313. Memorandum of Discussion at the 272d Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, January 12, 19561

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and discussion of agenda items 1–2.]

3. ANTARCTICA (NSC 5424/1; NSC 5528;2 Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated January 10, 1956;3 Progress Report, dated January 11, 1956, by OCB on NSC 5424/14)

Mr. Anderson briefed the Council both on the contents of the proposed revised policy for Antarctica and on the analysis of the accompanying Progress Report on this policy. He then called on Commander Mansfield, USN,5 who, with the help of a map, explained to the National Security Council the various claims made to areas of Antarctica by the several nations, as well as other information germane to Council consideration of policy towards Antarctica.

Before the briefing was completed, the President informed Mr. Anderson that he was going too fast and that he, the President, wanted to ask a question. Who was the geophysical expert present for this discussion? When informed that Dr. Waterman, head of the National Science Foundation, was the expert in question, the President asked Dr. Waterman what we could hope to get out of making claims to certain areas of Antarctica in return for the expense which substantiating these claims would involve us in.

Dr. Waterman replied that very little was known at the present time with respect to the economic resources of Antarctica. Meteorological data, however, would prove very valuable. The President then suggested that even if mineral deposits were actually found in Antarctica, the cost of their extraction would make their value highly problematical. Dr. Waterman replied that it was hard to say, but that in any case it would be difficult to establish the value of such resources in the short period of activity which we would be engaged in during the International Geophysical Year. The President then called upon the Secretary of State to give his views as to the usefulness of the United States making a claim to various areas in Antarctica.

[Page 641]

Secretary Dulles said that of course the United States would be confronted by a good many difficulties and problems if it proceeded to make a claim to any such areas.…

Mr. Anderson pointed out that the draft of policy prepared by the NSC Planning Board did take cognizance of the question whether to stay where we are, reserving our rights in Antarctica, or to change our policy by making formal claims. The President said to Mr. Anderson that this was all very well, but before he bought a horse he wanted to know what he was going to do with him besides feed him. After all, only a moment ago we were talking about balancing our budget. Accordingly, the President asked Admiral Duncan6 whether the costs of carrying out our policy in Antarctica for FY 1957 were in fact the minimum costs.

Admiral Duncan replied in the affirmative, and stated that the financial figures were based on a costing-out of the plans for 1957 by a subcommittee of the Operations Coordinating Board. The costs were confined to the International Geophysical Year activities, to reconnaissance, and to the stations which were to be set up in the Antarctic area. The President then inquired whether the program and the figures had been looked at by the Secretary of Defense. Admiral Duncan said that they had been scanned by Secretary Wilson very closely. Thereafter, the President stated his opinion that the program should accomplish the objectives sought by the scientists, but there should be no elaborate plans for reconnaissance over and above the scientific needs.

Admiral Duncan explained that one of the reasons for the high costs involved in the program stemmed from the fact that there was no precise language which clarified the objectives sought by the policy or limited the scope of operations to be conducted by the United States under this policy. For example, continued Admiral Duncan, no one knew precisely what would be required in order to establish a U.S. claim or claims in Antarctica. Accordingly, if the paper were to be approved, Admiral Duncan suggested clarifying language for its objectives prior to approval.

The President said that in his view our policy toward Antarctica should consist in the first place of a reservation of every claim that we might ultimately want to make to areas of Antarctica. Secondly, to do all that we [was] required accomplish our operations under the International Geophysical Year. Beyond this, the President could not see that anything else was needed. Agreeing with the President, Admiral Duncan said that we should carry out our plans to achieve out scientific purposes, but do nothing about establishing claims to Antarctica until we see what is actually revealed about the resources [Page 642] of the area in the course of carrying out our program for the International Geophysical Year.

. . . . . . .

The President again stressed the fact that he was not interested in reconnaissance in Antarctica over and beyond what was required for scientific purposes. He concluded with a reiteration of what he conceived our policy toward Antarctica should be. It was perfectly clear to him that we should first continue to reserve our rights in the area; second, achieve what the scientist wishes to achieve in connection with the International Geophysical Year program; and third, ask the Secretary of State to initiate exploratory conversations with other interested free world countries regarding the possibility of creating a condominium in the area.

The National Security Council:7

Noted and discussed the draft statement of policy on the subject contained in NSC 5528 in the light of the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff transmitted by the reference memorandum, and of the reference Progress Report.
Adopted the following amendments in the existing policy on Antarctica (NSC 5424/1):
Substitute the following for subparagraph 9–b:

“b. Seek to reach an agreement among the U.S. and free world claimants to Antarctic territory which will (1) reserve their respective rights pending future solution of the territorial problems, (2) reduce international friction among them, and (3) permit freedom of exploration and scientific investigation in the Antarctic by free world nationals and maximum interchange of Antarctic mapping and scientific data.

Substitute the following for paragraph 10:

“10. Support a planned program in the Antarctic for scientific purposes only, based on Government responsibility for financing the activities required by the national interest. Specifically:

  • “a. Such a program should include periodic expeditions to the Antarctic and the maintenance of permanent stations in the Antarctic area for scientific purposes only.
  • “b. U.S. programs in Antarctica in connection with the International Geophysical Year should be designed in support of this policy.
  • “c. The Department of Defense will act as the Executive Agency for operations in the Antarctic by or on behalf of the U.S. in cooperation with private interests and other interested Government agencies.”

Note: The above amendments to NSC 5424/1, as approved by the President, subsequently transmitted to all holders of that paper, and referred to the Operations Coordinating Board as the coordinating agency for that policy.8

[Here follows the remainder of the memorandum.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Series. Top Secret. Prepared by Gleason on January 13.
  2. Document 311.
  3. Not printed. (Department of State, S/S–NSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5424 Series)
  4. Not printed. (ibid.)
  5. Commander J.E. Mansfield, Department of the Navy.
  6. Admiral Donald B. Duncan, Vice Chief of Naval Operations.
  7. The following paragraphs and Note constitute NSC Action No. 1500. (Department of State, S/S–NSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95)
  8. The revisions prescribed here were incorporated in revised pages of NSC 5424/1, circulated by Lay to the members of the National Security Council under cover of a memorandum of January 16.