291. Report by the Special Studies Group, Joint Chiefs of Staff, April 19631

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This study was conducted by the Tactical Nuclear Branch, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Special Studies Group. The Chairman of the CJCS Special Studies Group during the period of preparation of this report was Major General P.S. Emrick, USAF, Director J–5 (Plans and Policy); Deputy Chairman was Rear Admiral Arthur R. Gralla, USN; Assistant Deputy Chairman was Colonel David Gould, USAF. Study participants were:

Ad Hoc Vice Chairman Brig Gen M.O. Edwards, USA

Col C.M. Talbott, USAF

Capt G.F. Colleran, USN

Col E.L. DuBois, USA

Capt D.C. Stanley, USN

Lt Col H.V. Huffstutter, USMC

Lt Col C.M. Jones, USA

Lt Col C.M. Hall, USA

Appreciation is acknowledged for the valuable assistance provided by various agencies within and outside the Department of Defense in the development of various portions of this study. Appreciation is also expressed for the services of highly qualified personnel made available by all the Services during the preparation of this study. In particular, Col W.F. Ahern, USA; Col R.P. McQuail, USA; Col R.B. Crayton, USA; Col G.M. Adams, USAF; Col R.G. Bulgin, USAF; Dr. E.L. Rabben; Lt Col W.A. Giles, USA; Lt Col P.J. Dolan, USA; Lt Col S. Irons, USAF; Maj J.V. Dunham, USA; Maj M.V. Ireland, USA; Maj A.L. Stamper, USA; Capt T.K. Hobby, USA and Capt J.E. Ranes, USA, have materially assisted in the assembly, interpretation and compilation of the technical data contained herein.

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1. The Secretary of Defense, by memorandum of 23 May 1962, requested the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, to organize a study of the requirements for tactical nuclear weapons. The initial phase of the study (Project 23) was to be limited to the use of tactical nuclear weapons in ground and supporting air-to-ground combat (the land battle) in Europe. This initial report was forwarded to the Secretary of Defense on 19 October 1962.

2. Subsequent review by the Services and by the Joint Chiefs of Staff concluded that the initial report constituted an incomplete analysis of the conduct of tactical nuclear warfare in Central Europe. It was considered that certain essential aspects of nuclear warfare were not addressed and that the initial study should not be viewed as a final answer to the subject. It was further concluded that this study did furnish an insight into the magnitude of numbers and yields of weapons that might be needed in Western Europe, but it was not considered as an adequate basis for determining weapons requirements.

3. At an interdepartmental meeting in December 1962, concerning the DOD recommended nuclear weapons stockpile for FY 64 and FY 65, it was decided that further study should be undertaken to provide more definitive substantiation for tactical nuclear weapons with particular emphasis upon small yield, short range weapons. Terms of reference were approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and forwarded2 to the Secretary of Defense on 27 December 1962. Subsequent to the approval of the terms of reference, a memorandum3 from Mr. Carl Kaysen, Deputy Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, to the Secretary of Defense, dated 21 January 1963, raised questions of a broader scope than set forth in the initial terms of reference.

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4. In order to respond to the expanded terms of reference within the time frame specified, the problem has been examined by two separate groups. The Special Studies Group has addressed the question of the basis for the military requirement for certain of the tactical and antisubmarine warfare (ASW) weapons. The Strategic Plans and Policy Division, J–5 Directorate, Joint Staff, has re-examined the quantitative aspects of the weapons in question with respect to levels required for FY 65.

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5. This study extends and elaborates portions of the initial Project 23 report and focuses principal attention on the following:

a. The role of tactical nuclear weapons in the land battle and in antisubmarine warfare (ASW).

b. The feasibility of conducting tactical nuclear warfare in Europe, without destroying Europe and her population in the process, considering the military capability to survive and conduct effective military operations.

c. An examination of the military need for small yield, short range tactical nuclear weapons in the land battle in Europe and in ASW under various conflict situations.

d. A comparative examination of the types of small yield, short range nuclear weapons providing the greatest utility in the land battle on the basis of cost and operational effectiveness.

e. An analysis of the extent and effect of tactical air in support of the land battle in conventional and tactical nuclear warfare.

f. Levels of certain tactical nuclear weapons which should be provided in the FY 65 stockpile.


6. It is recognized that a multiplicity of war situations presents a wide variety of conditions that influence the use of tactical nuclear weapons. Because of the broad spectrum of situations, the terms of reference were written to narrow the scope of this study to manageable proportions. Consequently, there has been emphasis in this study on the [Facsimile Page 7]requirement for small yield [text not declassified] nuclear weapons under conditions less than general war. The general war case was examined only in sufficient detail to permit the estimation of the effects of the strategic retardation of the westward movement of Soviet Bloc forces and its subsequent effect on the outcome of the land battle. While the effects of counterair and pre-planned interdiction were considered sufficiently to determine their effect on a sector of the land battle, specific attention was not given to the determination of the nuclear weapons requirement for these efforts; neither was special consideration given to the requirements for nuclear weapons for theater or fleet air defense or for MRBMs. Continuing study, and integrated war gaming could serve to further refine these aspects of this study.

