45. Memorandum of Discussion at the 268th Meeting of the National Security Council, Camp David, Maryland, December 1, 19551

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

1. Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security

[Here follows discussion of unrelated subjects.]

[3 paragraphs (½ page of source text) not declassified]

[Page 167]

[Here follow discussion of unrelated subjects and agenda item 2, “Assistance to Egypt in Financing the High Aswan Dam;” for text, see volume XIV, page 812.]

3. Foreign Policy Implications of U.S. and Soviet Missiles (NSC Action No. 1433–b; Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated November 30, 1955)2

Mr. Dillon Anderson suggested that the next item, the report on the vulnerabilities of SAC, be postponed at this time in favor of Council consideration of the three items dealing with ballistic missiles. He then called on Secretary Dulles to speak to the reference report (copy filed in the Minutes of the meeting).3

After Secretary Dulles had completed his summary of the report on the foreign policy implications of a Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile, Secretary Wilson stated that what he deduced from Secretary Dulles’ report was that the United States should push its programs for achieving an intercontinental ballistic missile and intermediate range ballistic missile just as hard as it possibly could. Secretary Dulles agreed, but added that it was of great importance that we consider carefully how to minimize the consequences of a Russian achievement of these weapons prior to the United States. Secretary Dulles warned that it was going to be very difficult to persuade public opinion on this score. If the Soviets got either of these missiles before the United States, we could surely count on the Soviets’ dramatizing their new capability to the limit.

The National Security Council:4

Noted and discussed the report on the subject by the Department of State, transmitted by the reference memorandum and summarized at the meeting by the Secretary of State.

4. Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) and Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) Programs (NSC Actions Nos. 1430–c and 1433–a–(4); Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated November 30, 1955)5

Secretary Robertson spoke first on the subject of the missile programs in order to put the problem in its context and provide the necessary background. He said that after he had finished his part of [Page 168] the presentation, the three detailed programs would be treated separately in the space of approximately ten minutes each. Secretary Robertson then proceeded to summarize the general DoD arrangements for the achievement of U.S. ballistic missiles, as set forth in the reference memorandum (copy filed in the Minutes of the meeting).

While Secretary Robertson was explaining, with the assistance of charts, the complicated organizations set up in the Defense Department to carry out these programs, the President interrupted to inquire how often these several DoD committees met and what did they accomplish. He said he was deeply suspicious of committees as a method of getting things done promptly.

At the conclusion of Secretary Robertson’s remarks, the President said that as he remembered it, when the Killian Committee had brought in their original recommendation with respect to the IRBM and ICBM programs, it had been their view that the development of the intermediate range missile would come along naturally in the course of developing the intercontinental ballistic missile. Now, according to Secretary Robertson, all this had been changed and there were separate projects, one to achieve the intermediate range missile and the longer range missile. Before Secretary Robertson could explain, the President, with great emphasis, stressed the essentiality of the United States achieving these missiles, and pointed out that “the best was always the enemy of the good.” If we did not put every effort into getting an ICBM we would never get one. The President explained that he was not challenging the contents of Secretary Robertson’s report, but he was merely astonished at the difference between the information given him by the Killian report in July and the present report by the Department of Defense.

In the succeeding moments various people attempted to explain to the President that there was no conflict between the recommendations of the Killian committee and the present report by the Department of Defense. Mr. Robert Sprague, Consultant to the NSC and very familiar with the Killian Committee report, indicated that the President was under a misapprehension, and that the Killian Committee had warmly endorsed separate programs for the achievement of the intermediate range and the long-range ballistic missiles.

The President said he had a final point to make to Secretary Robertson. The latter had said in the course of his presentation that henceforth the status of the DoD programs for achieving a U.S. missile capability would be reported as a normal part of the annual report of the Department of Defense on the status of the U.S. military programs. On the contrary, said the President with great warmth of feeling, the Secretary of Defense was going to report to him on the developments in these programs at least once a month. The President said he was absolutely determined not to tolerate any fooling with this thing. We [Page 169] had simply got to achieve such missiles as promptly as possible, if only because of the enormous psychological and political significance of ballistic missiles.

Secretary Robertson was followed by Assistant Secretary of Defense Trevor Gardner,6 who opened his presentation by expressing his appreciation of the enthusiasm which the President was showing for getting ahead with developing ballistic missiles. He then cited comparative statistics as to test firings of missiles, guided and otherwise, in the Soviet Union and in the United States in the course of the last calendar year. Of the Russian firings at least 13 were presumed to be of ballistic missiles. Secretary Gardner judged that the Soviets were probably two years ahead of us in progress toward the achievement of a ballistic missile.

