34. Memorandum of Conference With President Eisenhower0


  • Senator Symington
  • General Goodpaster

Senator Symington said he had met with Allen Dulles recently to bring to his attention certain intelligence information on Soviet missile programs which he had received from independent sources. An earlier meeting had disclosed that these estimates were in disagreement with those of Mr. Dulles, and Senator Symington said the subsequent meeting did not resolve the difference. Senator Symington said he took with him Colonel Lanphier,1 an officer in the Air Force Reserve who is a top executive for Convair, and had formerly been his assistant in the Air Force and in the NSRB. Because he had not resolved with Mr. Dulles the disagreement over the estimates, he had prepared a paper to hand to the President.2

The President said he had knowledge of this matter. He had asked for information as to what the source of the difference might be. He understood Colonel Lanphier’s estimate was reportedly based on disclosures made to him by working level officers in the intelligence field. The President said he had been through this matter, with intelligence chiefs of all services present, just a day or two before. He thought our information is quite good as to current Soviet strengths and activities; when it is projected ahead, of course differing interpretations can be reached. He cited the great error that had been made two years ago in estimating Soviet Bear and Bison programs which resulted in mistakes being made in our own programs, inasmuch as the Soviets actually carried out only a small fraction of what certain people estimated at that time. With regard to the ballistic missiles, it is clear that the Soviets started their program as early as 1945. Ours only started in earnest after the President had had two scientific studies made following a basic breakthrough in warhead weight and power resulting from the achievement of the thermonuclear weapon.

The President said he thought it would be out of character for him to be indifferent to valid assessments of Soviet strength. He said he had [Page 138]read Senator Symington’s report. He also commented that Colonel Lanphier cannot possibly get information that reflects the full process of the evaluation system. The President said he had no doubt as to the dedication and skill of our intelligence community working as a whole. He asked Senator Symington whether he had discussed this matter with Mr. McElroy, and Senator Symington indicated he had not. The Senator went on to say he was surprised at the things Allen Dulles did not seem to know, which had been reported to him. The President commented that intelligence activity functions very much on a line rather than a staff basis; as a result, individuals at lower levels in the structure do not have an evaluated assessment of bits and pieces of reports, many of dubious reliability, of which they have heard.

The President added a further point relating to decisions as to size and timing of procurement programs for items in development. Sometimes we have a project that looks good in development. If it is put into procurement too soon, there can be a great diversion of development effort to correct mistakes which a little more time on development would have avoided. He cited the M–47 tank as an example. Once we have confidence that our ICBMs will be militarily significant, they will be of great help, for example in reducing our reliance upon bases; he mentioned the extreme difficulty we are having regarding our Moroccan bases at the present time.

Senator Symington reported that an Atlas had been fired the previous night with very successful results. The President said he understood it was making good progress. He also understood the Titan is expected to be a very good weapons system. It will come a year or two later, but this is the cost of our having delayed until 1954 or 1955 in doing what the Soviets started in 1945.

Senator Symington expressed willingness to come in again if he could be of further help in this matter. The President said he did not think it should be kept away from Mr. McElroy. In fact, he thought Mr. McElroy should meet with Senator Symington with the top intelligence people present so that the matter could be very authoritatively dealt with. Senator Symington said that the intelligence estimate of Soviet test firings is much lower than it should be, to be consistent with the estimated growth of their ICBM operational capability. The President thought this too is a matter, that could well be discussed with Mr. McElroy.

Brigadier General, USA
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries. Top Secret. Drafted by Goodpaster on August 30.
  2. Colonel Thomas G. Lanphier.
  3. In the form of a letter to the President dated August 29. (Department of State, Whitman File, Administration Series)-See the Supplement.