31. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to President Johnson1


  • First nuclear-powered submarine (SSN) visit to Japan
[Page 39]

Mr. McGeorge Bundy’s memorandum of June 15, 1963,2 indicated that you wished to review and approve any visit of a nuclear-powered submarine to Japan before such visit is definitely scheduled.3 We have now completed satisfactory general arrangements with the Japanese Government for SSN visits, and our Embassy in Tokyo has recommended that the first such visit occur November 10–12, 1964 (with November 16–18, 1964, as an alternate schedule). These dates are consistent with the expressed views of the Japanese Government as to scheduling, and with the operational availability of a vessel for the visit. After November 18, 1964, operational commitments would preclude a visit until January 12, 1965. In view of the extensive preparation of its public by the Japanese Government, we favor the proposed November schedule lest any delay be interpreted as success for Japanese political elements opposing the Government’s decision to permit SSN visits.

I would appreciate being authorized to proceed with the visit on the basis of the proposed schedule.4

Our Embassy has reiterated the importance of maintaining complete secrecy concerning the dates of the proposed visit and has requested that notifications to the Japanese authorities on this matter be made exclusively through Embassy channels.

Robert S. McNamara
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, Department of Defense, OSD/OASD/ISA; FRC 330 68 A 306, 560 Japan. Secret.
  2. In the memorandum to McNamara, McGeorge Bundy expressed President Kennedy’s desire “to review and approve any visit of a nuclear-powered submarine to Japan before such a visit is definitely scheduled, even if there is agreement by the Japanese Government. The President [Kennedy] recognizes the Japanese Government already cedes this and that the issue cannot be completely shelved, but he has other plans in connection with Japan which make it important that no visit be scheduled without his approval.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Japan, Vol. II)
  3. The requirement was rescinded in March 1967, since the special purposes requiring Presidential approval no longer existed. Initially, White House review was necessitated by President Kennedy’s intention to visit Japan. Even though those circumstances were superceded by events, the requirement for Presidential approval was applied because of anticipated tensions surrounding SSN presence in Japanese ports. Since their appearance had become commonplace by early 1967, it was agreed that Presidential review and approval were no longer required. (Memorandum to Rostow and memorandum to McNamara, March 2; ibid., Vol. IV)
  4. There is no indication on the memorandum or the White House copy that President Johnson agreed, but the first SSN, the USS Sea Dragon, arrived at the Japanese port of Sasebo on November 12 and departed on November 14. (Telegrams 1678 and 1728 from Tokyo, November 10 and November 14 respectively; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 7 JAPAN–US)