58. Editorial Note

Throughout 1964 officials in the Johnson administration discussed the wisdom and timing of Project Sulky, a proposed Plowshare test in nuclear excavation. President Johnson called for a Department of State report on the proposed event in NSAM 282, February 11 ( Document 7).

Upon completion of the Department of State report, May 7 ( Document 27), the Review Committee on Underground Nuclear Tests discussed the recommendations in the report. In a June 26 memorandum to McGeorge Bundy, Brigadier General Harry L. Evans, Alternate Representative of the JCS Chairman to the Review Committee on Underground Nuclear Tests, reported that the conclusions in the report were “sound” but recommended that the timing of the recommended actions be considered by the Review Committee. Harold Brown, Director of Defense Research and Engineering, Department of Defense, in a June 26 memorandum to McGeorge Bundy, concluded that the recommendations were “generally sound” but opposed the suggestion that foreign observers be invited to witness the initial Plowshare type of test, and he recommended that the proposed Sulky test “be carried out before there is any public announcement of the event, either in this country or abroad.” He also urged that the results of this shot and possibly other cratering events should be evaluated before any action is taken to negotiated changes in, or exceptions to, the Limited Test Ban Treaty.

The AEC advanced justifications for shot Sulky in two reports, “AEC Comments on Suggestions for Implementation of the Department of State Report on Nuclear Excavation,” June 26, and “Analysis of Project Sulky,” undated. Seaborg sent the two reports under cover of memoranda to Bundy, June 26 and July 15. All of this correspondence and the two reports are in Department of State, S/S-RD Files: Lot 71 D 171.

At a meeting of the Review Committee on Underground Nuclear Tests at the White House on July 16, the Department of State report was discussed further, and an “implicit approval to the Sulky shot in December was given.” (Seaborg, Journal, Volume 9, page 33) On July 20, Bundy sent a memorandum to holders of NSAM 282 indicating that the Review Committee on Underground Nuclear Tests had endorsed the three general courses of action proposed in the State Department’s May 7 report, including “the desirability of conducting Project Sulky sometime in December.” The AEC would include this shot in its regular authorization request for Whetstone II, and “final approval would be given at that time after the Review Committee had an opportunity to consider the final analysis of the predicted fallout associated with the test.” (Department of State, S/S-RD Files: Lot 71 D 171)

In a letter to President Johnson, October 13, Seaborg requested approval of Sulky as planned, and in a memorandum to Seaborg the [Page 154]same day McGeorge Bundy wrote that the President had approved his request. This exchange of correspondence is reproduced in Seaborg, Journal, Volume 8, pages 235-236.

Shot Sulky took place at the Nevada Test Site on December 18. (United States Nuclear Tests, July 1945 through September 1992, page 23)