7. The primary situation for analysis in this study is a large scale conventional attack by the Soviet Bloc in Europe in 1967. NATO, unable to contain this attack conventionally, escalates to use of tactical nuclear weapons and the Soviet Bloc retaliates. Both the US and Soviet homelands are assumed to be sanctuaries and are not attacked. A segment of the 7th (US) Army sector was analyzed in the context of a major battle situation to test the effectiveness of the concepts developed by separate analyses. A brief comparison of the battle situation with the results of an independent British study of a similar operation in the Northern Army Group sector was also made.

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8. Volume I addresses the following aspects of the tactical nuclear problem: the role of these weapons and the objectives for their use, the military requirement, the major uncertainties associated with determining the requirement, alternatives considered, and recommended further study areas. Subsidiary analyses provided by various agencies within and outside the Department of Defense have been considered in the development of the conclusions reflected herein. These related studies and amplifying data are contained in the appendices to the basic report (Volumes II through VII). Volume VIII was prepared by the J–5 Directorate of the Joint Staff and contains recommendations relative to the FY 65 stockpile. This volume was developed on the basis of the conclusions drawn from this study, from submission of requirements from specified and unified commanders, and from dollar and material guidelines previously established for the FY 65 stockpile submission.

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The conclusions presented below apply to tactical nuclear warfare in the land battle including supporting air, and in antisubmarine warfare. Conclusions regarding air operations are based upon an air analysis of a theater conflict and air operations conducted in support of NATO ground forces. Conclusions regarding the land battle are based upon analysis of the Central Region of Europe and are pertinent thereto. They are also applicable generally to other areas of Europe or to any geographical area where modern forces armed with nuclear weapons may be engaged in a large-scale war of maneuver. The conclusions regarding antisubmarine warfare apply to the use of these weapons anywhere at sea.


9. NATO MC 26/4 forces in the 1967–1968 time period can conduct worthwhile nuclear military operations and can be expected to stop a Soviet Bloc advance into Central Europe under the assumptions, situation and constraints postulated by the Terms of Reference (Appendix I). However, the outcome of the ground battle is highly sensitive to the outcome of the air battle in both conventional and nuclear conflict. It is also sensitive to whether the Warsaw Pact forces initiate the use of nuclear weapons first or employ nuclear forces operating from the Soviet Union sanctuary.

10. NATO forces in Europe, as currently planned, cannot be expected to survive a Soviet Bloc attack which intends their destruction by using large numbers of megaton weapons without regard to consequent damage to civil resources and extensive fallout radiation. Retaliation against such a low constraint attack would require the use of strategic forces external to Europe.

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11. In warfare in peripheral areas of the world against massive conventional forces not equipped with nuclear weapons a decided military advantage would accrue to the side which employed tactical nuclear weapons unilaterally on the battlefield.

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12. Collateral damage from a representative tactical nuclear conflict (in which constraints are observed by both sides) in Central Europe including the Satellites would cause about five million casualties among the over-all population over the first two or three days after escalation. Of this, about three and one-half million result from attacks in NATO against fixed targets, one-half million from attacks against fixed targets in Eastern European Satellites, and one million from attacks of troop targets in the land battle.

13. Even when used in greater numbers, small yield weapons cause only a small fraction of civilian casualties relative to larger yield weapons. Civilian casualties resulting from subkiloton weapons are almost negligible by comparison with other nuclear weapons. To inflict a given level of military casualties, the use of high yield weapons will cause a higher number of civilian casualties than the use of low yield weapons.


14. There is a requirement for small yield [text not declassified] tactical nuclear weapons. The more NATO’s basic strategy is oriented toward a conventional defense of Western Europe, the more emphatic this requirement becomes. These weapon systems, which have short response times and meet friendly troop safety considerations, are the only types of nuclear weapons systems which can adequately deal with the close-in threat from forces initially in contact against NATO forces and those reserve forces subsequently coming into close contact. Inherent in these systems is the ability to acquire targets rapidly and to react against the large number of targets in the engaged zone.

15. Longer range [text not declassified] tactical nuclear weapons are needed to interdict and attack reserve forces in the land battle and can be highly effective in this role. Because of limitations in targeting, troop safety, systems responsiveness, and constraints these weapons systems cannot by themselves cope with the full land battle threat and cannot fully ensure against substantial reserve forces moving forward to engage NATO forces.

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16. Preliminary analysis indicates that under present targeting concepts strategic nuclear and SACEUR scheduled nuclear strikes against deep interdiction targets would not inflict a major level of direct or collateral damage against Soviet Bloc reserve ground forces nor would a high level of retardation be attained.

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17. In nuclear warfare, nonnuclear ammunition is competitive with small yield nuclear ammunition only if conventional artillery units and ammunition support units are greatly increased. However, the massing of the number of artillery units to deliver the equivalent rate of non-nuclear fire power is not practical in a nuclear environment in terms of dispersion or availability. Additionally, the logistic effort necessary for ammunition alone is prohibitive, particularly on a continuing basis.

