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154. Memorandum of Conference With President Eisenhower 0


  • Dr. Killian
  • General Goodpaster

[Here follows discussion of the missile program.]

Dr. Killian next took up the report of his scientific group on cessation of nuclear testing.1 He pointed out that this is a controversial subject on which the observations of his group are limited to technical aspects only and must of course be balanced against other considerations. Some of the conclusions reached by his group are: the inspection system for verification of test cessation requires a more extensive system than is now in existence. It is feasible to install a system which would give the required degree of assurance. Such a system could serve as an opening wedge for a system of inspection for disarmament generally. Cessation of testing, in the judgment of the group, would leave the United States in a position of technical advantage for a few years, which will otherwise be lost. The Science Advisory Committee considers that we should stop testing after the Hardtack series. They believe it would be to our over-all advantage to do so. They think, however, that provision should be made for further tests, under international controls for peaceful and scientific purposes.

Dr. Killian next reported that the group had studied the questions that are involved in the possibility of stopping the testing of guided missiles. We believe that the Soviets have fired at least five very long range missiles, of which three had nose cones that returned to the earth. With the background of their proven 700-mile and 1000-mile missiles, the Soviets could complete all the necessary missile firing tests within the next six months. The United States will not have an operational ICBM prior to mid-1959. Within six months we cannot have a reliable IRBM and ICBM.

Accordingly, an advantageous course of action is open to the Soviets to announce unilaterally the cessation of tests in six months or so. They could continue scientific use of rockets and gain from such use all the further information they need. The acceptance of a stoppage of tests before mid-1959 would be highly disadvantageous to the United States. Accordingly, any proposals for limiting the use of outer space should be very carefully studied.

[Page 604]

In light of the views of the group on nuclear tests and missiles tests, the committee felt that an early announcement is needed on stoppage of nuclear testing. They consider that major advantages may accrue from such a statement and from such action. They added that an early announcement on nuclear testing would reduce the danger of pressures on us for cessation of missile testing.

The President thought that it would be difficult for the Soviets to generate pressure on us for a stoppage of missile testing. Our policy would probably require so many conditions to be met before such a stoppage could be agreed that early agreement would be unlikely. He added that he had never been too much impressed, or completely convinced by the views expressed by Drs. Teller, Lawrence and Mills that we must continue testing of nuclear weapons.

In concluding, Dr. Killian said that while his committee favored stopping of testing, many top officials do not agree, including those of AEC and Defense. The latter are concerned particularly with regard to the warhead for the AICBM. On this point the Science Advisory Committee thinks that the other problems involved in the AICBM are much the greater ones, and that we have warheads which could serve satisfactorily, although perhaps not with the ultimate in efficiency.

Brigadier General, USA
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries. Secret. Drafted by Goodpaster.
  2. See Document 151.