159. Memorandum of Conference With President Eisenhower0

The following members, consultants and staff of the Science Advisory Committee met with the President: Drs. Killian, Bacher, Berkner, Bethe, Bronk, General Doolittle, Drs. Fisk, Haskins, Kistiakowsky, Land, Purcell, Rabi, Robertson, Weiss, Wiesner, Zacharias, Brode, Dryden, Hill, Piore, Scoville, Waterman, Mr. Beckler.

Dr. Killian opened the discussion, reporting on preparations for the technical discussions at Geneva on atomic testing. He said that good progress is being made in developing the views of the United States team. He mentioned that there may be some problems of declassification, i.e., actions may have to be taken to declassify certain material essential to the discussions. The President said he would be prepared to take a liberal stand on this, in view of what we hope to accomplish through the conference. Dr. Killian said the question must also be considered as to how to follow up the report that the group brings in, and as to the kind of support organization that will exist in the United States for the group during their discussions. Some planning and preparations must be made for this. The President said he understood this to be simply a question of what is the next step, and that the idea is to prepare plans on the assumption that United States views are adopted at the conference. Dr. Fisk said that a specific type of question that will arise is as to the measures that will be proposed in the event it is found that explosions below a certain size could not be detected with certainty.

Dr. Killian next asked Dr. Bethe to present some considerations concerning clean weapons. Dr. Bethe said that in the Hardtack series a number [Page 613]of the clean weapons tests have not been successful, in that the yield has proven to be very much less than that sought. This result occurred, he said, because the laboratories tried to reduce the weight of weapons to certain desirable figures [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. He thought these results may show that we are close to the limit of what we can attain in “cleanness” of weapons. He added that ground bursts of large weapons seem to produce radioactivity equivalent to a fission component of approximately [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] (although this has a short half life—about twenty-four hours). The President asked whether, inasmuch as the Soviets test on land, they are suffering worse effects from fall-out than we are. Dr. Bethe said that the Soviets are using air bursts, probably to minimize this effect, but that even so their fall-out problem is worse than ours. Dr. Bethe concluded by saying that tests of standard weapons in the Hardtack series have been quite successful.

[Here follows discussion of the missile program, the space program, the possibility of establishing a Department of Science during the Eisenhower administration, and the role of the individual in scientific inquiry]

G.
Brigadier General, USA
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries. Top Secret; Restricted Data. Drafted by Goodpaster.