Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file

Memorandum of Discussion at the 174th Meeting of the National Security Council, Thursday, December 10, 19531

top secret
eyes only

Present at the 174th Council meeting were the President of the United States, presiding; the Secretary of State; the Secretary of Defense; the Acting Director, Foreign Operations Administration; the Director, Office of Defense Mobilization. The Vice President did not attend because of his absence from the country. Also present were the Secretary of the Treasury; the Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission; the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Director of Central Intelligence; Frank C. Nash, Assistant Secretary of Defense; Gen. Porter, Foreign Operations Administration; the Assistant to the President; Robert Cutler, Special Assistant to the President; C. D. Jackson, Special Assistant to the President; the Deputy Assistant to the President (for Items 1, 2 and 3); Maurice Arth, Foreign Operations Administration (for Item 5); the Acting White House Staff [Page 1654] Secretary; the Acting Executive Secretary, NSC; and the Coordinator, NSC Planning Board Assistants.

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

[Here follows discussion on item 1. “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security.”]

2. The Bermuda Conference2

Secretary Dulles stated that since he had already spoken to the Cabinet generally about the Bermuda Conference, he would confine his remarks this morning to matters of special concern to the National Security Council. The first of these matters was the attitude of the British and French to our suggestions with regard to normalizing the use of atomic weapons. Secretary Dulles said that both the British and the French exhibited very stubborn resistance to any idea of the automatic use of atomic weapons, even in the case of a Communist renewal of hostilities in Korea.

The President interrupted to say that he had explained our proposed intentions and courses of action in the event that the Communists broke the truce in Korea, along the lines which he and the Secretary of State had indicated at the last NSC meeting. Sir Winston Churchill, however, had opposed the use of atomic weapons even in Korea and adjacent areas, unless such a course of action were agreed to by our UN allies in advance.

Secretary Dulles pointed out Sir Winston’s conviction that if the United States took the initiative in the use of such weapons there would be a world-wide revulsion which to Secretary Dulles indicated that our thinking on the atomic weapon was several years in advance of the rest of the free world. Sir Winston had also indicated the very great anxiety of the British people lest, on account of their exposed position, they would suffer if the Soviets retaliated against our use of atomic weapons by attacking the population centers of the British Isles. Secretary Dulles emphasized that no final conclusions had been reached in his discussions of this subject with Churchill and Bidault, but he pointed out that the United States had not renounced its right to use atomic weapons if war were forced upon us by the Soviets.

The President then stated that there was a short sequel to the conversations on the subject which Secretary Dulles had just described. In his last talk with the President, Sir Winston had indicated greater concern that no announcement of our proposed use of atomic weapons should be made, rather than such great concern over their actual use by the [Page 1655] United States. Sir Winston had related this concern about an announcement of our intention to the President’s forthcoming speech to the UN,3 which he felt would appear incompatible with any announced intention to use atomic weapons. The gist of Sir Winston’s view, said the President, was let us plan to use these weapons if necessity arose, but let us not talk about these plans. In the circumstances, therefore, the President stated that the best follow-up of the Bermuda discussions of atomic weapons would be discussions between the U.S. and the British Chiefs of Staff. The President also admitted that Sir Winston seemed to have a point as to the psychological disadvantages of a contrast between the President’s UN speech and an announcement of intention by the United States to resort to the use of these weapons. The President said that he felt that the small nations of the free world had been greatly bucked up by his speech, and he did not wish, if he could avoid it, to let them down.

[Here follows discussion of issues other than Korea at the Conference and items 3. “The NATO Ministers Meeting,” 4. “United States Policies and Courses of Action to Counter Soviet or Satellite Action Against Berlin,” 5. “United States Position With Respect to Germany,” 6. “United States Objectives and Courses of Action With Respect to Latin America,” 7. “U.S. Assistance to NATO Allies,” and 8. “NSC Status of Projects.”]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Drafted by Gleason on Dec. 11.
  2. President Eisenhower, British Prime Minister Churchill, and French Prime Minister Laniel and their respective Foreign Ministers, Dulles, Eden, and Bidault, met at Bermuda, Dec. 4–8, 1953. Korea was a topic at these talks. For relevant documentation, see vol. v, Part 2, pp. 1710 ff.
  3. The reference was to Eisenhower’s address to the UN General Assembly on the peaceful uses of atomic energy, Dec. 8, 1953. For text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953, pp. 813–822.