57. Editorial Note

During the National Security Council meeting on May 28, 1959, President Eisenhower raised the subjects of air defense and military organization:

“The President before leaving the Council meeting to join with the Foreign Ministers said that he had one important question he wished to put to the ‘Defense Department people.’ He said that he was increasingly upset by the vehemence of the fight between the advocates of the Nike missile and the advocates of the BOMARC. Why, asked the President, do we have to have two armed services of the U.S. shooting two different ground-to-air missiles? This is not a question which has been neglected in the past. Former Secretary of Defense Wilson had said that we had [Page 214] gone so far down the road in procurement of these two kinds of missiles that we would have to leave the matter up to the Services. This did not mean to him, said the President, that each of two Services must have its own special ground-to-air missile. Moreover, if the two Services insist on using and firing two different kinds of ground-to-air missiles, it seemed to the President that we were violating all that this Administration had ever said about integrated control in the Armed Services.

“The President added that in any case he would certainly like to see a memorandum of the reasons why we must continue along the line that we seem wedded to. Secretary McElroy replied that he had given much thought to this problem since he had come back from Geneva.

“The President said that he had one other thing which very greatly disturbed him. This, he said, was the obvious lessening of what he called the authority of the corporate conclusions of the Military Services. This tendency seemed to the President very destructive of the respect due to the opinions of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Secretary McElroy replied that what we were faced with in this particular matter was how to manage Congressional hearings which played up differences. This problem had to be straightened out if the tendency which disturbed the President so greatly was to be avoided in the future.

“The President replied that he doubted the possibility of getting the committees of Congress to change their ways if they could see a partisan advantage in continuing along the present line. To this Secretary McElroy answered that if the President were right, we could only have recourse to insisting that military people testifying before Congress keep their mouths shut when asked for an expression of their private opinions. We would of course take a heavy rap if we were to undertake to do this.

“The President insisted that in his view every military man should support the final decision of those in positions of authority after he has had the opportunity to state his own personal views. Such a procedure as this was the essential basis on which a military staff successfully operated. Suppose, asked the President, we were actually in a state of war and all these differences of opinion and challenges to authority were being aired?” (Memorandum of discussion by Gleason; Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records)

The President’s statement about rejoining the Foreign Ministers refers to meetings he held following funeral services for former Secretary Dulles in Washington on May 27. The Geneva Conference of Foreign Ministers of the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and France convened on May 11, but recessed for 2 days to permit the Ministers to attend the funeral.