51. Memorandum for the Record0

Mr. Ayer 1 called me at about eleven o’clock to advise that a reconnaissance balloon of the 461–L project had apparently gone down in Poland yesterday. He said that he was planning for a statement to the press to be made within a very short time, and read off what it was proposed to say. To my query he indicated that this proposed action and text had been taken up at Assistant Secretary level in State, but not higher, and had not been taken up with the Secretary or Deputy Secretary of Defense. I told him that the President had reserved all major decisions in the matter to himself, and would wish for the matter to be brought to his attention with the recommendations of Mr. Quarles and Secretary Dulles or Mr. Herter. Mr. Ayer argued against doing so, and I finally told him that it was essential that the matter be handled in this way. I also suggested that he get in touch with Mr. Quarles without delay.

I talked to Mr. Herter, who advised that he had seen the text of the proposed action and found it satisfactory. I then talked to Mr. Quarles, who was not familiar with the matter, but said he would go into it at once.

I spoke briefly to Dr. Killian, in my office. He advised that the mishap had occurred because of a decision on the part of an operating official in the Air Force to set the balloons for automatic descent at 400 hours duration, this being a major change in the plan as presented to the President and approved by him.

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I then reported the matter to the President and Secretary Dulles, who was with him. The President indicated that, when Mr. Quarles had a proposed statement and plan of action ready, he should take it up with Secretary Dulles in view of the latter’s interest as to timing, content, impact on other activities, etc.

The President deplored the way in which this project has been handled. He asked me to advise Mr. Quarles that the project is to be discontinued at once and every cent that has been made available as part of any project involving crossing the Iron Curtain is to be impounded, and no further expenditures are to be made.

I called Mr. Quarles, who said he would clear any proposed statement with Secretary Dulles and with the White House, through me. He confirmed that he understood the President’s instructions about discontinuing the project and all outlays of funds connected with the project.

Brigadier General, USA
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Project Clean Up, Intelligence Matters. Top Secret. Prepared by Goodpaster.
  2. Frederick Ayer, Jr., Special Assistant for Intelligence, Department of the Air Force.