65. Memorandum of a Conference With the President, White House, Washington, March 13, 1956, 2:15 p.m.1


  • Secretary Wilson
  • Admiral Radford
  • Colonel Goodpaster

Admiral Radford handed the President a memorandum, not yet in final draft,2 representing the thinking of the Joint Chiefs as a result of their week in Puerto Rico. The President read it through, and then said it seemed to give a very dark picture. If this is what we face, it would imply that we should go to field conditions, declare an emergency, increase the military budget, and even go to a garrison state. In that case the Services would have to go to a much more spartan mode of living. The memorandum indicates that the President should have a number of extraordinary powers; he felt that in anything like the present circumstances, such ideas were rather unrealistic. He thought the memorandum seemed to say that the U.S. military position has worsened in the last three years; with that he would not agree. The Soviets have been turned away from the military form of international action. He did not think that we were worse off with regard to the USSR. Where we are badly off is with respect to the rising Arab nations in the Middle East.

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Admiral Radford said that we are getting in trouble with our allies, which are putting forward heavy and increasing demands for support—Italy has asked for $290 million a year, with the alternative of cutting back their forces. The Turks question our aid to Egypt when we would not give them the $300 million loan they asked for to strengthen their economic system. He said we are in a period now when we are developing and buying the new weapons, while still procuring the old. It is probably necessary to make great outlays on guided missiles, but they are not the full answer by any means.

The President said that the memorandum seemed to say there was a need for an outlay of $38-49 billion for the U.S. military program proper. Secretary Wilson stressed how much money is going into new development—altogether it must come to $5 billion a year, including research and development, facilities, procurement of prototypes, etc.

The President said there seemed to be a premise that we are the only ones resisting Communism, and that if we are to have allies we must practically pay for their efforts. He thought it might be better to encourage some nations to be neutral. Admiral Radford said there is increasing difficulty in holding our allies together. He had asked General Gruenther if it wouldn’t be possible to reduce forces in Turkey, Greece and Italy. Secretary Wilson said the President was indicating a new policy—that it might be cheaper to maintain certain nations as neutrals. The President said it might be not only a cheaper, but a better and more effective way of obtaining our interests.

The President went on to say that the fact that money is needed abroad is not too hard to deal with. These needs can be, and have been, closely studied. It seems much harder, however, to do anything about the stated needs for our own forces—much harder to cut them. Secretary Wilson said that if we do not build missiles we will soon be having a big bill for supersonic bombers. Admiral Radford indicated that we will probably be having such a bill whether we build missiles or not. Secretary Wilson said that the memorandum makes it clear, as he had in his discussion with the President at Gettysburg, that our program is really several billion dollars larger than our funding at the present time. This is possible only because of reductions in carry-over, and other savings, and most of these now are “one time” savings. The President asked why it is not possible to cut manpower, particularly in the Army and the Marines. Admiral Radford said that overseas commanders will not agree to make cuts in their areas. Secretary Wilson said that if we don’t make some cuts, we will continue with a program that exceeds our funding. He was disposed to agree with the Chiefs in their views, unless some basic policy changes were made.

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The President said we have taken in many areas such a strong anti-communist line that our allies are able to make demands on us, and claim that they are fighting our fight for us. He went on to say that in terms of our over-all military program we can’t prepare everything that might be desirable, and can’t be strong everywhere. The real question is where to take the risks. Secretary Wilson referred to costs that are being experienced through losses of aircraft. This figure, he thought, is now up toward a billion dollars a year. He wondered if flying hours might be reduced. Admiral Radford thought they should be kept up in order to maintain proficiency. Secretary Wilson referred to a study now being made by General LeMay3 which involves operating comparable units at different numbers of hours per month.

The President said the paper ought to show first what we have accomplished in three years. If, after careful analysis of this, the Chiefs then said we must increase, he wouldn’t disagree. Next it should deal with the foreign field. We must keep NATO in shape but get other nations to face up to their responsibilities to carry on themselves. Then it must consider what is the maximum we can expect to get from arms. An adverse result is indicated by Secretary Dulles’ reports of the extreme concern of India over Pakistan’s military strength. It must analyze where the biggest return in security for the dollar can be obtained.

Admiral Radford referred to the cumbersome and slow-moving administration and performance on our aid commitments. The President said he would certainly like to get this straightened out. Secretary Wilson said that the MAAGs overseas are too large. The President said he felt the trouble was right around Washington.

The President thought the paper should be reorganized to show first the domestic military problem. This should cover a review of the U.S. military position vis-à-vis that of the USSR. It should explain the progress that has been made in the last four years. It should bring out that missiles are now coming along. It must then ask what guided missiles mean to us in a military sense. Also, it should consider whether the highly technological services, like the Air Force and Navy Air, are not getting somewhat old-fashioned in their thinking and composition. Next the paper should consider our alliances—what we must do to keep up confidence and maintain the alignment of free world countries, how to be selective in what we support, and how to correct the idea that “we are fighting your war.”

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Admiral Radford said with reference to our allied arrangements that the British may drop joint planning with us with regard to Israel. The President said that Israeli distrust of the British is such that this action may improve our position at least with the Israeli rather than weakening it.

Secretary Wilson said that as he looked at the matter more military strength than we had over the past three years would not have bettered us in our international position during that period.

The President said that the paper seemed to create a misleading impression, and repeated that it should be organized into three parts, the first the domestic military situation, including the place and role of the missile; our present situation; the adequacy or excess of present force levels. Next would be considered the world military situation, and the whole situation in the free world.4

Secretary Wilson said that General LeMay is talking in terms of 1800 B–52s. Twining wants 800. The question is up as to whether a wing should include 30 or 45 aircraft. If 45, should the number of wings be decreased?

The President said that he urges each Chief of Staff to take the same attitude toward the importance of a sound economy as he knows Admiral Radford does—to recognize it as a fundamental element of over-all U.S. security strength. He also said that in many areas of the world he is inclined to have more faith now in economic aid to meet current problems than in military aid.


Colonel CE, US Army
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DDE Diaries. Top Secret. Drafted by Goodpaster on March 14.
  2. The reference may be to the JCS memorandum, supra. The final draft dated April 17 is Document 73.
  3. The study prepared by General Curtis LeMay, Commander of the Strategic Air Command, has not been found in the Eisenhower Library or Department of State files.
  4. In a memorandum to Radford, dated March 14, Goodpaster enclosed an outline based on “my notes concerning the topical organization of the Joint Chiefs’ views suggested by the President.” This attached outline was divided into three main categories: Domestic Military Situation (or Problem); Our Alliances (Free World Military Situation); and The World Security Situation. (Radford Papers, Special File)