75. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Wheeler) to Secretary of Defense Laird1

    • Significant Military Actions
In accordance with instructions from higher authority,2 an outline plan for testing military readiness of selected forces world-wide has been prepared (Tab A).
This plan calls for the standdown of flying training activities in selected commands, and for the development of increased readiness. Activities which require prior consultation with our Allies, the degradation of current essential missions, or increased funding requirements have been avoided. Commanders concerned have been requested to provide recommendations for additional actions to be taken during the 13–25 October period. These additional actions will be discernible to the Soviets but not threatening.
I have dispatched the messages to the commanders concerned, as indicated.
I recommend the President be informed of our planning and actions taken with the attached draft memorandum (Tab B).3
Earle G. Wheeler
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Tab A

Paper Prepared by the Joint Staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff4


Objective—To achieve a readiness posture with selected US forces for the period 13–25 October in a manner which will be discernible to the Soviets, but not threatening.

Assumptions—Actions will: not require additional funding or resources; not require consultation or agreement with allies; can be taken without degradation of current essential missions; can be taken with plausible rationale for public information purposes; be readily apparent to Soviets as increased US readiness for confrontation.

Courses of Action—Selected US military forces worldwide will be directed to stand-down all flying training activity, and to take certain other measures.

A message will be dispatched to SAC no later than 1200 hours, 11 October, directing stand-down of all flying training and reinstatement of degraded alert sorties to maximum extent possible. Stand-down will commence at 0800 local Omaha time on 13 October 1969. The stand-down will continue until otherwise directed by the JCS.
A message will be dispatched to CINCONAD, CINCPAC, CINCEUR, and CINCSTRIKE, no later than 1200 hours, 13 October, directing stand-down of all flying training activities and assumption of highest degree of combat readiness permitted by stand-down and consistent with no change in DEFCON. Stand-down will continue until otherwise directed by the JCS.

Timing—The stand-down postures will continue until US intelligence indicates Soviets have become aware of the increased readiness. A special intelligence watch has been established for this purpose. SAC will begin its stand-down 2 days earlier than other participating commands to permit appearance of intensification of US readiness over a period of several days. The US Sixth Fleet will impose EMCON to create impression of unusual fleet activity in addition to standing down normal flying training activity. The JCS will determine when commands will be selectively returned to normal posture.

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Possible second Phase—Participating commands will be requested by separate message to suggest possible additional measures for second phase implementation. These measures will be considered by the JCS and directed for implementation as selected.

Termination—All operations will return to normal no later than 25 October, and possibly earlier, if directed by the JCS.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 218, Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Records of the Chairman, General Wheeler, Box 111, 381, World-Wide Increased Readiness Posture (Oct. 1969). Top Secret; Sensitive. A handwritten note indicates the memorandum was handcarried to Pursley at 7:15 p.m., October 10.
  2. Wheeler received a memorandum on October 9 from Lemnitzer informing him that Kissinger had “requested an integrated plan of military actions to demonstrate convincingly to the Soviet Union that the United States is getting ready for any eventuality on or about 1 November 1969.” Lemnitzer added, “Rather than threatening a confrontation (which may or may not occur), the objective of these actions would be a demonstration of improving or confirming readiness to react should a confrontation occur.” (Ibid.) Later that day, Wheeler sent a memorandum directing the Joint Staff “to prepare an integrated plan of actions which will physically test our military readiness in selected areas worldwide to respond to possible confrontation by the Soviet Union. These actions should be discernible to the Soviets but not threatening in themselves.” (Ibid.) More informally, Lemnitzer, in a handwritten memorandum dated October 9, informed Wheeler “that the President has directed the execution of the five major actions” that Kissinger recommended in his memorandum, Document 73.
  3. Attached but not printed is Tab B, an undated draft memorandum to President Nixon informing him that “actions have been taken and are being planned to test the readiness posture of selected U.S. forces.” The memorandum was not sent to Nixon.
  4. Top Secret. Lemnitzer’s handwritten memorandum to Wheeler of October 9 indicates that Laird saw this plan and approved its “execution as directed by the White House.”