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

    • U.S. Military Readiness Tests—Worldwide
Early in October, in response to direction from higher authority, I tasked the Joint Staff to prepare an integrated plan of actions which would physically test our military readiness in selected areas worldwide. The actions were to be discernible to the Soviets but not threatening in themselves. Additional limitations were that only U.S. forces would participate, no change in DEFCON status would be made, and actions would be accomplished within current budgetary levels. The tests began 13 October 1969 and were terminated on 30 October 1969. At Enclosure A is a display of the various actions accomplished in each CINC area.2
It is difficult to measure the success of this operation since, other than the stated reason to test readiness, the objectives of the test are unknown. Added to this problem were the aforementioned restraints which introduced a certain degree of artificiality. I am sure you realize [Page 297]that in no way was this exercise a test vehicle permitting an evaluation of U.S. forces’ ability to respond to a threat by increasing readiness. Considering that Soviet awareness was a goal, the number of unusual or unexplained Soviet actions observed by the intelligence community indicates a degree of success. Tangible benefits resulting from the tests generally fall in the command and control area as evidenced by the professional competence and flexibility displayed at all levels of command and staff. Noteworthy was the cooperation between the operations and intelligence participants. The CINCs expressed satisfaction with experience gained in a number of areas. Some of the benefits accrued included: (a) an opportunity to highlight managerial problems at all command levels, (b) the exercise of command and staff techniques for crisis management, and (c) an opportunity to achieve, within prescribed limits and unencumbered by normal day-to-day activities, a maximum attainable readiness posture.
It is evident that the Soviets were aware of certain of the U.S. activities, [6 lines not declassified]. Details concerning these and other Soviet activities which may have been in reaction to our operations have been reported to you in a series of Special Intelligence Reports prepared by DIA and are summarized in Enclosure B.
The U.S. intelligence agencies were afforded a unique opportunity to test their procedures under realistic conditions. DIA believes that this operation confirms the validity of certain day-to-day procedures designed to maintain a continuing intelligence watch over Soviet actions and reactions, [2½ lines not declassified].
I would be remiss if I did not elaborate on some of the problems and possibly counterproductive results which this test generated. The first, and probably foremost, was my inability to furnish the CINCs with more definitive guidance as to the objectives and goals of the operation. It seems prudent if maximum benefit is to be gained from an operation of this type that at least you and I and the senior commanders are informed of the objectives and goals. Second was the loss of vital flight training caused by the flying standdown. Third, although difficult to assess, was the possibly bruised feelings of our allies, especially in Europe and NORAD, because they were excluded from both the planning for and execution of the tests. Finally, in the same area of good relations, were the diplomatic problems caused by abrupt ship departures from foreign ports and the unexplained cancellation of longstanding, scheduled port visits.
As noted in Enclosure B, any additional intelligence acquired on this subject or on related Soviet activities—if significant—will be published in a supplemental report.
Earle G. Wheeler
[Page 298]

Enclosure B

Special Intelligence Summary Prepared in the Defense Intelligence Agency3

DIASIR 310–69



The Soviets were apparently aware of a change in the readiness posture of US forces [6 lines not declassified].

[4 paragraphs (31 lines) not declassified]

Increased sensitivity to US aerial reconnaissance activities was noted only in the Far East. During the period 12–29 October, 31 of the 33 US reconnaissance missions in the Far East provoked Soviet reaction, and 10 were intercepted. This reaction was well above what might normally have been expected.

With the exception of the activities cited above, the USSR’s activities during the period were generally normal. With much of its strategic power in a continuous posture of high readiness, an increase in this readiness is not easily discernible—nor is such an increase essential from the Soviet standpoint.

A number of Soviet activities detected by US intelligence could not be confidently identified as reaction to the US readiness tests because concurrent events could easily have been responsible. These events included the coup in the Somali Republic, the crisis in Lebanon, NATO Exercise Deep Furrow, and Sino-Soviet talks.

