54. Memorandum From President Nixon to Secretary of Defense Laird1


  • Shipment of Chemical Munitions from Okinawa

It is my understanding that you plan to ship a small quantity of the chemical munitions now stored in Okinawa to Johnston Island later this month. I do not wish to go ahead with this shipment at this time.2

It would be preferable that the movement of the Okinawan stocks be accomplished in a single operation when the necessary storage facilities are available.

To allay any public concern, it would also be appropriate that an environmental impact statement on the movement be reviewed by the Council on Environmental Quality before the shipments begin.

Accordingly, you should plan for these shipments sometime early in 1971. I would appreciate your informing me of when the shipments will take place.

Richard Nixon
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 554, Country Files, Far East, Okinawa, Vol. I, 1969 to 1970. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. In preparation for a September 3 morning meeting among Kissinger, Ehrlichman, and the President’s Deputy Assistant for Domestic Affairs Ken Cole, Haig informed Kissinger: “As a result of the President’s directive not to ship gasses and chemicals prior to the election, Ehrlichman wants you to have Secretary Laird stop the first movement of nerve gas from Okinawa to Johnston Island which is scheduled for September 19, with Congressional notification slated for September 9.” (Memorandum from Haig to Kissinger, September 2; ibid., Box 1002, Alexander M. Haig Chronological File, Alexander Haig Special File, Staff Memos, 7/24 to 12/31/70) Tab C of Haig’s memorandum, a paper prepared by Behr and President’s Deputy Assistant for Domestic Affairs Whitaker, considered the pros and cons of initial shipments of chemical weapons in September. Behr and Whitaker’s argument against such shipments was that 1) shipment in two parts might arouse more controversy; 2) the Environmental Quality Council had not yet submitted an environmental impact statement; 3) Congress was considering a bill on the chemical weapon shipments, and taking action while they were in conference “could be considered discourteous;” 4) the issue was currently quiet in Japan and Okinawa, and “an initial shipment could prompt questions of when the remaining bulk of the weapons would be removed.” (Ibid.)