81. Editorial Note

In a June 10, 1965, letter to President Johnson, Glenn T. Seaborg, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, submitted for approval the basic plan for the underground nuclear test program of the Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Defense in fiscal year 1966 (Flintlock), and the detailed plan for the first quarter (July-September 1965), Flintlock I. The fiscal year 1966 budget allowed for a program of 42-46 weapons development tests, 5-7 Plowshare tests, 10 effects tests, and 3-5 detection tests, but Seaborg described some 45-57 Atomic Energy Commission events and 13-15 Department of Defense events to allow sufficient latitude in the final underground test program. In addition, one British event (Charcoal), Seaborg stated, had been approved for the Nevada Test Site. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, Nuclear Testing, U.S. Testing Program, FY 1966, Flintlock Series, Volume IV, Box 28)

At its meeting on June 28, the Review Committee on Underground Tests, to which Seaborg’s letter was referred, recommended among other things approval in principle of the AEC proposal for fiscal year 1966 underground testing and specific approval of the first quarter (Flintlock I) test program, except that the three line-of-sight tests proposed in Flintlock I would be given further technical review. The Committee would later advise the President if the review would result in further deferral of the tests. It withheld approval of the Plowshare catering experiments and the Vela Uniform detection tests, except for Long Shot, pending receipt of more detailed information. (Memorandum for the Record from Charles E. Johnson to the members of the Review Committee on Underground Nuclear Tests, July 1; ibid.)

A memorandum from McGeorge Bundy to Seaborg, July 1, approved the fiscal year 1966 program in principle, but deferred approval of Plowshare cratering experiments, tests above 300 kilotons yield, and Vela Uniform detection series, excepting the Long Shot event at Amchitka Island, Alaska, which had been approved in principle, but was still subject to detailed Review Committee consideration. Specific approval was given to the tests proposed in Seaborg’s letter for the first quarter of fiscal year 1966, Flintlock I, consisting of 13 Atomic Energy Commission tests, 1 Department of Defense test, and 1 British test (Charcoal). [text not declassified] The three tests involving use of line-of-sight pipes would be given further review. If the review raised questions of safety or possible venting, the President would be informed. (Ibid.)

In a September 10 letter to President Johnson, Seaborg requested approval of the underground nuclear test program in the second quarter of fiscal year 1966, Flintlock II, consisting of 15 tests, including 5 previously approved for the first quarter of fiscal year 1966, but postponed [Page 211]primarily because of labor unrest at the Nevada Test Site. Included in Flintlock II was the Department of Defense Long Shot event, which the Department of Defense recommended for execution after reevaluating it. (Copy of Seaborg’s letter to President Johnson, September 10, attached to memorandum from Brigadier General Delmar L. Crowson, USAF, Director of Military Application, Atomic Energy Commission, to the Review Committee on Underground Nuclear Tests, September 13; Department of State, S/S-RD Files: Lot 71 D 171)

A memorandum from McGeorge Bundy to Seaborg, September 30, approved Seaborg’s request for underground tests for the second quarter of fiscal year 1966, Flintlock II, consisting of 12 Atomic Energy Commission and 2 (sic) Department of Defense underground tests. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Nuclear Testing, U.S. Testing Program, FY 1966, Flintlock Series, Volume IV, Box 28) A memorandum from McGeorge Bundy to Seaborg, September 29, authorized conduct of the Sepia event and reauthorized the Kermet test, if deferred, for the second quarter of fiscal year 1966. (Department of State, S/S-RD Files: Lot 71 D 171)

In a letter of December 15 to President Johnson, Seaborg requested approval of the test program for the third quarter of fiscal year 1966, Flintlock III, consisting of 16 tests, including 8 previously approved for Flintlock II but postponed because of labor troubles at the Nevada Test Site. Project Cabriolet, a Plowshare cratering experiment scheduled in March 1966 would be the subject of a complete analysis in January 1966 for review by Donald F. Hornig, Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology Affairs. (Copy of Seaborg’s December 15 letter to President Johnson enclosed with the memorandum from Crowson to the Review Committee on Underground Tests, December 16; ibid.)

A memorandum from McGeorge Bundy, January 3, 1966, stated that the President approved all the tests proposed by Seaborg for the third quarter of fiscal year 1966 except for Cabriolet, which was subject to submission of details to Hornig and the Review Committee on Underground Nuclear Tests for further reconsideration and recommendation. (Ibid.) Analysis of Project Cabriolet was enclosed with a letter from Seaborg to McGeorge Bundy, February 15, 1966. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, Nuclear Testing, Vol. 2, Plowshare Events (Cabriolet), Box 29)

A March 25 letter from Seaborg to President Johnson requested approval of the underground nuclear test program for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 1966, Flintlock IV, consisting of 16 Atomic Energy Commission and 4 Department of Defense tests, including 5 events postponed from the third quarter due to the unstable labor situation at the Nevada Test Site. Three of the tests would employ vertical lines of sight to the surface, permitting weapons effects measurements. It was expected that [Page 212]each test would be conducted within the constraints of the limited test ban treaty. (Ibid., FY 1966, Flintlock Series, Vol. IV, Box 28)

In a memorandum of March 31 to Seaborg, President Johnson approved the testing program proposed for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 1966. (Ibid.) In a letter of May 26 to W.W. Rostow, Seaborg advised modification of Flintlock IV, deferring one test (Ajax) for technical reasons and adding two less complex tests (Puce and the Plowshare test Vulcan). The modification lay within the scope of the underground test program for the fiscal year and resulted in an increase of one test over the program approved by the President for the fourth quarter. (Department of State, S/S-RD Files: Lot 71 D 171)

In all, of some 49 authorized tests in Operation Flintlock, 48 underground nuclear tests were conducted. (United States Nuclear Tests, July 1945 Through September 1992, pages 25-28)

A summary history of the tests series is in U.S. Defense Nuclear Agency, Operations Flintlock and Latchkey: Events—Red Hot, Pin Stripe, Discus Thrower, Pile Driver, Double Play, New Point, Midi Mist, 5 March 1966-26 June 1967 (DNA 6321F, 1984).