26. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to President Kennedy0


  • Planned Redeployment from Europe of Selected Army and Air Force Units

My purpose is to inform you of certain planned redeployments of Army and Air Force units from Europe. These redeployments have been programmed for some time and, hence, are distinct from the balance of payments actions I will recommend to you by 1 July 63. However, the projected balance of payments savings resulting from these redeployments will be reflected therein.

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During the Berlin crisis the Army’s strength in Europe increased from 228,700 to 273,400. During FY ’63 we reduced this peak figure to 256,000. During FY ‘64 we are programming a further reduction to 240,000, though in view of your forthcoming trip Secretary Rusk and I have agreed that we should limit withdrawals in the first quarter of FY ‘64 to the non-combat troops only (9,700).

In the case of the Air Force in NATO Europe, Air Force strength increased from 21 to 32 tactical fighter squadrons during the Berlin crisis, including a number of Air National Guard squadrons. Because the immediate return of all the additional squadrons would have caused an unnecessarily sharp reduction, we activated the 366th Wing of four Regular Air Force squadrons using ANG F-84 aircraft and equipment. We also planned to deploy three additional squadrons to obtain a total of 28 squadrons. Subsequently, the JCS recommended and I approved the retention of the additional squadrons in the CONUS and the earmarking of Strike Command squadrons for rapid deployment to Europe for possible air superiority operations in the Berlin Air Corridors.

With respect to the 366th Wing, we find that is of marginal value. The obsolescent equipment, lack of war consumables and of modern ordnance restrict the operational value of this wing. Based on August 62 and April 63 recommendations of the JCS I approved in April the return of the wing to the CONUS in the first quarter, FY ‘64, for conversion to modern F-4C aircraft and directed that the four bases in France be kept as dispersed operating bases. We then notified the appropriate Congressmen and the press of this move.

As for the political implications of these actions, Secretary Rusk and I believe that the chief concern is the danger of giving to the Europeans any basis for suspicion that these actions somehow are part of a larger pattern and that De Gaulle is right in his claim that the U.S. will pull out of Europe.

We recognize that we cannot afford to take any steps which would cause apprehension in Europe of a U.S. withdrawal. We believe, however, that the nature of these actions is such as to incur little risk of stimulating European fears. The withdrawal of the F-84 Wing and the reduction of Army non-combat troops represent the next-to-last installment of the gradual phase-out of the Berlin build-up which has been in progress since the summer of 1962. The last installment, the decision for withdrawal of which has been deferred until after your trip to Europe, consists of ground combat troops (one armored cavalry regiment, two medium tank battalions and three artillery battalions). Yet, even with their return, as we noted above, the Army in Europe will still be above its pre-Berlin crisis strength and its capabilities have been greatly increased through modernization, reorganization, and prepositioning equipment. Careful and objective exploitation of these favorable elements will permit [Page 66]us to minimize the danger of untoward political developments and Secretary Rusk and I are concerting our efforts to this end.

As you know, other redeployments are currently under study pursuant to your directive of April 20 to the Cabinet Committee on Balance of Payments.1 I will forward these proposals when prepared after appropriate consultation with Secretary Rusk.

Secretary Rusk concurs.

Robert S. McNamara
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Subjects Series, Balance of Payments and Gold. Secret.
  2. See Document 25.