S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, NSC 170 Series

Memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (Wilson)

top secret


  • U.S. Courses of Action in Korea
Pursuant to decision of the National Security Council (NSC Action No. 949 d), 27 [29] October 1953, and your memorandum of 3 November 1953, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have reviewed the military measures considered by the National Security Council on 20 May 1953, (NSC Action No. 794), in connection with the various possible courses of action with respect to Korea outlined in NSC 147.1 In this latter action it was the sense of the National Security Council that, if conditions arise requiring more positive action in Korea, the course of action recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff should be adopted as a guide. This course of action which was furnished you by memorandum dated 19 May 1953, subject “Courses of Action in Connection with the Situation in Korea (Analysis)”,2 is repeated below:

“Extend and intensify military action against the enemy, to include air and naval operations directly against China and Manchuria, a coordinated offensive to seize a position generally at the waist of Korea and be prepared for further operations as required in order to: [Page 1627]

  • a. Destroy effective communist military power in Korea.
  • b. Reduce the enemy’s capability for further aggression in Korea and the Far East.
  • c. Increase possibility of enemy acceptance of an armistice on U.S.-U.N. terms.
  • d. Create conditions favorable for ROK forces to assume increasing responsibility for operations in Korea.”


It is the view of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the above course of action is no longer applicable to the existing situation in Korea. Salient factors necessitating a new course of action are as follows:

The previously recommended Course of Action envisaged a substantial augmentation of forces requiring a 9 to 12 months’ buildup period before offensive operations could be launched.
The Course of Action previously recommended was designed in part, to increase the possibility of enemy acceptance of an armistice on U.S.-U.N. terms. The situation now requires a reappraisal of national policy to adopt the following primary military objectives:
To destroy effective Communist military power applied to the Korean effort.
To render the enemy incapable of further aggression in Korea and the Far East.
To create conditions under which expanded ROK forces can assume full responsibility for the defense of Korea.
Create conditions which will lead to a unified, independent Korea, aligned with the West.

The achievement of the above objectives will permit redeployment of U.S. forces from Korea, thereby substantially improving the military posture of the United States to meet any eventuality, including that of general war.

In the event that Communists re-initiate hostilities in Korea, the best course of action which can be undertaken immediately to achieve primary U.S. military objectives is as follows:
Employing atomic weapons, conduct large-scale air operations against targets in China, Manchuria and Korea. Exploit such successes as may be gained by coordinated ground, air and naval action to destroy enemy forces in Korea.
Immediately consider what further military buildup is then required to meet resulting contingencies in Korea or elsewhere.
The action outlined in paragraph 3 a above is within the capability of U.S. forces and can be initiated immediately. Military planning is being finalized under the assumptions set forth in Appendix “B” hereto. The implementing tasks to accomplish the action in paragraph 3 a above are as indicated in Appendix “A”. Planning assumptions are contained in Appendix “B”.
In the event that the Communists do not re-initiate hostilities and we are confronted with a prolonged stalemate, the expansion and development [Page 1628] of the ROK ground forces to an effective 20-division Field Army will permit the redeployment of a substantial number of U.S. forces from Korea.
In compliance with the request of the National Security Council, the Special Assistant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for NSC Affairs has been provided with a copy of this review in order that coordination with the Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency may be effected for presentation to the NSC at its 3 December meeting.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Edwin H. J. Carns

Brigadier General, USA

Appendix “A”

Major Implementing Actions


Obtain now the necessary, Presidential authority to enable the immediate employment of nuclear weapons in sufficient quantity to insure success of the proposed course of action.

. . . . . . .

Expedite planning for offensive atomic air operations against:
Troop concentrations and military installations in Korea.
Those targets in Manchuria and North China which constitute an immediate threat to UNC military operations.
Those targets in Manchuria and China beyond the scope of those in a and b above.
Upon the outbreak of hostilities launch immediately a large-scale air offensive employing atomic weapons to destroy Chinese Communist forces and selected targets in China, Manchuria, and Korea.
Exploit enemy weaknesses resulting from success of the air offensive in order to destroy remaining enemy forces in Korea.
Initiate the necessary psychological, political, economic, and unconventional warfare measures in support of the military campaign.
Intensify guerrilla operations against Communist China.
Maintain the security of Japan, the Philippines, Formosa, and the Ryukyus, consistent with the need to provide for the over-all security of U.S. forces.

Appendix “B”

Planning Assumptions

Resumption of hostilities in Korea will be due to Communist action.
The broad mission of the UNC is to obtain a military victory.
Enemy forces in North Korea may have been augmented since 1 August 1953, especially air forces.
Combat effectiveness of ROK-U.S.-UNC Forces will be maintained.
ROK forces will remain under UNC.
Sufficient atomic weapons and suitable delivery means will be made available.
Provision for attacks on targets in the Dairen-Port Arthur area will be included in the plans. Specific approval by the Joint Chiefs of Staff will be required prior to implementation of such attacks.
  1. Dated Apr. 2, p. 839.
  2. Ante, p. 1059.