46. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Smith) to President Johnson 1

In his presentation this afternoon to the Platform Committee, Secretary McNamara, if asked, plans to make public for the first time that in 1960–61 we eliminated from our nuclear stockpile [number not declassified] large weapons averaging [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] each) and replaced them with [number not declassified] smaller weapons. The result was a 45 percent reduction in the total yield of our stockpile.

(The reduction was personally approved by President Eisenhower in 1960 on the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs and Defense Secretary Gates.)

The information Secretary McNamara wants to use will make public the size of our nuclear stockpile2 in the 1960–61 period and, along with information which the Joint Committee now has, will make it possible for experts to estimate our present stockpile.3

Secretary McNamara feels strongly that the information should be made public.
McGeorge Bundy agrees that the only way to reply to misinformation is to make public more details about our nuclear stockpile than has been done before.4
AEC Chairman Seaborg acknowledges that the decision to make public this information is not for the Commission to make but he wants to make clear that the information is Restricted Data and up to now has been closely held. The Commission this morning will make a decision to declassify the information, contingent on your decision.5
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I will talk to McNamara about it.

Tell McNamara to go ahead and tell Seaborg that I approve of declassification.6

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, President’s Campaign, Defense, Stockpile, Box 41. No classification marking.
  2. President Johnson underlined the words, “will make public the size of our nuclear stockpile,” and at the end of this phrase he drew a line to the margin where he wrote “opposed.”
  3. At the end of this paragraph, the President added by hand three question marks.
  4. In the margin next to this paragraph the President wrote: “Why reply.”
  5. On the morning of August 17, the AEC Commissioners made a determination for McNamara that the megaton total of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile could be declassified. (Seaborg, Journal, vol. 9, pp. 88, 89)
  6. Neither option is checked. In the margin the President wrote: “size of weapons, size of stockpile, why give Russians info dying to get.” On the afternoon of August 18, Bundy told Seaborg that the President had decided not to reveal the megaton stockpile figures that the Atomic Energy Commission had declassified on a contingency basis. Seaborg, who “felt a study of the pros and cons should be made first,” agreed with President Johnson. (Ibid., p. 94)