15. Memorandum for the Record by the Counselor of the Department of State (MacArthur)1

I accompanied the Secretary and Mr. Hoover to a meeting with Deputy Defense Secretary Anderson, Admiral Radford, Admiral Carney, Admiral Duncan, Admiral Anderson and Mr. Charles Sullivan, which was held in Admiral Radford’s office in the Pentagon this afternoon. The discussion was in connection with the U.S. stance with respect to the defense of Southeast Asia and as background for the Secretary’s forthcoming trip to Bangkok. Admiral Radford indicated [Page 35] why the JCS opposed making force commitments with respect to the defense of Thailand, since this would result in an uneconomical and militarily unsound dispersal of U.S. forces in the Western Pacific area.2 The JCS believed that if overt aggression takes place, the U.S. should strike at the source of such aggression …

There was further general discussion of this subject, during the course of which Admiral Radford indicated that our strategy must be based on the use of appropriate atomic weapons. Without these weapons the force requirements, particularly of air, become too great. The Secretary explained the political difficulties involved in the use of atomic weapons but made quite clear that he was not taking the position that they should not be used. He pointed out that the political and psychological factors involved could outweigh the immediate and short-term military advantage if the use of such weapons was not properly handled.

There was brief discussion about the British plans for the defense of Malaya, during the course of which reference was made by Mr. MacArthur to London’s 3581 of February 11.3 Admiral Radford said that he fully supported the concept and had let the Australians know a very considerable time ago that it would be much sounder if they liquidated their thought of a commitment regarding Middle East defense and concentrated on the defense of Southeast Asia. Admiral Radford said that he favored the so-called Sir John Harding concept which was in reality of Australian origin.

There was some discussion of the capability of the Chinese Nationalist forces on Formosa during the course of which Admiral Radford said that they continued to represent a useful threat on the flank of the Chinese Communists, since in the event of hostilities with Communist China they might be put ashore at various places where it would be extremely difficult for the Chinese Communists to concentrate to meet them in view of the poor rail and road communications along the Chinese coast.

Admiral Radford expressed the view that among our Asian partners Thailand was the most immediately threatened and he described the briefing which he had received in Bangkok in December from the Thais. He said that we were assisting in the construction of three air fields in Thailand and that this would provide the possibility of U.S. air units being deployed to Thailand for brief visits, perhaps in connection with maneuvers which would be helpful moralewise. He made reference to a JCS paper which Secretary Anderson had [Page 36] showed Mr. Dulles at the beginning of the briefing which he said would be sent to the Secretary as of possible assistance in connection with talks at Bangkok.4 (The Secretary told Mr. Anderson privately that while the paper did not answer all the questions that would be put to him at Bangkok, it was a helpful contribution.)

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 790.5/3–755. Top Secret. Attached to a memorandum dated March 7 from Walter K. Scott, Director of the Executive Secretariat, to Admiral Radford.
  2. For an exposition of the JCS view in the matter, see the memorandum for the Secretary of Defense dated February 11 in Department of Defense, United States–Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967, Book 10, pp. 885–887.
  3. Supra.
  4. Not identified.