18. On the basis of operational effectiveness, tube artillery systems (155–mm and 8–inch Howitzers) are the most useful small yield, short range ground nuclear weapon systems. The 155–mm Howitzer and 8–inch Howitzer are complementary nuclear systems with approximately the same range bracket. The 155–mm Howitzer [text not declassified] which provides effective fire against the small size targets in the range bracket without excessive collateral damage or risk to friendly troops. The 8–inch Howitzer [text not declassified] adequately cover the larger size targets in range.

19. There is a requirement for a highly mobile, all-weather, quick-responding, [text not declassified]. The value of a forward area nuclear weapon system lies in assuring powerful fire support at critical junctures in the small unit battle and in accomplishing this with economy of delivery means. Such a system can make small, mobile, dispersed units powerful self-contained combat forces which might otherwise be ineffective on the nuclear battlefield.

20. The current DAVY CROCKETT [text not declassified].

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21. There is a requirement for atomic demolition munitions. This type of weapon is most effective under a strategy of early nuclear response in the defense of a forward area, but even under other possible defensive strategies, it would have a unique and useful capability in the rapid creation of obstacles. Other nuclear systems are less effective and non-nuclear systems are not competitive in the same role.

22. Air delivered tactical nuclear weapons and surface-to-surface missile systems provide an essential and complementary mix of weapons systems in Central Europe. Each system offers unique qualities that range from the superior flexibility of the strike/reconnaissance tactical fighter to the superior survivability of the mobile missile system.

23. Air delivered nuclear weapons are more efficient than air delivered nonnuclear ordnance against large radius, high density, and/or hardened targets. A net economy is realized because of the greatly reduced number of sorties required per target. The saving in sorties per target equates to a greater number of targets that can be attacked simultaneously.

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24. The requirement for tactical nuclear weapons in ASW is related directly to the submarine threat, and does not vary significantly with the response strategy adopted by NATO. In limited war, these weapons are primarily required to attack Soviet submarines which have missions of anti-shipping, short range missile support or covert operations. In general war, direct attacks on Soviet bases might reduce this requirement, but the necessity for successful destruction of Soviet ballistic missile submarines would more than offset such a reduction.

25. There is a requirement for small yield, short range tactical nuclear weapons in ASW. This requirement develops both from the critical lack of reliable and effective detection and classification capabilities and from the fact that [Facsimile Page 12]the Soviet Bloc possesses the technical capability to counter conventional ASW weapons. If this Soviet technical potential is realized, nuclear weapons may be the only effective means of eliminating the Soviet submarines threat.


26. Weapons required for the fiscal year 1965 stockpile are shown in Appendix N. (Distributed separately due to special classification.)

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During the development of the study, a number of propositions concerning the issues relative to the employment of tactical nuclear weapons have evolved and have been considered by the Study Group. They have a direct bearing on the broad issues of tactical nuclear warfare and are included to assist in placing the conclusions in perspective.


27. In general nuclear warfare, what is the role of tactical nuclear weapons in the land battle and in antisubmarine warfare? What is the role in limited nuclear warfare? In particular, [text not declassified] tactical nuclear weapons in the land battle and antisubmarine warfare?

a. The primary roles of tactical nuclear weapons are:

(1) To deter the Soviet Bloc from initiating large-scale nonnuclear warfare on land or at sea by providing a secure and evident tactical nuclear back-up to non-nuclear forces. This includes deterrence of a massive conventional force build-up in Europe which might otherwise overwhelm NATO conventional forces.

(2) To deter the Soviet Bloc from initiating warfare at the tactical nuclear level.

(3) To contribute to deterring general nuclear warfare by providing nuclear forces which in combination with conventional forces are ca[Typeset Page 1208]pable of safeguarding NATO from being overrun by Soviet Bloc ground forces.

(4) To contribute to deterring general nuclear warfare by providing increased capability to overcome the Soviet Bloc submarine threat.

b. The roles of tactical nuclear weapons in general warfare are:

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(1) In the land battle, to contain Soviet Bloc advances during the early phase of warfare before the full impact of the strategic offensive has been felt by the Soviet Bloc forces engaging NATO, and to facilitate subsequent operations necessary to achieve desired objectives.

(2) In ASW to deter Soviet missile submarine participation in attacks on Allied territory and to destroy Soviet submarines, bases and facilities to reduce the magnitude of the Soviet attack.

c. The roles of tactical nuclear weapons in limited warfare are:

(1) In the land battle to:

(a) Deter Soviet Bloc forces from escalating non-nuclear warfare to nuclear warfare.

(b) Increase the flexibility of response to aggression by providing for options to limit nuclear warfare below the general war level.

(c) Provide the capability to execute a nuclear show of force in order to persuade transgressing enemy forces to halt and quickly withdraw, by demonstrating our resolve to pursue nuclear warfare if need be.

(d) To contribute to preserving NATO integrity in the event that Soviet Bloc forces initiate the use of tactical nuclear weapons or in the event that NATO nonnuclear forces cannot cope with the aggression at hand. This entails the capability to deny loss of NATO territory initially and if necessary to restore the territory subsequently.

(2) In ASW:

(a) To deter Soviet Bloc forces from employing nuclear weapons against naval forces and shipping.

(b) To assist in eliminating the Soviet Bloc submarine threat in the event they employ nuclear weapons at sea.

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(c) To assist in eliminating the Soviet Bloc submarine threat in the event that nonnuclear weapons are unable to cope satisfactorily with the threat.

d. The roles of small yield, short range tactical nuclear weapons in nuclear warfare are:

(1) To cope with enemy forces which are engaged in close contact with NATO forces at the outset of nuclear warfare.

(2) To cope with enemy reserve forces which are not destroyed by longer range weapons and which ultimately come into contact with NATO forces.

(3) To counterbalance comparable enemy nuclear systems.

(4) To execute very limited forms of nuclear warfare where a high degree of restraint is desirable.

(5) To permit our forces to operate in a dispersed mobile pattern necessary to survive in a nuclear environment or under the threat of attack by tactical nuclear weapons.

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(6) To give rapid, flexible and all weather response against targets of opportunity in the engaged battle.

e. The role of tactical nuclear weapons in war-terminating actions is to provide a residual margin of flexible tactical nuclear power over Soviet Bloc forces.


28. Is the conduct of nuclear warfare in Europe a feasible course of action in the sense that military forces can survive and conduct worthwhile military operations without destroying Europe in the process?

a. If nuclear war develops out of an initial large-scale conventional action, NATO force capability will depend to a large extent on the ability to convert [Facsimile Page 16]rapidly from nonnuclear to nuclear posture. Planning for nuclear warfare must consider the preceding conventional action, and planning for nonnuclear war must consider the possibility of sudden conversion to nuclear war.4

b. The level of collateral damage resulting from use of tactical nuclear weapons in ASW is insignificant. It is of consequence in connection with only one phase of the campaign to reduce the submarine threat, that of attack on Soviet advanced tenders and bases established on NATO territory. Civilian casualties resulting from such attacks would constitute a negligible proportion of total casualties.

c. The small yield weapons used at sea in ASW cause only a fraction of all civilian casualties which may be attributed to antisubmarine warfare. Serious constraint on their use because of the presence of transiting merchant shipping or indigenous fishing craft are improbable, and such use, even in relatively large numbers, is unlikely to raise radiation levels in the sea significantly.


29. What types of tactical nuclear weapons are needed for support of the land battle? In particular, what types of small yield, short range nuclear weapons are needed? To what extent can strategic nuclear forces support the land battle?

a. The need for large numbers of small yield, short range tactical nuclear weapons would be significantly less for a strategy based on early nuclear response to any aggression above a minor incursion, than for a strategy oriented toward conventional defense. If a higher level of damage to civil resources can be accepted, with attendant increased risk of escalation to higher levels of violence, the requirement for small [Typeset Page 1210]yield, short range weapons can be reduced by substituting higher yield weapons.5

b. Strategic nuclear forces are capable of performing an interdiction role against static targets, provided that adequate forces are available for these missions above [Facsimile Page 17]those required for the strategic mission, and provided that response time and constraints criteria can be satisfied. However, interdiction is a function of theater forces and should remain primarily the responsibility of the theater commander. Strategic nuclear forces have limited utility in the attack of mobile reserve forces and in supporting ground forces in the engaged battle.6

c. Creation of a force organization with a separated tactical nuclear force would not eliminate the need for forward area nuclear weapon systems, dual-capable tube artillery systems, longer range land battle systems and tactical aircraft systems. The relative effectiveness of nuclear-integrated and nuclear-separated force organization has not been examined in this study.

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This section addresses the questions posed by the Deputy Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. The questions, together with summary answers, are placed here for convenience.

30. Question

To what extent can longer range weapons (SERGEANT, PERSHING, and air delivered nuclear bombs), perform the tasks now assigned to ADMs, artillery, and DAVY CROCKETT?


The small yield, short range DAVY CROCKETT and artillery nuclear delivery systems [text not declassified] are employed against the targets immediately to the front and threatening friendly positions. These targets are the assault units of the enemy and while in the attack are almost constantly moving. To attack these targets effectively requires accurate, quick reacting systems delivering warheads of such yields so as not to unduly endanger friendly forces. The larger yield missiles cannot perform these missions because of length of reaction time, accuracy of delivery, size of yield and troop safety considerations. The air delivered bomb is restricted by availability of aircraft, uncertain reaction time, accuracy of delivery, and troop safety requirements.

The more NATO’s basic strategy is oriented toward a conventional defense in Western Europe, the more emphatic the requirement for the small yields becomes because larger forces become engaged in close [Typeset Page 1211]combat prior to escalation. This in turn places a higher number of targets in the close-in area that must be neutralized.

The number of small yield, short range weapons required could be reduced if improved target acquisition capability at longer ranges could be attained, or if a higher level of civil damage is accepted.

The objective of ADM employment is to create obstacles to impede and canalize enemy ground force movement, cause bottlenecks and concentrations and to reduce the enemy’s flexibility of action in or near the area of contact. This requires a high degree of accuracy and yields sufficiently [Facsimile Page 19]small so as not to endanger friendly troops. The longer range missiles (SERGEANT and PERSHING) cannot be adapted to this mission because of system accuracy and troop safety considerations. Low yield air delivered nuclear bombs could be employed on some occasions where troop safety and a lesser degree of accuracy are acceptable.7

31. Question

Where it is not possible to substitute the longer range for the shorter range weapons, to what extent can the tasks now assigned to the latter be adapted so that they can be performed by longer range weapons?


Adaptation of the tasks in question could involve disengagement of the combat forces in contact to permit attack of close targets with longer range weapons; however, disengagement of major forces throughout the width of NATO Central Region or for any large sector of the front would be extremely difficult to execute without detection by the enemy and consequent countermeasures on his part. Therefore, this tactic cannot be counted on.

Adaptation could also involve heavier attacks of reserve forces by the use of low constraint attacks such as blanket or terrain fire. This could result in fewer enemy units reaching the line of contact. However, the expected levels of target acquisition limit the capability of longer range weapons to attack reserve forces and thereby to reduce the threat which might ultimately have to be faced by NATO forward ground forces and small yield, short range weapons. If low constraints were assumed, with the consequent increase in civilian casualties and increase in the level of nuclear conflict, damage against the reserve threat can be increased.8

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32. Question

Even though NATO limited its initial response to small yield, short range tactical weapons as implied in the study Terms of Reference, would not the Soviets respond with whatever size tactical weapons they deemed necessary to assure victory? Is there any reason to believe that the Soviets would accept defeat in battle in order to limit damage to the areas in Western Europe that they hoped to occupy?

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Based on estimates of the threat, the Soviets will have the capability to respond with clearly decisive force in the situation stated above. The decision to so respond would be influenced by the extent to which they were deterred at the time by the threat of retaliation from residual nuclear forces in Europe in addition to the threat from external strategic forces. Whether deterrence would operate in our favor is a matter of speculative judgment. USCINCEUR in his recent paper addressing this specific question states:

“1. The degree of Soviet response would be related to their overall objective. In the event that the objective of the Soviets is limited, it is quite probable that their response would not be one of escalation. On the other hand, if the Soviet attack were one launched to attain major objectives in Western Europe it is likely that they could decide to use whatever size and number of tactical weapons they deemed necessary to assure victory.

“2. NATO should make it unmistakably clear in its response with small yield weapons that its objectives are to repel Soviet attacking forces and to demonstrate its resolve to employ whatever level of force may be necessary to defeat Bloc aggression, to include escalation of the conflict to general war.

“3. It is doubtful that Soviet leaders would regard success of ventures into Western Europe as so vital an objective as to be willing to escalate the level of conflict, especially in view of the risk of bringing about a general war from which the destruction of their homeland would result.”

33. Question

If, in a particular situation in Europe, it appears that tactical nuclears need to be called into play, what are the advantages of contemplating the resort to strategic striking forces instead? In dealing with this question it is important to examine the extent to which the use of tactical nuclears gives each side the incentive to pre-empt on the strategic level.

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The advantages to the United States of a strategic first strike in this situation are not apparent. The strategic striking forces programmed for 1968 do not provide for a capability to start a thermonuclear war in which resulting damage to ourselves and our Allies could be considered acceptable on some reasonable definition of the term. Neither are the advantages apparent for the Soviets in their contemplation of a strategic [Typeset Page 1213]first strike. The Soviet damage resulting from US retaliatory attack by the strategic striking forces programmed for 1968 are shown in the following tables. (The Soviets are assumed to have a fallout protection program.)


Soviet Unionb
US Retaliatory Strike On: Fatalities Casualties Industry
(Nos. in Millions) (Percent)
Military and Urban-
Industrial Targetsc
83 107 50
Military Targets Only 17 27 9

a The study from which the above data were extracted is on file in the CJCS Special Studies Group.

b The Soviet population is estimated at 230 million. Twenty percent of the population is assumed to afford a median protection number of .1. In the absence of fallout protection at least 70 percent of the population could be potential casualties under urban-industrial attacks.

c After the retaliatory attack on military targets, [text not declassified] POLARIS missiles and surviving TITAN II’s are used on urban-industrial targets.

34. Question

In the European situation, might not the civil damage from extensive tactical nuclears make it more attractive from the point of view of our European Allies to initiate the early use of strategic weapons?

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If the alternatives were extensive civil damage in Europe, or destruction of only Soviet Bloc countries and perhaps the United States, most Europeans would probably prefer the latter. However, the Soviet attack design is an uncertainty and the risks to Europe are formidable at the upper levels of the spectrum. The following table lists the predicted Western Europe mortalities across a range of possible Soviet retaliation responses in a general nuclear war in 1966 in which the outcome is more favorable to Europe (i.e., a US strategic first strike).


Target System Civil Military-Civil Military (groundburst) Military (airburst vs soft)
Western Europe
49–99m 39–70m 35–60m 5–8m

a Data from Office ISA report “Preliminary Report on MRBM’s, Nuclear Sharing, and Related Issues,” dated 1 Feb 62.

b The low number refers to the case of a low Soviet force posture receiving no usable warning; the high number, the case of a high Soviet force receiving tactical warning.

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In the less favorable circumstance of a Soviet first strategic strike in general nuclear war the outcome for Europe would be even worse.

Alternatively, as shown in Annex A to Appendix E, the consequences computed in this study for an attack which both sides confined to the “engaged” battle area, but across the whole Central Front9 would be on the order of 700,000 civilian casualties, including 400,000 mortalities.10

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When this same battle situation is extended to include [text not declassified] the Western Europe civilian casualties rise to approximately 4.411 million including 2.6 million mortalities. This latter outcome results from a relatively heavy attack [text not declassified] detonated in Western Europe). The one-day nuclear battle resulted in a stalemate with the Soviet drive halted, reserve units damaged and resupply capacities curtailed. The resulting pause would permit both sides to consider alternatives to renewed attacks.

The casualties from the use of tactical weapons in the extended case described are far below those at the lower end of the range of Western Europe mortalities in general war shown in the table above.

35. Question

What is the utility of tactical nuclear weapons after an exchange of strategic blows? In other words, how, after a strategic exchange, would the possession versus the non-possession of a wide variety of tactical nuclear ground weapons affect the outcome?


In the circumstance outlined the utility of tactical nuclear weapons is in denying Western Europe to the Soviet armies. With large scale ground forces in contact during and following a strategic exchange it would remain necessary to prevent overrun by the enemy. To cope with this threat a balanced mix of weapons appropriate to the ground battle target system would still be required. Some of the main uncertainties which would affect the utility and value of tactical nuclear weapons are:

a. The design and constraints of the Soviet strategic attack.

b. The types and relative numbers of residual nuclear delivery and reconnaissance vehicles on both sides after the strategic exchange.

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c. The priority which the Western strategic attack had afforded to interdiction and ground force retardation targets.

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d. The relative integrity of the opposing ground forces at the time of the strategic exchange.

As indicated in the study,12 attacks by strategic forces added to those by theater forces could affect to some extent the strength and timing of Soviet Bloc reinforcements and possibly more critically their resupply in a protracted battle. The extent of the effect would probably be the greatest in a war which started with no prior build-up or forward deployment of Soviet forces. However, across a wide range of plausible strategic exchange situations sizeable and effective Soviet forces would survive and would have to be dealt with by the Allied Commander, Europe.

In circumstances where the enemy ground forces are prepared to exploit an advantage in Europe resulting from the strategic exchange, NATO forces without a wide variety of tactical nuclear weapons would be at a disastrous disadvantage against Soviet Bloc forces possessing a tactical nuclear capability. Moreover, even if the war stopped after the thermonuclear exchange, the possession versus the non-possession of a balanced family of tactical nuclear weapons could be an important asset in providing a means to end the war on terms favorable to the United States and NATO.

36. Question

The study guidelines might be interpreted to assume that it would not be possible for NATO to contain by conventional means alone a large-scale conventional attack by the Soviet Bloc on Europe in 1967. To avoid assuming the answer to a central problem, it would appear desirable to consider for comparative purposes the outcome of a purely conventional response by NATO to the Soviet attack that is assumed in analyzing the effect of a nuclear response by NATO.


At the direction of the Secretary of Defense13 a separate study is now under way in the Chairman, JCS Special Studies Group, to address the question of NATO [Facsimile Page 25] force requirements to achieve a successful forward nonnuclear defense of the Central Front well east of the Rhine. This study will be completed 1 October 1963.

The main purpose of the study at hand was to examine the utility of tactical nuclear weapons assuming their employment becomes necessary. Therefore, the conflict situations herein were designed specifically [Typeset Page 1216]to suit that purpose. As it turned out in the development of one of these situations, because of the relative air superiority NATO was able to defend successfully on position “Hold” without resort to nuclear weapons. However, the assessments were not extended far enough to determine whether escalation might have been necessary at a later time in the conflict.

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[text not declassified]14 15

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In contrast, the effects from a [text not declassified] weapon, burst at the same altitude, would be as follows:

[text not declassified] Warhead Effects

Burst height: 750 feet

Radius Area Prompt Dosage Blast Thermal

[text not declassified]

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[text not declassified] However, many targets in the land battle involve troops in the field not able to take effective shelter against this weapon. Of special interest here is that the over-all attenuation of earth is approximately independent of the distance from the burst and is primarily a function of the depth of earth cover. Standard open foxholes do not provide significant protection: a dosage reduction of about .5 would occur, which, on an average would cause less than a 10% reduction in the effective radius of the warhead. A standard foxhole with a one foot cover of earth would provide attenuation factors on the order of .25 and act to reduce the effective warhead radius about 20%. See RAND Memorandum RM–2853–PR, Jan 63, Tactical Gaming of Special Low Yield Weapons (U), Section IV p 45 for discussion of combat characteristics.

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b. In contrast, in using the [text not declassified] to accomplish target destruction by blast, the area of possible collateral damage can exceed considerably that covered by effects of military significance. As a result, for the attack of targets located in or adjacent to populated areas and which are vulnerable to destruction or neutralization by [text not declassified].

