71. Memorandum for the Record of a Meeting Between the President and the Chief of Staff, United States Army (Taylor), White House, Washington, April 2, 1956, 2:30 p.m.1

General Taylor’s meeting with the President, which lasted for about an hour, was devoted chiefly to an outline by the General of his thinking on Army aviation and Army missiles, and to an exchange of views and ideas on these subjects. The meeting was in the nature of an informal discussion, not concerned with specific decisions.

The discussion of Army aviation turned on what Army aircraft should do—the President was not immediately interested in the size of the Army program, or number of planes, as such. The President knows the Army has need for aircraft organic to its units in the field to join in carrying out their battle tasks. The type of thing that causes him concern is any indication that the Army is taking over support functions through lack of confidence that the Air Force will provide for their needs. Army planes to his mind should, in general, be as slow and as light as possible, designed for operations generally on the friendly side of the line. This type is safest from hostile fighters. General Taylor pointed out that under the new concepts that are developing, there will be great intermingling on the battlefield, without clear lines, and the need for target-finding, which will be very acute, raises the need for aircraft that can go in to observe and photograph more deeply. He emphasized that there was no thought of having aircraft which could not take off from small open fields.

The President said he had heard something about the Army wanting jets. General Taylor said this idea is simply for experimental purposes—to see what could be done with them. The President said there is a constant tendency to make aircraft bigger and heavier, and this might take the Army aircraft out of its proper role. General Taylor said [Page 284]that weights and numbers are not in his opinion matters for “Key West agreements.” It should be up to the Army to incorporate what they can best use in the performance of their operations. The President said he had never agreed with those who felt that Army combat units had to have their own close support aviation. General Taylor said there is good reason to feel that close support air operations are fading out of the picture. Missiles will take over this function. They both recalled that, except for dive bombing, close support aviation was limited in what it could contribute.

General Taylor mentioned Army thinking regarding use of small “drones” for reconnaissance of the battle area. The President questioned whether these might not be quite vulnerable to ground fire.

The discussion next turned to Army missiles. General Taylor showed the President a chart indicating the whole “family” of such missiles. He described briefly the present Nike, the Nike B and Nike 2 now under development, and the “Missile Master” for their coordinated employment. The President said that the problem of coordination of missiles (like anti-aircraft artillery) with interceptors is so difficult that it might be necessary, as in the war, to put all under the control of the Air Defense Commander. He said he thought that it would not be practicable to protect all vital areas with missiles, and those, once installed, are immobile. Interceptors will still be necessary. General Taylor said that interceptors could fill in the gaps, and that he thought in fact that this would be their greatest role, as bomber aircraft gain in speed and altitude.

General Taylor described the Honest John and the Little John rockets to the President, outlining their close support role. He said the Sergeant and the Redstone would be emplaced further to the rear and carefully sited in, and would be capable of close support and tactical interdiction. The President asked what use the Army would have for a 1500-mile missile. General Taylor said it is being developed by the Army to take advantage of Redstone experience. The Army had no clear proposals for using it at this time, but was simply asking that no decision be taken now freezing the Army out. Some of these could conceivably be placed in North Africa for support in Central Europe. The President referred to this use as flanking fire, indicating he could see some logic in it, although pointing out that he thought front-line people might be rather worried as to its accuracy when it was firing from such a distance. He also referred to the communications problem of bringing fire down when and where needed, from distant launching points.

The President said his general philosophy is to oppose a service assuming or duplicating a function simply because of lack of confidence that another would perform it. Rather he thought each service [Page 285]should insist on the others making good in providing support. If they fail, he would expect the matter to be brought to the Defense Department and to him.


Colonel, CE, US Army
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DDE Diaries. Personal and Confidential. Drafted by Goodpaster on April 3. The time and date of the meeting are written by hand on the source text.