284. Memorandum of a Conference With the President, White House, Washington, August 9, 1957, 2:30 p.m.1


  • Admiral Strauss
  • Mr. Gerard Smith (State Department)
  • General Cutler
  • Major Eisenhower


  • Letter to the President from Admiral Strauss, dated August 2, 19572


  • Operation Hardtack

Numbers of Weapons—The first question which had disturbed the President with relation to Operation Hardtack was the number of weapons involved. The President felt the number 25 was high. Admiral Strauss explained that the number had been arrived at arbitrarily, that he had two laboratories, each of which had requested 20 shots, and had received a request from the Department of Defense for 10 shots. This figure he had, at first glance, cut in half. Admiral Strauss further explained that he had every intention of shaving down below the mark of 25.

Duration—The next question of concern was the duration of the atomic tests, lasting from 1 May probably through August. The President felt that an excessive amount of time consumed in testing served to magnify our efforts to the world at a time when disarmament negotiations are under way. Admiral Strauss’ explanation was a requirement for perfect meteorological conditions for each experiment, particularly for the large yield weapons. The Admiral pointed out that on occasion he had been required to wait for two weeks for firing a given shot. He expressed the opinion, however, that he would be able to condense the four-month period of time to some extent.

Size—In answer to the President’s question on the necessity for tests of large yield weapons, Admiral Strauss had the following to say:


AEC and State Department cannot justify a need for the very large weapons. The requirement to test … weapons comes primarily from the Department of Defense which is interested in ascertaining the size of yield which may be carried in the B–52. The weight of the bomb is estimated at.…

. . . . . . .

Inaccuracy of delivery means can be compensated for in part by increasing the size of the weapon. (The President pointed out, however, that the scaling laws apply on a cube route basis, which would give a … weapon a radius of damage only about 1½ the size the radius of damage of the … .)

Admiral Strauss then mentioned a compromise which he felt he could use to advantage… .

Altitude—The question came up as to the height at which the high altitude test shots will be burst. Admiral Strauss gave as the top figure … feet, rocket delivered.

Type—Admiral Strauss estimates that all the weapons tested, with the exception of a few of the smaller ones, will be of the thermonuclear type.

Public Relations—The main dilemma in conducting tests of this magnitude in 1958, as the President sees it, is that of planning and carrying out extensive tests on the one hand while professing a readiness to suspend testing in a disarmament program on the other. From much of the world this paradoxical conduct may bring accusations of bad faith. The President is agreed, however, that having gone this far, it is necessary to carry through with Hardtack. Several measures will be followed to place this decision in the best possible light:

Observers from various nations will be invited to witness the shots.
Our position in the disarmament talks must be that we cannot suspend testing until a date at least a year from now. Until that time we, as others, will continue to test as necessary.
The United States will maintain a flexible attitude in these negotiations for disarmament, and would agree to accept the inevitable inefficiency which will result from a two-year layoff. As to the problem of losing the best scientific talent as a result of the two-year layoff, it was agreed that the bulk of the best talent could be retrieved and the result in organizational setbacks would just have to be accepted.
The testing schedule will be kept confidential until more thought can be given as to how to announce it.
The time span for the tests will be condensed to the maximum extent within the power of the Atomic Energy Commission.
The statement may be made, in which the British will probably join us, that we will put no more radio-activity into the atmosphere than is taken care of by normal decay of that contamination already in the atmosphere.

Conclusions—The President granted authority to continue the Hardtack tests within the following limitations:

Testing of large yield weapons will be accomplished with weapons no larger than that exploded in 1954.
The time span for the series of tests will be condensed to the maximum extent.
Announcement of the tests will be withheld and the matter will remain confidential until full details of the announcement are worked out.

John S.D. Eisenhower
Major, U.S. Army
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DDE Diaries. Secret. Drafted by Major Eisenhower. The source text is initialed “DE” in the President’s handwriting.
  2. Not printed. (Ibid.)