11. Paper by the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Cutler)0


It is necessary, in planning for the use of nuclear weapons on a massive scale, to give greater weight than before to other than purely military considerations.

When nuclear weapons originally became available, the “military requirements” therefor were “all the nuclear weapons that could be [Page 50] produced and as rapidly as possible.” Since that time, “military requirements” for nuclear weapons and the number of targets to be destroyed have increased as increased numbers of nuclear weapons became available. (Greatly improved hard intelligence-gathering in the last few years has contributed to this increase in targets.)
Assume that current planning calls for the destruction of some 0000 military targets in enemy territory. The accomplishment of this objective will require the detonation of nuclear weapons involving several million kilotons.
A recent exercise1 indicated that, in fifteen hours of preliminary exchange between the aggressor and the U.S., nuclear weapons involving 7 million kilotons 2 (over half of it in the first three hours) would be detonated; with the U.S. going on to win with still further detonations against the enemy. Thus, this exercise contemplated nuclear explosions in North America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa, occurring within a half-day, which were 350,000 times as great in magnitude as the nuclear explosion at Hiroshima (which resulted in over 130,000 casualties—64,000 killed, 72,000 injured).
The effect of any such exchange is quite incalculable. No one knows what the concentrated explosion of 7,000,000 KTs (7,000 MTs) involving nuclear material would do [to] the weather, to crop cycles, to human reproduction, to the population of all areas of the world (whether or not directly exposed to the detonation). It is possible that life on the planet might be extinguished.

Assume that 0000 military targets are reasonable and appropriate in the case of an attack launching preventive war. Would such a large number of military targets be reasonable or appropriate in the case of a U.S. retaliatory strike following a major nuclear attack on the U.S.? In this contingency, it is believed that our remaining air strike and missile capability: first—would not be capable of effectively attacking as many as 0000 targets; second—would not be capable of readily discriminating between those enemy military targets which (because their military aircraft or missiles had already been launched) were no longer of value, and those enemy military targets still valid for attack. In the third place, for a retaliatory action by the U.S., perhaps 000 hostile targets (1/10 the number above-indicated) would quite as adequately support the concept of deterrence. That is, the enemy would be equally deterred from attacking the U.S., if the enemy knew we would, in retaliation, destroy their 000 population centers instead of only some of their 0000 military installations.

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The foregoing commentary suggests military re-examination of hostile targets in the event of retaliatory action and a need for strict civilian control over the objectives upon which “military requirements” for nuclear weapons and forces are based. “Military requirements” for nuclear weapons and forces should not exceed the possible and most effective use of weapons and forces made available—at vast expense—to meet such “requirements.”

It is apparent that there are considerations, other than military, which must control the massive production and use of nuclear weapons and delivery forces.
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, White House Office Files, Records of the Special Assistant for National Security Affairs. Secret. A marginal note by Cutler reads: “5:30–7 discussed with P[resident] March 20 with Herter, Goodpaster, Sprague, Killian, Strauss, Cutler. Strongly approved by him. RC”.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. This phrase was double-underscored on the source text.