8. Diary Entry by the President’s Press Secretary (Hagerty)1

In at 8:15. Legislative Leaders meeting at 8:30 with the following in attendance: The President, the Vice President; Senators Knowland, Millikin, Saltonstall, Bridges; Congressmen Martin, Halleck, Arends, Allen; White House staff.

[Here follows discussion of unrelated subjects.]

Bridges started off a discussion when he asked the President how he would recommend the Senators handle the Ridgway testimony of yesterday2 when Ridgway said that the cuts in Army personnel would jeopardize to a degree the security of the United States.

The President, in reply, launched into a long and exceedingly emphatic discussion of this question which ran as follows:

“Gentlemen, Ridgway is Chief of Staff of the Army. When he is called up on the Hill and asked for personal convictions, he has got to give them. Each Service has as its head and has traditionally had as its head, people who think that their service is the only service that can ultimately save the Unites States in time of war. They all want additional manpower and they always will. But we must realize that as Commander–in–Chief, I have to make the final decisions. I have to look at this whole question of the military establishment as one which must be kept in balance. I have to consider—which the heads of the services do not—the very delicate balance between the national debt, taxes and expenditures. I have to decide what is necessary for adequate security. If I had all the money I wanted right now, I wouldn’t use that money to keep 300,000 men in the Army. I would use it for other purposes. Why, even from the question of the defense of the United States I would much rather put that money into new highways and roads so that we could get around this country in a hurry in case of attack.

[Page 40]

“You see, actually, the only thing we fear is an atomic attack delivered by air on our cities. Suppose that attack were to occur tomorrow on fifteen of our cities. God damn it? It would be perfect rot to talk about shipping troops abroad when fifteen of our cities were in ruins. You would have disorder and almost complete chaos in the cities and in the roads around them. You would have to restore order and who is going to restore it? Do you think the police and fire departments of those cities could restore order? Nuts! That order is going to have to be restored by disciplined armed forces. It’s going to have to be restored by our military forces and by our Reserve. That’s what our military is going to be doing in the first days of an all-out atomic attack. They are going to have to restore order and get our production going again. Anyone who thinks we are going to immediately ship out of this country division after division is just talking through his hat. It couldn’t be done and if I tried to do it, you would want to impeach me. That’s the trouble with Ridgway. He’s talking theory—I’m trying to talk sound sense. He did the same thing at shape. I was there before Ridgway went over and he tried to ruin it with the same sort of talk. We have to have a sound base here at home. We have got to restore order and our productivity before we do anything else. That’s why in our military thinking today we have to put emphasis on two or three things first. One—we have to maintain a strong striking retaliatory air force and secondly, we have to build up our warning system so that we can receive as much advance notice as possible of any attack.

“What do you people think would happen if this city were hit today by an H-bomb? Do you think you would vote or ask me to send the troops at Fort Meade overseas—or would you be knocking on my door to get me to bring them in to try to pick up the pieces here in Washington? We have to do that. All our military plans are based really on two main things—One, to destroy the enemy’s production and two, protect your own. To do that we need not just more men. We need more equipment, an expanded air force and an expanded warning system.”

As the President was talking, you could hear a pin drop in the room. He pounded the table quite a few times for emphasis, and everyone in the room, I am sure, realized both the seriousness of the situation and the President’s arguments.

[Here follows discussion of unrelated subjects.]

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Hagerty Papers, Diary Series.
  2. Given at a January 31 hearing before the House Armed Services Committee.