46. Memorandum From Secretary of State Dulles to the Director of Intelligence and Research (Cumming)0

The President authorized proceeding to work out a project along the lines of your June 18 memorandum to me.1 He did so with reluctance and concern, and with the understanding that it would be worked out in a way which would give maximum plausibility to an innocent explanation.

There appeared to be several divergences between the presentation made by Mr. Quarles and the presentation contained in your memorandum [Page 169] of June 18. You spoke of “two or three”; he spoke of “four or five”. You spoke of launching from Seattle; he spoke of launching from Alaska. You spoke of covering “only marginal areas of the Soviet Union”; he spoke of transiting the main body of the Soviet Union. You spoke of the purpose being to “test the intelligence potential of the project with a minimum risk”; he presented it as an intelligence operation standing on its own merits.

It was agreed that State, Defense, CIA and Killian would work out the details of the specific project, which would then be resubmitted to the President, it being understood that, in case of conflict in the detailed preparation, the views of State would prevail.2

  1. Source: Department of State, INR Files: Lot 58 D 776, Balloons. Top Secret. Initialed by Calhoun and transmitted through the Executive Secretariat.
  2. Cumming’s memorandum to Dulles, June 18, noted that the President had recently rejected Air Force project 461–L, a large-scale high-altitude balloon reconnaissance operation over the Soviet Union, and the Air Force now proposed a similar, but more limited operation involving the release of two or three balloons from Larson Air Force Base in Seattle, Washington, during July. It added that Allen Dulles favored this limited project subject to Secretary Dulles’ approval. A handwritten notation on this memorandum reads: “I would not object, but the President should decide. JFD” (Ibid.)
  3. A memorandum for the record prepared by Goodpaster of a meeting among Secretary Dulles, Quarles, Allen Dulles, Dr. Killian, and the President on June 25, indicated that the President gave a “limited go ahead” to the idea of two or three balloon flights from Seattle “on the understanding that the group that was meeting with the President would itself consider the operational specifics and attendant public statements, cover and diversionary operations, etc.—with political considerations to be given top priority.” (Eisenhower Library, Project Clean Up, Intelligence Matters)