18. Memorandum From the Deputy Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Gleason) to the Executive Secretary of the Council (Lay)1


  • Moratorium on Further Nuclear Weapons Tests

A meeting on this subject was held in the NSC Conference Room on Friday, March 25, at 4 p.m. Present were:

  • General Cutler
  • Mr. Gerard Smith, State
  • General Bonesteel2 (for General Loper), Defense
  • Mr. Herbert Miller, CIA
  • Commander Nelson, AEC 3
  • Mr. Theodore Babbitt, FCDA 4
  • The Executive Secretary, NSC
  • The Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC

[Page 63]
General Cutler read Commissioner Murray’s letter to the President5 on the subject which he described as “reasonable and temperate”. He suggested that Mr. Smith comment first on this letter. Mr. Smith observed that the letter had initially run into unfavorable preconceptions in the State Department but that thereafter many individuals in the Department were inclined to believe that Commissioner Murray’s reasoning was persuasive. Mr. Smith added that he himself was rather less persuaded than his colleagues in the Department although he admitted that this was certainly not a black and white problem. He then mentioned that he had written a memorandum on the subject for the Secretary.6 General Cutler asked Mr. Smith to read this memorandum.
Mr. Smith read the bulk of his memorandum for the Secretary of State. The memorandum summed up developments since the last Presidential decision on this subject in June 1954. The essential point in the memorandum was that if the technical assumptions of Commissioner Murray’s letter proved to be valid, the psychological and propaganda advantages of a moratorium might prove decisive. Accordingly, the memorandum recommended to the Secretary of State that the Department of Defense, the AEC, and the CIA study and report on the validity of the technical assumptions of Commissioner Murray’s position prior to any final judgment regarding the U.S. position on a moratorium. Mr. Smith added that the Secretary of State had approved this memorandum. There ensued a discussion of the desirability of a proposed study by a national or international group of the radiological effects of the testing of thermo-nuclear weapons.
General Cutler then pointed out that quite apart from the validity of Commissioner Murray’s assumptions, he greatly feared that a moratorium would jeopardize the one great weapon upon which the free world relied for its ultimate security. He then called on Commander Nelson to express the views of Admiral Strauss on the subject.
Commander Nelson said that it was not abundantly clear that we actually have a considerable thermo-nuclear lead over the U.S.S.R. as Commissioner Murray was generally contending. He too had a written report which he proceeded to read.6 The judgment of this report was definitely unfavorable to a moratorium and Commander Nelson expressed the personal view that the technical arguments in Commissioner Murray’s memorandum were not too well taken.
General Cutler then asked for a statement of the Defense Department position. General Bonesteel read a memorandum which [Page 64] General Loper had written.7 In essence General Loper maintained views almost identical with those he held in June 1954 opposing the moratorium. The memorandum strongly questioned the validity of Commissioner Murray’s technical assumptions and particularly stressed the importance of continuing tests in regard to the provision of nuclear warheads for intercontinental ballistic missiles.
General Cutler thereafter called on Mr. Herbert Miller who explained that he had prepared no written report on the subject because the intelligence estimates on which the CIA had based its position with respect to a moratorium in June 1954 had not substantially changed.8 Mr. Miller added he had only one additional thought to contribute: the possibility that the Soviets had devised an over-all military strategy which did not call for the development and stockpiling of multi-megaton weapons. In any event, it was the conclusion of CIA at this time that it was of critical importance to the U.S. to increase its lead in nuclear weapons and accordingly we should continue to test such weapons.
General Cutler then suggested that if it were determined to reject the proposals advanced by Commissioner Murray, a brief but carefully prepared answer should be made to the Commissioner’s letter. He suggested this should take the form of (a) a statement of Commissioner Murray’s proposals (b) a discussion of the validity of his assumptions and (c) conclusions and recommendations.
It was agreed that Mr. Gerard Smith would prepare the first draft of such a report. After consideration by the other members of the group, the report might be presented to the President for his consideration and for possible reference to the National Security Council by him. This draft, it was agreed, should be ready in two weeks.9
S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Project Clean-Up, AEC—Nuclear Testing. Top Secret.
  2. Brigadier General Charles H. Bonesteel, III, Director, Office of National Security Council Affairs, Department of Defense, ISA.
  3. Curtis A. Nelson, Director, Division of Inspection, AEC.
  4. Director, Intelligence Division, Planning Staff, Federal Civil Defense Administration.
  5. Document 15.
  6. Not found in the Eisenhower Library or Department of State files.
  7. Not found in the Eisenhower Library or Department of State files.
  8. General Loper’s views in mid-1954 have not been found in Department of State files. For the views of the Department of Defense at the time, stated in letters from Acting Secretary of Defense Anderson to Dulles, May 17, 1954, and Secretary of Defense Wilson to Dulles, June 4, 1954, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. II, Part 2, pp. 1437 and 1457, respectively.
  9. For the CIA position on a moratorium in mid-1954, see Allen Dulles’ memorandum to NSC Executive Secretary Lay, May 25, 1954, and Dulles’ remarks in the extracts from the memorandum of discussion at the 203d meeting of the NSC, June 23, 1954, ibid., pp. 1463 and 1467, respectively.
  10. Not found in the Eisenhower Library or Department of State files.