241. Memorandum from Gen. LeMay to SAFS, September 181

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  • (C) Recommended Long Range Nuclear Delivery Forces 1963–1967

1. (SECRET) I have reviewed the proposed memorandum to the President on “Long Range Nuclear Delivery Forces 1963–1967” which was forwarded to you on 29 August 1961, by the Secretary of Defense for comment. In my view, the reductions in certain strategic offensive systems substantially below Service recommended levels for Fiscal Year 1963 procurement are not justified.

2. (TOP SECRET) The general war deterrent strategy set forth as a basis for force level determinations is not clearly delineated. While rejecting the dangers of “minimum deterrence”, the posture counseled largely contradicts that intent.

a. For example, the requirement is recognized for the capability to respond with nuclear attack against the Soviets in case of major assault upon our Allies. It is implied, however, that we should not attempt to [Typeset Page 811] develop the capability to pre-empt in the case of unequivocal strategic warning of impending attack upon the United States itself.

b. This embodies the suggestion that we would be in a less favorable position if we responded to a threat of attack only against the U.S., than if we retaliated to assault upon one or more of our Allies. We would, in fact, be in a far better position in the former case, and could expect Allied contribution to our response.

c. In my judgment, both capabilities are vitally necessary to a viable deterrent strategy and to our collective security commitments; a force capable of either will be capable of both; and such a force is infeasible only if we choose to regard it as such.

d. I am particularly concerned over the implication that we cannot provide required strategic forces except at the cost of resources needed to increase the conventional capability of our theater forces. I have supported conventional improvements with the clear understanding that the strategic posture would not be permitted to weaken, since a strong nuclear deterrent posture is the essential element of military strength which makes a conventional option feasible. This is a fundamental tenet of the new U.S. policy toward NATO which is predicated upon the assumption that in preparing to meet non-nuclear attack in NATO we would not divert resources from “programs to assure an ample and protected U.S. strategic power”.

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3. (TOP SECRET) In addition, the calculations which underlie the judgment reached on forces give rise to questions on points such as the following:

a. While a range of assumptions are employed, only one basic case is assessed, and that includes a threat of unrealistic dimensions.

b. The enemy attack against the proposed U.S. force appears to have been developed without full regard for optimum programming against all elements of the U.S. and Allied nuclear threat to the enemy.

c. The estimates of the median numbers of enemy missiles appear to comprise an unweighted average between two extreme views in published estimates now in process of significant revision, rather than a median.

d. The assumptions regarding the deployment, hardening, yield and accuracy of enemy ICBMs are not consonant with current estimates, and seriously exaggerate the kill potential of the Soviet hardened follow-on ICBM.

e. The target system postulated omits important elements of enemy capability, obscures the distinction between targets and aiming points, contemplates indiscriminate attack upon enemy population and urban floorspace, and invites unacceptable risk by excluding Communist China and the satellites except for possible defense suppression objectives.

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f. The weapon loading of bomber alert forces is significantly overstated.

g. It is stated that the Soviet IRBM/MRBM threat can be most economically attacked intercontinentally. In the face of rapid growth of this threat, NATO will not long exist without suitable countering weapons of its own. A NATO MRBM capability would be both cheaper and more effective.

4. (SECRET) A number of the judgments made on the ability to delay or modify current procurement decisions without impact upon future options are also questioned. The decision on increased MINUTEMAN force levels cannot be delayed beyond the Fiscal Year 1963 Budget cycle without the risk of serious penalties to an orderly, economical and operationally feasible program leading to timely final system installation and check out. Similarly, while there is apparent agreement on Fiscal Year 1963 procurement of additional KC–135 jet tankers, the proposed reductions in future force goals have immediate implications. Future KC–135 levels bear upon production rate, and support for an increase from 9 to 14 per month is required in the Fiscal Year 1963 Budget actions.

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5. (CONFIDENTIAL) I am particularly concerned as to the security of sensitive war planning information contained in Sections II and III and the Appendices of the proposed memorandum to the President. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are in agreement that these sections should be removed, retained under close control in the Department of Defense, and not be forwarded to the President.

6. (SECRET) My views as to the levels of strategic offensive forces required are expressed in the Departmental Submission for the FY 1963 Budget. I have discussed the strategic concepts underlying the development of these force levels with the Secretary of Defense on at least two recent occasions. Additionally, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have reached full agreement as to the numbers of strategic weapons which should be specifically procured in the FY 1963 Budget. This agreement should be supplemented by funding of necessary long lead-time items to protect the option to attain the force goals reflected in Departmental submissions, for MINUTEMAN and POLARIS for example, upon possible later determination that such higher levels are required.

7. (CONFIDENTIAL) It is my strong conviction that our requirements for added military strengths in long-range nuclear delivery forces are a matter of the highest priority to the future security of the United States. If this dictates an expanded budget, then I am convinced that it can be expanded with public understanding and Congressional support.

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8. (UNCLASSIFIED) This letter is classified TOP SECRET to safeguard details of planning for future force levels of strategic offensive weapon systems.

Curtis E. LeMay
General, U.S. Air Force
Chief of Staff
  1. Recommendations on long-range nuclear delivery forces, 1963–1967. Top Secret. 3 pp. Washington National Records Center, Records Group 330, OSD Files: FRC 71 A 3470, Misc Budget.