There was no evidence to indicate that certain unusual Chinese Communist activity was in response to US operations during the period. The timing and scope of Chinese activity suggested that it was related to the Sino-Soviet talks, which began in Peking on 20 October. There were no detectable reactions by North Korean forces which could be correlated with the US increase in readiness.

[Page 299]


Part I: USSR

[13 paragraphs (116 lines) not declassified]

Ground Forces: No reactions were noted.
Naval Forces: Naval activity during the period 13–30 October appeared generally normal. Two events, however, may have represented reaction.
An intelligence collector operating in the South China Sea on 17 October moved unusually close (about 5.7 nautical miles) to Da Nang and drew reaction from the Republic of Vietnam Navy. It is possible that her movement was part of an intensified collection effort to determine if detected anomolies in US air and communications activities reflected major changes in US military activity in Southeast Asia.
On 20 October, Kresta-class guided-missile light cruiser 532 and Kashin-class guided-missile frigate 527 were in the Red Sea [2 lines not declassified]. Late on the 20th or early on the 21st, however, the two ships [less than 1 line not declassified] reversed their course, exited the Red Sea, and proceeded to the Socotra Island area. By 24 October, five other naval units in the Indian Ocean and four space-event-associated ships had joined them there. The cruiser and frigate remained near Socotra with most of the other units throughout the period. Soviet concern for unexplained US military operations may have caused these naval units to leave the confined waters of the Red Sea.
Naval Fleet Air Forces: Normal activity included the surveillance of US units operating in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and the southern Sea of Japan.
[3 paragraphs (52 lines) not declassified]
Reconnaissance Activity: Reconnaissance during the period was generally in accord with normal patterns. Some deviations were noted in response to particular US operations in the Sea of Japan and the Mediterranean Sea. [7 lines not declassified]
Soviet Reaction to US Reconnaissance: Unusual reactions to US reconnaissance were noted only in the Far East. Since mid-October, air defense facilities in the Vladivostok area have shown an increased level of reaction to such US activities. From 12 to 29 October, the Soviets reacted to 31 and intercepted 10 of the 33 reconnaissance missions flown over the Sea of Japan near the Soviet coast. This incidence of reaction and interception is considerably above that to be expected during a period of ordinary US activity. Other possible explanations include increased Soviet training activity in the area, the introduction of Task Force 71 into the Sea of Japan, and an increase in US reconnaissance flights as well as US readiness operations.
[Page 300]

Part II: European Communist Countries

On 22 and 23 October, Bulgarian fighters reacted to US reconnaissance aircraft over the Aegean Sea. In each case, the closest approach was about 75 nautical miles. Any Bulgarian reaction to US reconnaissance is unusual. In this case, the indicated increased air defense posture was probably in response to NATO Exercise Deep Furrow. Little flight activity was noted over East Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia during the first week of the US test, probably because poor flying weather prevailed.

[1 paragraph (10 lines) not declassified]

Part III: Asian Communist Countries

[4 lines not declassified] There is no available evidence to indicate that the unusual activity was in response to US operations during this period. The timing and scope of the activity suggests that it was related to the Sino-Soviet talks which began in Peking on 20 October.

There were no detected reactions by North Korean military forces to US military readiness operations.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 351, Subject Files, Exercise High Heels—69. Top Secret; Sensitive; [codeword not declassified]. A stamped note indicates that Laird saw it on November 10. Pursley forwarded the memorandum to Haig under a covering memorandum of November 10 that reads as follows: “Secretary Laird asked the Chiefs to evaluate the recent ‘Military Readiness’ exercise. Attached is General Wheeler’s report. Secretary Laird felt Dr. Kissinger would find the report interesting.” (Ibid.)
  2. Enclosed but not printed.
  3. Top Secret; [codeword not declassified]; No Foreign Dissem/Background Use Only/Limited Distribution.