163. Memorandum of Conference With President Eisenhower 0


  • Dr. Killian
  • General Goodpaster

Dr. Killian referred to a request he had received from the Secretary of State to make a technical study of measures to detect and discourage surprise attack.1 He went on to say that the technical aspects of this question are so inextricably involved with military and political factors that he did not think that a meaningful study limited to technical phases alone could be prepared. The President said he was inclined to agree and suggested [Page 617] that Dr. Killian might advise the Secretary of State that he would be glad to have some of his people look at the problem, together with Defense and State personnel. The effort could be kept small, utilizing an informal working group for the purpose.

Dr. Killian said the question is chiefly related to warning—to find out whether hostilities are being prepared for. We have been talking chiefly about the northern rim. Inspection relating to attacks launched from there, or passing over that area, would seem to have some promise. The President commented that the original idea we had of Open Skies was chiefly related to attack involving aircraft, and that it may not be so effective when projected forward into the missile era. However, for the next several years the greatest threat of destruction continues to be the military aircraft; missiles will not be ready in such quantity. What we are aiming to determine is that bases within such and such a line have not been brought to a state suggesting imminent attack.

After further discussion the President thought that the most effective procedure would be to send a note, signed by himself, asking them jointly to go forward with this study, and making Dr. Killian and his group available to work in coordination with them.

Brigadier General, USA
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries. Secret. Drafted by Goodpaster on August 4.
  2. Dulles sent Killian a letter on July 3 requesting that the President’s Science Advisory Committee explore the scientific and technical aspects of the surprise attack problem. (ibid., White House Office Files, Office of the Special Assistant for Science and Technology, Disarmament—Surprise Attack) In a July 10 letter to Dulles, Killian reported that after 2 days of preliminary discussion, the Science Advisory Committee had reached the conclusions as described by Killian. Killian’s letter is ibid. Both letters are in the Supplement.