Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file

Memorandum of Discussion at a Special Meeting of the National Security Council on Tuesday, March 31, 19531

top secret
eyes only

On Tuesday, March 31, 1953, the National Security Council met informally with the Civilian Consultants designated by NSC Action No. 726-c,2 for the purpose of obtaining the reactions of the Civilian Consultants to the preliminary views of the Council members regarding basic national security policies and programs in relation to their costs, pursuant to NSC Action No. 730-a.3

[Page 826]

Present at the meeting were the President of the United States, presiding; the Vice President of the United States; the Secretary of State; the Secretary of the Treasury; the Secretary of Defense; the Director for Mutual Security; the Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Director of Central Intelligence; the Acting Director of Defense Mobilization; the Federal Civil Defense Administrator; the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission; the Deputy Secretary of Defense; the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Comptroller); the Special Assistant to the President (for FCDA presentation only); the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; the Special Assistant to the President for Atomic Energy Affairs; the Executive Secretary, NSC; and the Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC. The Civilian Consultants present were as follows: Messrs. Dillon Anderson, James B. Black, John Cowles, Eugene Holman, Deane W. Malott, David B. Robertson, and Charles A. Thomas.

[Here follow summaries of briefings by members of the Council and Consultants on the issues involved in reducing government expenditures consonant with national security.]

The President then spoke his mind on the Korean problem. If, he said, we decide to go up to the strength which will be necessary to achieve a sound tactical victory in Korea—for example, to get to the waist—the Russians will very quickly realize what we are doing. They would respond by increasing the Communist strength in Korea, and, as a result, we would be forced ultimately into a situation very close to general mobilization in order to get such a victory in Korea. General Bradley expressed agreement with the President’s thesis.

The President then raised the question of the use of atomic weapons in the Korean war. Admittedly, he said, there were not many good tactical targets, but he felt it would be worth the cost if, through use of atomic weapons, we could (1) achieve a substantial victory over the Communist forces and (2) get to a line at the waist of Korea.

Secretary Dulles expressed the thought that it might now be possible to achieve an armistice in Korea on the basis that the previous Administration has sought in vain. Addressing his question to Mr. Robertson, Secretary Dulles asked if in the circumstances we should accept such an armistice.

Mr. Robertson avoided an explicit answer, but expressed the general belief of the group of Consultants that the American people would welcome an armistice on this basis.

Mr. Cutler then asked the Consultants if they were prepared to answer the question whether we should try for a massive victory in [Page 827] Korea if it turned out that the Communists dragged out their current proposals for perhaps a period of three months and no real armistice was in prospect.

Mr. Robertson expressed the opinion that the American people would, under the circumstances, support an all-out effort in Korea.

[Here follows discussion of the Mutual Security Program and the view of the Consultants that it should be drastically cut. Other topics were raised and then Malott brought up the question of “public hysteria with respect to atomic weapons and the danger of atomic attack.” For text of the memorandum of discussion at this meeting, see the compilation on national security policy in volume II.]

Mr. Malott argues that he nevertheless believed that we ought to use a couple of atomic weapons in Korea.

The President replied that perhaps we should, but we could not blind ourselves to the effects of such a move on our allies, which would be very serious since they feel that they will be the battleground in an atomic war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the President and Secretary Dulles were in complete agreement that somehow or other the tabu which surrounds the use of atomic weapons would have to be destroyed. While Secretary Dulles admitted that in the present state of world opinion we could not use an A-bomb, we should make every effort now to dissipate this feeling,.…

[Here follow an informal presentation by Governor Stassen on cuts in MSA without prejudicing national security and the opinions of the other members of the Council and of the Civilian Consultants on Stassen’s program.]

S. Everett Gleason
Deputy Executive Secretary
  1. This memorandum was drafted by Deputy Executive Secretary of the NSC Gleason on Apr. 7.
  2. Not printed, but see footnote 3 p. 817.
  3. At the 135th meeting of the NSC on Mar. 4, 1953, the Council, in NSC Action No. 730-a: “Agreed that the initial visit to Washington of the [Civilian] Consultants for this subject [review of national security policies in relation to their costs] should be chiefly for briefing purposes, and they should be asked to return at a later date to give their reactions to the preliminary views of the Council members when more fully developed.” (S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) files, lot 66 D 95)