America’s Plans for War Against the Soviet Union, 1945-1950, Vol. 14, Long Range Planning, Dropshot

A review was posted last week of Vol. 13 in the series of books edited by Steven T. Ross and David Alan Rosenberg. That book evaluated the military plan called “OFFTACKLE,” which called for being prepared to engage in war with the Soviet Union in the late 1940s to early 1950s with 220 atomic bombs dropped on Soviet targets followed by conventional bombing. Volume 14 carries the plan into the future with the Soviet attack into Europe expected to occur in 1957. The extra time allowed the planners to produce the war plan with the code name “DROPSHOT,” which expanded the scale of the attacks. DROPSHOT was being prepared when NSC-68 was written, which was a planning document calling for an extensive U.S. rearmament plan. The Korean War and the fall of China to the Communists reinforced belief that World War III with the Soviets was inevitable. This volume1 contains the declassified (from top secret) facsimiles of the Joint Chiefs of Staff document JCS 1950/5 prepared in three sections. The basic assumption is that “…war against the USSR has been forced upon the United States by an act of aggression of the USSR and/or her satellites.”

It was believed that the massive Soviet conventional forces would sweep into and through Europe when the Soviet leaders decided that war would be to their advantage. Their armies were expected to be in control of Western Europe in twenty days. The report indicates that there was more confidence in intelligence about Soviet capabilities that in previous war plans. For example, “The committee is now informed that the Joint Intelligence Committee has available a revised estimate of the 1957 Soviet atomic bomb stock pile.” One aspect of planning that didn’t change was that it was considered strategically important to hold the oil producing areas of the Near and Middle East.

There is an interesting ploy for encouraging the government to provide the funds needed for the plan. It is stated that World War I cost 25 billion dollars, World War II cost 340 billion, and World War III was estimated to cost three trillion dollars. “The annual expenditures of ten per cent of the U.S. national income or approximately 20 billion dollars per annum amounting to six-tenths of one per cent of the possible cost for World War III would not appear to be too much of a cost to pay as insurance for success in a future war.” Later in the report it is stated that, “Our government and our people must accept the continuing cost essential to our security which will, as a minimum, provide a deterrent force against war…”

There is an extensive analysis of all the countries that would be allies of the U.S. and the USSR. Several countries were expected to attempt to remain neutral “…but will join the allies if attacked or seriously threatened.” It was planned that both sides would use atomic weapons from the onset and that radiological, biological, and chemical warfare agents “…may be used by either side subject to considerations of retaliation and effectiveness.” The plan was to, “Initiate as soon as possible after D-Day, strategic air attacks with atomic and conventional bombs against Soviet facilities for the assembly and delivery of weapons of mass destruction, against LOC’s, supply bases, and troop concentrations in the USSR, in Satellite countries, and in overrun areas, which would blunt the Soviet offensive, and against petroleum, electric power and steel target systems in the USSR, from bases in the United States, Alaska, Okinawa, the United Kingdom, the Cairo-Suez-Aden area, and from aircraft carriers when available from primary tasks.”  (My apology for the long and rambling sentence, but I thought a direct quote was appropriate.)

The war planners hoped to win the support of the Russian people despite the fact their country had suffered unspeakable destruction. “To develop among the Russian people the conviction that the United States is, and has been, friendly to the people of the Soviet Union but not to the Soviet dictatorship that has seized control of the government and is depriving them of the material benefits and religious freedom that would be theirs if they were not cut off from most of the civilized world by the policies of their rulers.” It was later noted that the Russian people, although susceptible to psychological warfare, had “native courage, stamina, and patriotism…” as they had proven during the incredible hardships of World War II.

The risk of war is analyzed and the “…gravest threat of the allies in the foreseeable future stems from hostile designs and formidable power of the USSR, and from the nature of the Soviet system.” It was judged that war might result from incidents between forces in direct contact or “…under a miscalculation of the determination and willingness of the allies to resort to force in order to prevent the development of a threat intolerable to their security.” One fact that was not in dispute was that the “…ultimate object of the USSR is domination of a Communist world.”

The war planners had no doubt that the United States would suffer attacks with atomic weapons. One indication of that, which was short on compassion for the cities that were at risk of being bombed, was a sentence published in all bold letters. “SUFFICIENT DISPERSON OR DUPLICATION OF VITAL INSTALLATIONS TO INSURE (sic) THAT AN UNACCEPTABLE LOSS IS NOT OCCASIONED BY THE DESTRUCTION OF ANY ONE INSTALLATION MUST BE ACCOMPLISHED BEFORE THE SOVIETS HAVE THE ESTIMATED CAPABLILITY OF SUCCESSFUL ATTACK AGAINST THE CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES WITH ATOMIC WEAPONS.” The plan called for attacking the Soviet atomic capability by delivering 75-100 atomic bombs on Soviet “…atomic assembly facilities, storage points, and heavy bomber airfields considered likely to be used for launching atomic attacks…” It was expected that there would be additional attacks to follow with “…an additional 100 atomic bombs of a type not now available.” Tables later in the plan list a total of 430 atomic bombs to be delivered within 30 days. There would be an additional 33,000 tons of conventional bombs.

The plan called for attacks on Satellite countries with only conventional bombs “…in order to spare friendly masses of population and to minimize our tasks of occupation and post-war recovery.” However there was a contingency plan for using atomic bombs on Satellite countries “…if circumstances at the time dictate…” That contingency plan called for an additional 204 atomic bombs.

DROPSHOT provides a fascinating and sobering insight into the frightening world as seen by the senior U.S. military planners and government officials in the late 1940s. History buffs would probably need to ask for an extension on their interlibrary loan (undoubtedly the only way they could obtain a copy of this book) to complete reading the 400 plus pages of details.

1 Ross, Stephen T, David Alan Rosenberg, eds., America’s Plans for War Against the Soviet Union, 1945-1950, Vol. 14, Long Range Planning, Dropshot, Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) 1920/5, Volumes I-III, 19 December 1949, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York & London, 1989

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *