61. Memorandum from McNamara to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, October 121

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  • Weapons Tests Plans and Preparation

Attached is a copy of a letter which has been approved by the President. The letter provides information concerning nuclear tests urgently required to be conducted in the atmosphere and recommends that authority be granted to prepare for the tests.

You are authorized and directed to proceed with preparation of plans on an urgent basis as follows:

a. As first priority, prepare detailed plans for [text not declassified]. Possible locations for these tests are indicated in the attached letter.

b. Prepare plans for [text not declassified]. The memorandum from the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Atomic Energy) to the Departments of the Navy and Air Force, the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Chief, Defense Atomic Support Agency, dated 10 October 1961 is rescinded.

c. Prepare plans for [text not declassified].

d. Prepare plans for support of the Atomic Energy Commission as may be required for the weapons development tests indicated in the attached letter.

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You are authorized to proceed with preparation for all the tests indicated above to include assembly of equipment and personnel in a manner to minimize the risk of a leak to the public concerning the purpose of such actions. No public announcement is desired. Phasing [Typeset Page 179] of the preparations shall be such that they can be practicably altered or terminated short of execution of the tests.

Planning and preparation for tests will be limited at this time to those indicated in the attached letter. However, in preliminary planning, selection of test locations and other matters, consideration should be given to the possibility of a continuing test program.

Reactivation of a Joint Test Organization is authorized within existing service manpower authorizations, and funds available. If additional resources are required, necessary requests will be made to this office prior to commitments being made.

We are beginning exploratory discussions with the Department of State to determine the feasibility of using Christmas Island for tests as may be desirable. You will be kept informed of the results of these discussions. Christmas Island appears to have many technical advantages for use as an atmospheric test site or staging base.

For each of the plans requested I desire, at the earliest possible date, the following:

a. Information as to how far we may proceed with preparation without serious risk of a leak to the public.

b. Information as to how far we may practicably proceed with preparations and hold pending authority to fire.

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c. Copies of the completed plans. These may be provided in outline form.

d. Requirements for resources.

Robert S. McNamara
Secretary of Defense
  1. Weapons tests plans and preparation. Secret. 3 pp. Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Subjects Series, Nuclear Weapons Testing 10/11/61–10/15/61.