there is anything we could do to hasten the conclusion of the armistice. We have been considering, for example, a show of force by the navy in the Formosa–Hainan area, or flights along the coast, perhaps with B–29’s. Do you think that action of this kind might stimulate the communists to conclude the armistice?

Mr. Nitze: What are we doing about reconnaissance?

General Vandenberg: The Air Force is doing some reconnaissance but not within China. What we would like to do is to bring some B–29’s in toward Shanghai where they have large radar installations and to have the flight veer off about 15 miles away and fly down the coast.

Mr. Bohlen: We have to look at the reactions in two areas. In general I think the reaction in the free world would be poor. Right now, for instance, the House of Commons is criticizing Mr. Churchill and Mr. Eden on the ground that the United States has decided to fight China. Anything that feeds that reaction is poor. On the other hand the reaction by the communists might be good except insofar as the reaction in the free world was poor and counteracted the immediate impact on the communists. These things tend to offset one another.

Admiral Fechteler: It may have been coincidence but the Egyptian thing cooled down when the U.K. announced it was increasing its Mediterranean fleet.

Mr. Matthews: The important development in Egypt was the realization by the ruling circles that the result of the action there was endangering their lives and property.

[Page 40]

Mr. Nitze: I think that flights over China would affect the communists. They are the people whom we want to affect and they would know about it.

Mr. Bohlen: I think that is right. A show of force might boomerang but reconnaissance might have a beneficial effect. If necessary we could deny it and still have the desired influence on the communists.

General Vandenberg: Let’s not rule out the possibility that our planes may be shot down. I don’t like to go over China except for good reasons.

General Bradley: How much of a chance do you take?

General Vandenberg: Well, not too much, but when one sees the extreme reactions that we get when we don’t in fact go over China, I think we should consider carefully the possibility that one of our planes might get shot down. I think we would get all the advantages by having an approach to Shanghai of the kind I suggested.

General Bradley: It would be possible to deny the mission that General Vandenberg describes but we would not be able to deny a shot-down plane.

Admiral Fechteler: I must admit that I get terribly impatient about our concern for the British reactions.

Mr. Bohlen: It is a democratic country that we are dealing with and we cannot keep these things from coming up. In any event I think the communists place more importance on things that are done secretly.

General Bradley: It is not the reaction of the British which concerns us but the effect of the discussions in the Commons. Those discussions might cancel out any good effects we had on the communists.

General Hull: I admit there is a problem in the U.K. and other countries, but I wonder how long we can keep on pulling our punches if we are going to succeed in this contest with the Russians.

General Bradley: I suggest that we think this one over and discuss it again next week. We would like to do something, if possible, to hasten the conclusion of the armistice. Another possibility would be to use the Air Force in a heavy strike on the front lines with napalm. The difficulty with such an action is that the communists aren’t concentrated.

. . . . . . .

  1. A note on the title page read: “State draft. Not cleared with any of the participants.” Of the Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Fechteler and Generals Bradley and Vandenberg attended, as well as Vice Chief of Staff General Hull. Matthews headed the State Department group and Nash attended for the Department of Defense. Altogether, 18 persons were present. Matters other than Korea were discussed at this meeting, which was one of a continuing series of meetings held on a regular basis.