After Secretary Gardner had proceeded to outline the status of the Air Force programs for the achievement of an ICBM, he was followed by Secretary Thomas, who described the joint Army-Navy program. Secretary Thomas was followed in turn by Major General Medaris, USA,7 on the program for the development of the 1500-mile so-called intermediate range ballistic missile.

At the conclusion of these separate reports, the President commented that each of those who had reported seemed to be bragging about how much had been done since the job had been assigned to the reporter’s organization on November [September] 8. The President said he would like to know what had been going on since last July, when he had issued his strong directive on achievement of a U.S. capability in the field of ballistic missiles. Secretary Wilson undertook to assure the President that, despite appearances, no time had really been lost, and Secretary Robertson reassured the President on the display of teamwork among the three military services.

At the end of the discussion, the President referred to the mass of letters and telegrams which he was receiving from people all over the country, insisting that the program in the U.S. to achieve a ballistic missile should be placed in the hands of one single individual and that everything should be done to hurry the project to completion. These people had generally insisted that the country which first achieved an intercontinental ballistic missile would rule the world. The President said that he was somewhat skeptical of the latter point and of the unique importance of the ICBM from a strictly military point of view. On the other hand, he fully subscribed to the views of the Secretary of State as to the profound and overriding political and psychological importance of the U.S. achieving such a weapon.

[Page 170]

The National Security Council:8

Noted the substantial work done in inplementation of the reference NSC actions, as indicated in the Department of Defense report, transmitted by the reference memorandum and orally presented at the meeting.
Noted the President’s directive that the Department of Defense should report each month to the President on the subject programs, in addition to its reports on these programs as a part of the annual status report on national security programs (June 30, 1956) and as otherwise provided in NSC Action No. 1433–a–(4).
Noted the President’s statement that the political and psychological impact upon the world of the early development of an effective ballistic missile with a range in the 1000–1700 mile range would be so great that early development of such a missile would, be of critical importance to the national security interests of the United States.
Recommended that the President approve that the IRBM research and development program is a program of equal priority to the ICBM program, but with no interference with the valid requirements of the lCBM program.

Note: The above actions, as adopted at the meeting, subsequently submitted to the President. The President, after further consideration and discussion with the Secretary of Defense,9 approved a through c above, and issued the following directive instead of approving the recommendation in d above:

“The President directed that the IRBM and ICBM programs should both be research and development programs of the highest priority above all others. Mutual interference between these programs should be avoided so far as practicable, but if a conflict should occur in which strict application of paragraph c above would, in the opinion of the Secretary of Defense, cause major damage to the security interests of the United States, then the matter will be promptly referred to the President.”

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Prepared by Gleason on December 2.
  2. Regarding NSC Action No. 1433, see footnote 9, Document 34. The November 30 memorandum transmitted Document 44.
  3. Not found in the Eisenhower Library or Department of State files.
  4. The paragraph that follows constitutes NSC Action No. 1483, approved by the President on December 21. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellanous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)
  5. Regarding NSC Action No. 1430, see footnote 9, Document 30. The November 30 memorandum transmitted the report, supra.
  6. Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Research and Development).
  7. Major General John B. Medaris, USA, Commanding General, U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Agency.
  8. Paragraphs a–d and the Note that follow constitute NSC Action No. 1484, approved by the President on December 21. (Department of State,S/SNSC (Miscellanous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Actions by the National Security Council)
  9. The President gave his approval on December 21, and in a memorandum of the same date to Secretary of Defense Wilson, he explained his action as follows:

    “It was with some qualms that I approved the plan of allowing three different Services to work on the problem of long-range ballistic missiles. This doubt was inspired not only by historical difficulties in achieving adequate coordination among the Services, but because of the uneasy feeling in my own mind that the August-to-November delay in issuing the necessary Defense directives in this matter had been occasioned by arguments among them as to who was to carry the responsibility. All this seemed to me to presage similar difficulties in the future. However, on your assurance that in the current plan all such differences were, and would continue to be, eliminated and that in your opinion two separate programs could be carried on simultaneously and with the resulting benefits of competition, all to be achieved without mutual interference, I approved the system that the Defense Department suggested.” (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Guided Missiles)