18. Memorandum of Discussion at the 243d Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, March 31, 19551

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and agenda item 1.]

[Page 69]

2. Study of Possible Hostile Soviet Actions (NSC 5515; NSC 5438;2 NSC Action No. 1260–c;3 Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated March 30, 19554)

Mr. Cutler briefed the Council and read the three different categories of Soviet actions with which the paper was concerned.5 With respect to Category II, which dealt with specific Soviet actions which should be judged as a clear warning that Soviet attack on the continental U.S. was probably imminent, Mr. Cutler pointed to subparagraph i, listing “Soviet action to assassinate or to attempt to assassinate key U.S. civil and military authorities”. Mr. Cutler indicated his own view (with a smile) that a Soviet attempt to assassinate President Eisenhower should be placed in Catetegory I, as indicating that Soviet attack was not merely probably imminent but certain or imminent. The Planning Board, however, had disagreed. The President laughed, and said that the Planning Board was undoubtedly right, and the attempt to assassinate him might merely be based on personal dislike.

Mr. Cutler then indicated the view of the Planning Board that the present report should be handled with very great caution and that the Council might well confine itself to merely noting the report. The President agreed, and stated that the paper had largely served its purpose after it had been presented to himself. He had simply wanted to know what the members of the various staffs felt about possible hostile Soviet actions, and he thought that the paper had been useful. He was sorry that it had taken so much time and trouble to prepare.

Secretary Wilson said that he had only one suggestion to make regarding this report. Would it not be useful to turn the picture around and examine what actions the United States was taking or might take which the Soviet Union could judge to be indications of the likelihood of a U.S. attack on the Soviet Union?

Governor Stassen said that he wished to make a comment about the third category of Soviet actions—namely, actions which should be judged not as indictions that attack was imminent or probably imminent, but as a possible prelude to Soviet attack or as creating a serious international situation which, through action and counteraction, might eventually lead to Soviet attack on the continental United States. Would it not be wise, inquired Governor Stassen, to study how the [Page 70] United States can get itself in a position to counter such threatening Soviet actions without actually setting in motion the chain of action and reaction which might lead to war?

The President merely commented that this would be a good trick if you could pull it off.

The National Security Council: 6

Discussed the subject on the basis of the reference Study (NSC 5515) in the light of the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff transmitted by the reference memorandum of March 30.7
Noted the Study contained in NSC 5515, amended as follows:
Paragraph 7, last sentence: Change to read as follows:

“Moreover, it should be noted that nothing in this Study affects the mission of the Watch Committee of the IAC, which is ‘To provide earliest possible warning to the United States Government of hostile action by the USSR, or its Allies, which endangers the security of the United States.’”8

Paragraph 8, last sentence: Delete.9
Paragraph 9–e, last line: Delete the word “ports” and substitute therefor the words “coastal target areas.”10
Page 8, Annex: Delete.11

Note: NSC 5515, as amended, subsequently circulated as NSC 5515/1.

[Here follow agenda items 3–7.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Prepared by Gleason on April 1.
  2. NSC 5515 is not printed, but see NSC 5515/1, infra . NSC 5438, “Transmittal of Information to the IAC Watch Committee,” November 30, 1954, is not printed. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous Files: Lot 66 D 95, NSC 5438 Memoranda)
  3. See footnote 3, Document 1.
  4. This memorandum transmitted to the NSC a March 29 memorandum from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Department of Defense; see footnote 7 below. (Department of State,S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5515 Series)
  5. Reference is to paragraphs of NSC 5515/1.
  6. Paragraphs a–b and the Note that follow constitute NSC Action No. 1366. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)
  7. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, in their March 29 memorandum to the Secretary of Defense, recommended that the Secretary “concur in the document” subject to the changes that were in fact adopted by the Council and are listed in paragraph b below. Chairman Radford did not participate in this action.
  8. The Joint Chiefs wanted this change for reasons of “clarity and accuracy.”
  9. The Joint Chiefs wanted this deletion for “editorial” reasons.
  10. The Joint Chiefs wanted this substitution for reasons of “accuracy.”
  11. The Annex, “Manifestations of a Drastic Change Toward an Offensive Posture by Soviet Military Forces,” was deleted at the request of the Joint Chiefs who felt it contained “an arbitrary list of a few of the numerous indicators that could be used. Such a list would in all probability be misleading to the users of the paper. In addition, the listing of these indicators is outside the scope of the paper, and is not required.”