365. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara0



  • US Bases in Japan (U)
Reference is made to your memorandum, dated 1 October 1962,1 subject as above, in which you requested the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the role of US bases in Japan in peacetime, and in sub-limited, limited, and general war.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff have examined the role of these bases in peacetime and in the various conditions of war. The results of this examination are detailed in the Appendix hereto.2 It is concluded that the principal roles of US bases in Japan are as follows:
Essential to the maintenance of the US deterrent posture in the Far East; required for the support of the US position in Korea; permit rapid tactical deployment of forces in the Western Pacific.
Provide primary logistic support to the entire Far East area and key repair facilities not available elsewhere in the area.
Provide essential intelligence gathering and reporting facilities and opportunities, as well as communications for command and control.
Provide facilities in northeast Asia necessary to maintain and support the SIOP posture.
Provide dispersion of stocks and bases for projection of residual power after an initial nuclear exchange.
Complicate the Soviet nuclear targeting problem.
Provide an important link in the maintenance and improvement of US-Japanese political, economic, and military relations.
In examining the desirability of retaining the Japanese bases, the unfavorable aspects of their continued use, as set forth hereinafter, must be weighed against the disadvantages associated with a withdrawal therefrom. The most important of these are:
It would reduce the forward strategy deterrent posture in the Far East with possible attendant loss of confidence by US Allies and nonaligned neutrals.
A victory would result for neutralist forces in Japan and for the Communist world-wide drive against US overseas bases with concomitant unfavorable effect on our Allies.
Dispersal of forces which Japan now affords would be lost.
The Japanese commitment on military force levels would be jeopardized and a neutral Japan could result.
The ability of military forces to operate in northeast Asia and contiguous waters would be significantly reduced, particularly their capability to react quickly to contingency situations.
The logistic and combat support of Korea would be extremely difficult.
Japanese repair facilities and skilled Japanese labor now available would be lost.
The cost of replacing the present extensive facilities in Japan in other areas would be very great.
The only large-capacity industrial base in the Far East would not be available for the support of US forces.
Long lines of communication and difficulties in obtaining real estate and base rights complicate the relocation of these bases to other areas.
Although, as indicated above, there are a number of important reasons for the maintenance of US bases in Japan, there are also factors which affect the continued maintenance of these bases. The most important of these are:
US bases in Japan are vulnerable to strikes by those Japanese laborers who are Communist-controlled and the capabilities of the bases might thus be impaired when they are most needed.
The introduction of nuclear weapons into Japan has not been politically feasible and the prospects of their introduction in peacetime are not promising.
The cost of maintaining US bases in Japan results in a continuing unfavorable balance of military payments.
The Japanese have demonstrated apathy toward shouldering the obligations for their own defense.
The Japanese Security Treaty restricts the deployment of US forces to combat areas without “prior consultation.” This could be a serious limitation on the usefulness of the bases, particularly in limited war where the vital interests of the Japanese were not involved.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe the US bases in Japan contribute significantly to the over-all strategic US posture in the Pacific. On balance, they conclude that the reasons for maintaining these bases outweigh the factors militating against their retention. If a major change were made in US strategy for the Far East, then it might be possible to reduce bases in Japan.
It is the judgment of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that US strategic interest requires the retention of the US bases in Japan in essentially their present status.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Maxwell D. Taylor3

Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD/ISA Files: FRC 65 A 3501, 680.1 Japan 7 December 62. Top Secret. Attached to a December 17 memorandum to the President in which Gilpatric noted his concurrence “in the judgment of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that U.S. strategic interests require the retention of our bases in Japan in essentially their present status,” described the U.S. proposal to Japan set forth in Document 362, and stated that the next steps would be taken by himself or McNamara during a trip to Japan in January or February. See Document 368.
  2. See Document 356.
  3. See the Supplement.
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates Taylor signed the original.