42. Other Preliminary Considerations and Uncertainties

a. For many targets physical destruction is necessary (e.g., most interdiction type targets) and for others it is desirable (e.g., to provide [Typeset Page 1217]a blocking effect). For those targets in which these considerations do not apply, [text not declassified].

[text not declassified]

c. Current and programmed tactical aircraft and ground launchers of the HONEST JOHN and LITTLE JOHN type appear to be capable of delivering weapons of the [text not declassified].

[text not declassified] Further study should develop these as well as possible disadvantages. However, in view of the fact that even under optimum conditions, the weapon probably would not be available until late in 1965, it would not appear prudent to delay further the pending decisions on the Fiscal Year 1965 stockpile on its account.

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44. As a result of AEC development and the recent test program, essentially clean weapons, [text not declassified].

45. There are several applications for this type of weapon. For example, in the engaged battle, when a clean weapon is exploded in enemy territory, friendly troops would be able to enter the area of ground zero to exploit the tactical advantage created almost as soon as they could arrive on the scene. Residual radiation would be of little consequence to overtaking troops.

46. It would appear that this weapon would have significant advantage against troops near population centers especially where laydown is required. Under present conditions of constraints, attacking enemy concentrations near cities is inhibited by dangers of fallout to a friendly populace. By use of clean weapons this consideration could become less significant.

47. Another application, in which the Navy has expressed interest, is a clean weapon to be employed in an ASW role. Fallout from radioactive rain and a contaminated base surge have been areas of concern with current nuclear weapons especially in shallow water. Again, since little residual radiation is present after the burst of a clean weapon, the problem associated with base surge and fallout would be largely eliminated. Attacking surface ships could proceed to the area of last contact without delay. Moreover, attacks near convoys or other protected ships could be made without danger of blanketing them with contaminated water.

48. Another promising application for the clean weapon is its use as an ADM. Emplacing a clean ADM of appropriate yield in or near cities where rail and logistic supply [Facsimile Page 32]systems converge would be made feasible where before the commander might be restricted because of contamination considerations. It would appear that other clean ADM applications exist where early exploitation of the area of employment is necessary. For example, in areas involving engineering operations [Typeset Page 1218]such as harbor construction, obstacle elimination, or other earth-moving projects, these weapons could perform an extremely important function.

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49. NATO Force Posture. NATO force goals recommended in MC 26/4 except VSTOL aircraft and MRBMs, have been assumed to be available in 1967 for the purposes of this study. Current analyses regarding expected deficiencies in programmed forces indicate cause for considerable doubt relative to the achievement of these goals. At the conclusion of the Triennial Review 1962, SACEUR indicated that if current trends continue in country programming, there will be serious deficiencies in 1966 forces within all Services.16

50. Soviet Objectives. In the war situation examined in this study, it has been assumed that the Soviet Bloc objective in a major aggression in Central Europe would be to capture Western Europe with its industrial resources and civilian population relatively intact and that it would be likely to follow constraints to limit civilian damage. This is generally conceded to be a plausible objective of the USSR. Whether this, in fact, is a Soviet Bloc objective is open to question. To cause widespread destruction in Western Europe might be viewed by Soviet leaders not only as being a more feasible objective, but also more desirable. It can be argued that Soviet leaders would consider war-ravaged countries easier to control and would view the elimination of Western European prosperity as a means of increasing Soviet dominance in all of Europe and Africa.

51. Intelligence of Soviet Capabilities

a. Nuclear Weapons and Delivery Systems

The estimates of the size of the Soviet nuclear weapon stockpile are based upon estimated production capacities and could vary. Any estimate of the Soviet nuclear stockpile projections, weapons capabilities, and deployment is not believed to be sufficiently accurate to use as a basis for computing our own requirements. The yield spectrum of their nuclear weapons is based upon known Soviet nuclear tests and is believed to be accurate to a reasonable degree. However, the possession of fractional kiloton weapons is uncertain since tests of such devices could have easily gone undetected. The USSR has the technological capability to produce small [Facsimile Page 34] yield, short range weapons such as DAVY CROCKETT and tube artillery, although estimates cannot be supported by adequate evidence at this time.17

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b. Forces

United States intelligence estimates of Soviet Bloc military forces is an uncertainty since the force structure of the USSR appears to be undergoing changes to take advantage of more advanced weapons. Ground forces of the USSR have been reduced in the past few years, and further reductions or reorganizations are possible. Uncertainty exists regarding the estimate of a 25–50 percent reduction in the Soviet offensive air force during the next five years.

c. Operational Concepts

Much discussion is being conducted currently by the military as well as civilian agencies of the USSR concerning tactics and operational concepts of the armed forces. Future tactics employed will probably vary with the objective of the armed forces. These tactics and operational concepts will be an uncertainty in each situation as it develops.18

52. Survivability of NATO Tactical Air Forces

There is uncertainty as to the survivability of NATO tactical aircraft on the ground in a conventional conflict. The United States has tentatively adopted a shelter design and made some commitments toward a shelter program. Neither completion dates nor the NATO development of a similar program is known.

