43. Memorandum From the President’s Military Representative (Taylor) to President Kennedy 0

SUBJECT

  • Strategic Air Planning and Berlin
1.
This paper summarizes a 31-page memorandum to me from Carl Kaysen (dated 5 September 1961).1 That memorandum comprises four major parts: a basic memorandum outlining why he believes strategic air planning needs review in conjunction with Berlin planning; an alternative to SIOP-62, an annex which spells out a possible substitute for the initial attack of SIOP-62, [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] a brief analysis of SIOP-62, outlining its target philosophy, planning factors, and limitations; and an unaddressed draft request for a planning study on an alternative to SIOP-62. Each of these parts is summarized below.
2.
Basic Memorandum. SIOP-62 is built around two concepts that may not be appropriate in a Berlin crisis: (a) it is essentially a [2 lines of source text not declassified]. Two sets of possible circumstances suggest the need for supplementary and alternative plans, namely, we might be lured out of position by a false alarm or strategic feint by the Soviets, [less than 1 [Page 127] line of source text not declassified].
a.
A false alarm, if it resulted in the launching and recall of the Alert Force, would degrade our capabilities significantly for about [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] at least. Further, the forces held back might not be prepared to attack appropriate targets, the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] having been assigned the Alert Force, now recalled.
b.
[less than 1 line of source text not declassified]might occur from escalation of military action around Berlin, which could force U.S. to move from the local military action to the general war level.SIOP-62 execution of Alert Force [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. This does not appear an appropriate response to the repulse of a [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]attack, especially since SIOP-62 will almost inevitably alert the Soviets and, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] they will respond in kind. [3-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]
c.
Two recommendations follow:
(1)
CINCSAC should look at the false alarm problem and make any necessary changes in his plans to minimize degradation of his force under such a development.
(2)
The JCS, Director STP,2 and CINCSAC should consider an alternative to SIOP-62 for use in context of Berlin contingency planning, with emphasis on a [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].
3.
An Alternative to SIOP-62. [5-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]
a.
Reliability of present missiles is low, their accuracy uncertain, and problems of achieving simultaneity on target formidable. Therefore, ICBMs, theoretically ideal for this kind of minimum-warning attack, are ruled out at present time.
b.
Bombers normally have been rejected as minimum-warning vehicles, primarily because they have operated in mass. But, if [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] DGZ’s—[less than 1 line of source text not declassified]—are assumed to constitute the essential targets, the destruction of which would paralyze nuclear threat to U.S., bomber use becomes more attractive. Further, if 26 of essential targets are [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]that do not need to be hit in first wave, if 42 targets, close together, can be hit by 21 bombers (each bomber striking two targets within 20 minutes of one another), then to carry out this plan the U.S. must only get [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]bombers into Soviet airspace and over their initial targets within a 15 minute period. ([less than 1 line of source text not declassified] DGZ’s-[less than 1 line of source text not declassified]) Allowing a 25% attrition rate would mean that [less than 1 line of source text declassified] aircraft, instead of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], would have to penetrate Soviet airspace. It is further assumed that these aircraft could [2-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]. This kind of attack, [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified].
c.
Two questions arise: How valid are the assumptions, and do we possess the skill and capability for such a raid. There are reasons to believe assumptions are reasonable. (These are amplified in some detail, based on statements in NIE’s, with emphasis on deficiencies in Soviet low-level detection capabilities.) The Air Force, of course, must provide the answer to the second question.
d.
There are risks as well as opportunities in this approach. With the initiative, the U.S. could reduce the consequences of partial success and exercise some control over Soviet behavior. Once bombs had fallen on USSR, U.S. non-committed forces could be altered, civil defense measures instituted, air defenses alerted. Compared with SIOP-62, the small-scale minimum-warning attack—coupled with follow-on raids—has distinct advantages with respect to recall, achievement of surprise, reduction in Soviet long-range capabilities before launch, and control over the number and character of initial and subsequent attacks.
e.
Appendix. Damage assessment to the U.S. from such a minimum-warning attack must deal with uncertainties, but rough calculations can be made.
(1)
Damage to U.S. will be affected by the number of Soviet long range forces surviving the initial attack; the numbers and types of targets the U.S. attacked, and the influence of this on USSR war plans; the numbers and yields of USSR weapons per U.S. target, especially in urban areas; the height of burst (which determines fall-out); civil defenses available to U.S., and uses made of them.
(2)
U.S. can attempt to influence Soviet behavior in peace by declaring use of nuclear weapons only against military targets unless enemy initiates a counter-city campaign. This may influence Soviet retaliatory choices by offering Soviets a powerful incentive to use whatever residual forces they command in a sensible way.
4.
An Appreciation of SIOP-62. The SIOP-62 target list is constant, with [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]DGZ’s, of which the Alert Force hit. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].
a.
President Eisenhower established requirement that U.S. forces should have the capability to achieve [3 lines of source text not declassified]. To achieve specified assurance major tactics include: (1) [3-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]. Degradation factors are also calculated and allowed for. Allowing for these, the average assurance that at least one weapon will detonate on target is [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].
b.
Flexibility of SIOP-62 only comes from ability to withhold preplanned strikes. Once the Alert Force is launched, however, selective withholding of its forces is not presently possible.
c.
Outcome of SIOP-62 execution will produce U.S. casualties of about 16 million at a minimum. [2 lines of source text not declassified]
d.
SIOP-62 is a rigid, all-purpose plan, designed for execution in existing form, regardless of circumstances. Rigidity stems from:
(1)
Military belief that USSR will strike cities, or urban-military targets; hence there is no need for selective U.S. targeting.
(2)
Military belief that, regardless of circumstances, USSR will be able to launch some weapons against U.S. Nowhere is real consideration given to possibility of interaction between ours and their targeting philosophy.
(3)
Belief that winning general war means coming out relatively better than USSR, regardless of magnitude of losses.
(4)
A fear that retaliation against cities after a surprise attack may be all we can do; with U.S. command-control knocked out, alternative plans might leave residual U.S. forces uncertain as to what to attack; U.S. flexibility would become known, and decrease deterrence.
e.
SIOP-62 is a blunt instrument, and its tactics almost make certain fulfillment of prophecy that enemy will be able to launch some weapons.
5.
Draft Request for Planning Study. Alternative plans should be developed which concentrate on [2 lines of source text not declassified]. Unless justified, attack should be restricted to USSR. Emphasis should be given to minimum-warning attack with minimum sized force. Evaluation of plans should include Soviet force survival, damage to USSR, warning given USSR, damage to U.S., damage elsewhere, and U.S. follow-on force capabilities. A progress report is requested by 25 September.3
Maxwell D. Taylor
  1. Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, 38 500a Air Access. Top Secret.
  2. Not found.
  3. General Power was also Director, Strategic Target Planning.
  4. The progress report has not been found. Also on September 19, Taylor sent the President a list of questions pertaining to the operation of the SIOP with the suggestion that they be forwarded to General Power so that he could answer them at the President’s meeting with Power the following day. Kennedy agreed and the list was sent. (Memoranda from Taylor to Kennedy and Taylor to Lemnitzer, September 19; both in the National Defense University, Taylor Papers, 33 66 NATO) Regarding the meeting with Power, see Document 44.