331. Letter From the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (McGuire) to the Under Secretary of State (Hoover)1

Dear Mr. Hoover : Reference is made to your letter of 28 March 1956,2 in which you requested an analysis of the amount and nature of arms which Israel would require to bring it into a standoff position vis-à-vis the Arab countries. The attached memorandum contains the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in which I concur.

Sincerely yours,

E. Perkins McGuire

[Enclosure]

Memorandum From the Secretary of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Phillips) to the Secretary of Defense (Wilson)3

SUBJECT

  • Arms for Israel
1.
This memorandum is in response to a memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA), dated 29 March 1956,4 subject as above, in which he requested an analysis of the amounts and nature of arms which Israel would have to receive to bring it to a standoff position vis-à-vis the Arab countries.
2.
In their memorandum for you, dated 30 March 1956,4 subject: “Request from the Government of; Israel for the Sale of Military Equipment and Services,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff informed you that Israel has greater military strength than the Arab States, at this time, and will retain this advantage for 12 to 24 months, depending on the rapidity with which the Egyptians develop a capability to utilize the arms they are receiving from the Soviet Bloc.
3.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered that, in the event Israel initiates hostilities before midsummer 1956, she could, in less [Page 611] than a month, defeat the Egyptian Army in the Sinai Desert and contain the ground forces of the other Arab States. After midsummer, the balance of ground force superiority probably will begin to shift to the Arabs. In the air, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that a standoff position between the Arab States and Israel will be reached by the summer of 1956 with the possibility that either side could gain an important advantage if all-out surprise attacks were undertaken. This will be true because of the very limited number of airdromes on which the air strength of each side is concentrated. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that the Department of State be so advised. However, it should be pointed out to the Department of State that there is no known formula or method whereby the military potentials of nations or blocs of nations can be accurately assessed by consideration of their military matériel assets alone. Assessments of military strengths and capabilities are properly called estimates and as such cannot result in certain answers.
4.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff will continue to make frequent periodic estimates of the relative combat strengths and capabilities of the Arab-Israeli nations, and will keep you informed of their views.
5.
The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not participate in the action of the Joint Chiefs of Staff outlined in this memorandum.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Richard H. Phillips 5
Captain, USN
  1. Source: Department of State, S/SNEA Files: Lot 61 D 417, Omega #4. Top Secret.
  2. Document 220.
  3. Top Secret.
  4. Not found in Department of State files.
  5. Not found in Department of State files.
  6. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.