The effectiveness of Soviet air defense systems and the attrition of NATO air forces in penetrating these systems is also uncertain. Aircraft attrition factors utilized in this study are based on the assumption that improved penetration aids and anti-radiation missiles will degrade Soviet Bloc air defense systems to permit air operations with reasonable [Facsimile Page 35]attrition rates. A detailed WSEG study on this aspect of the problem is due for completion in October 1963 and should help to narrow the range of uncertainty in these planning factors.

53. Target Acquisition Factors

The mix of tactical nuclear weapons requirements for the land battle is sensitive to the ability to acquire targets. The target acquisition portion of the initial study under Project 23, elaborated in considerable detail on the problems of reconnaissance and acquisition of battlefield targets. The factors developed in this study19 are indicative of the likely range of capabilities for the 1967 time period in the absence of unforeseen developments. Achievement of an improved level of capability will be dependent upon aggressive implementation of tactical air reconnaissance and battlefield surveillance programs currently under consideration within the military services.

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54. Other Areas of Uncertainty

Listed below are a number of other areas of uncertainty which could have a significant influence upon tactical nuclear warfare. It is clear that these unknowns will have a major impact upon the requirement for forces and weapons to carry out NATO objectives.

a. Psychological reaction of surviving forces and leaders in nuclear warfare.

b. Attitudes within the alliance.

c. Degree of warning and mobilization status.

d. Effectiveness of command, communication and leadership in the employment of resources.

e. Duration of hostilities.

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55. Two major alternatives to the employment of substantial numbers of small yield, short range weapons have been considered in this study. These are:

a. Place greater reliance upon larger yield [text not declassified] tactical nuclear weapons.

Air delivered nuclear weapons, together with weapons systems such as SERGEANT and PERSHING, were examined in a variety of situations. The extent to which these longer range tactical nuclear systems could substitute for small yield, short range systems was considered.20

b. Place greater reliance upon long range strategic forces.

The extent to which strategic forces might be expected to contribute to the action of the land battle under a number of assumed situations was examined.21 The extent of civil damage from the strategic and tactical nuclear forces was also compared.22

56. As noted in the conclusions, it is evident that neither of these alternatives gives the United States and NATO a “full option” strategy, including a genuine capability for a forward defense, in Europe. A “facade” consisting of small numbers of tactical nuclear weapons would not suffice and would involve acceptance of high risk of prompt escalation to strategic nuclear warfare. In addition to other disadvantages such escalation would probably involve the loss of significant NATO [Typeset Page 1221]territory if the USSR possesses battlefield weapons at the time of aggression.

57. Other measures have been proposed at one time or another as at least partial alternatives to the provision of a substantial number of small yield, short range weapons. They have not been specifically addressed in this study, but are listed below for reference:

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a. Increase the quantity and quality of conventional forces above MC 26/4 levels, including increased NATO-wide reliance on classified nonnuclear munitions, and implement a peacetime forward deployment concept.23

b. Place greater reliance upon chemical and biological warfare.24

c. Develop an extensive conventional barrier system.25

  1. “Further Study of Requirements for Tactical Nuclear Weapons.” Top Secret; Restricted Data. 37 pp. Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Kaysen, 4/63.
  2. JCSM–1028–62, 27 Dec 62.
  3. Appendix I.
  4. See Conclusions 11 and 12.
  5. See Conclusions 14, 15, and 18 through 23.
  6. See Conclusion 16.
  7. For further details see the Main Report plus Appendix A, Part V, para D, E, F, G, H and I; Appendix C, D and K.
  8. Appendix A, Part V and Appendix K for further details.
  9. This case is one in which a pause results after one day of nuclear warfare. Both sides employ weapons only in the areas of the engaged battle zones, [text not declassified].
  10. In this same case the National Military Command System Support Center of the Defense Communications Agency computed 1.1 million civilian casualties. These results are shown in Annex A and C of Appendix E.
  11. These figures are the sum of three computations in Annex E; the “ISA–1” attack (page E9) the “D+4 total” attack (page EA–1), and the West German casualties resulting from the “attack on Soviet Second Echelon Armies,” (also on page EA–1).
  12. See Appendix C.
  13. Sec Def Memo to the Chairman, JCS, subject: NATO Conventional Force Requirements, dated 14 Jan 63.
  14. Sec Def memo to CJCS dated 23 Apr 63.
  15. Data extracted from Memo for the Chairman, Military Liaison Committee to the US AEC, dtd 18 Apr 63, Subj: “Toyah Event—A Significant Tactical Weapon Test,” from the Director of Military Applications, AEC.
  16. For further discussion see Appendix K.
  17. See Appendix L.
  18. See Appendix L.
  19. See Appendix D.
  20. See Appendix A and Appendix F; see Land Battle Requirements Section of basic report.
  21. See Appendix C.
  22. See Appendix E.
  23. See Appendix F for operational and cost comparison of conventional with classified nonnuclear munitions. The CJCS Special Studies Group is currently reviewing the whole problem of conventional defense of NATO with a reporting date of 1 Oct 63.
  24. See CJCS Special Studies Group Study, Project 64, Employment of Chemical and Biological Weapons in Nonnuclear war(s).
  25. See CJCS Special Studies Group Study, “Defended Barrier.”