121. Memorandum of Discussion at the 326th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, June 13, 19571

[Here follows a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting.]

1. Types of Nuclear Weapons (NSC Action No. 1728–c)2

Mr. Cutler pointed out that at the Council meeting on May 27, the President had requested Admiral Strauss to “make a presentation of the types of nuclear weapons produced or being developed, by size of yield, and the approximate percentage of each type in the stockpile.” Admiral Strauss had made his presentation to the President and most of the members of the Council on board the U.S.S. Saratoga last week.3 At that time the Secretary of State had indicated that he would like to return to the subject for further discussion at a later time. In addition to the presentation on the Saratoga, Mr. Cutler said that Admiral Strauss had briefed the Vice President and other members of the Council who had not been on the Saratoga, just prior to this morning’s meeting. The presentation had also been made to the NSC Planning Board. Mr. Cutler then said that Admiral Strauss would now like to comment briefly on the tactical use of nuclear weapons, and would be prepared thereafter to answer any questions.

Admiral Strauss emphasized that the subject of tactical use of nuclear weapons had arisen in his mind as a result of particular questions directed to him earlier by the Secretary of State. Admiral Strauss went on to point out that public opinion in the world today mostly [Page 525]considers nuclear weapons to be indiscriminate in character and capacity for destruction, and that therefore their use is likely to induce general nuclear war. The Soviets naturally encourage this illusion since, if nuclear weapons were to be totally banned, the Soviets would enjoy the great military advantage of their superiority in manpower. Thus, if the United States were inhibited from the use of nuclear weapons we might well be unable to respond to local Communist aggression. It was therefore essential that public opinion come to understand that the United States does possess tactical nuclear weapons, and that they can be used in military operations without causing indiscriminate devastation, [remainder of paragraph and 5 additional paragraphs (1 page of source text) not declassified]

Mr. Allen Dulles pointed out that it was quite possible that the Soviets faced rather severe problems in the matter of testing very large weapons, because they had no completely empty spaces equivalent to our Pacific testing grounds at Bikini or Eniwetok. In short, if they were to test weapons of very great magnitude they might find it necessary to move whole populations. Governor Stassen pointed out that in his speech about May 1, Marshal Zhukov had claimed that the Soviet Union possessed a wide variety of nuclear weapons.4

The President inquired about the claim recently made by the Soviets that they had manufactured a nuclear bomb which was so big that they did not dare to set it off. Governor Stassen indicated that this claim derived from a rumor about a speech which Marshal Zhukov had made to some Polish journalists.

Turning to Admiral Radford, the President expressed great doubt as to whether it was possible to blow up concrete pillboxes by the use of atomic weapons. Admiral Radford agreed that this was doubtful, but pointed out that we had alternatives to use against such fortifications, as, for example, napalm bombs. Moreover, he said, with our present atomic capabilities we would not expect our forces to be held up by one line of pillboxes; it would be perfectly simple to go around them.

The National Security Council:5

Discussed the subject in the light of a presentation by the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, made pursuant to NSC Action No. 1728–c.

[Page 526]

[Here follow agenda items 2–4. Item 3, “U.S. Policy Toward Korea,” is scheduled for publication in volume XXIII.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Prepared by Gleason on June 14.
  2. See footnote 13, Document 119.
  3. A memorandum for NSC record, drafted by Cutler on June 7, reads in part: “At the Saratoga Conference on June 6, 1957, there being present the President, J.F. Dulles, Brundage, Wilson, Humphrey, Gray, Larson, Strauss, Goodpaster, Gates, Persons, Admiral Burke, Cutler, Admiral Strauss presented the report recently requested by the President (June 1/57) [5 words not declassified]. He spoke from two charts, [23 words not declassified]. The brief presentation provoked considerable questioning (total period about 25 minutes) relative [14 words not declassified].” (Eisenhower Library, Sp. Asst. for Nat. Sec. Records, Chronological File)
  4. No statement on the Soviet Union’s possession of nuclear weapons by Georgiy Konstantinovich Zhukov, Soviet Minister of Defense, including his May Day speech, the complete text of which is printed in Current Digest of the Soviet Press, vol. IX, No. 18 (1957), pp. 33–34, has been found.
  5. The paragraph that follows constitutes NSC Action No. 1729, approved by the President on June 15. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)