The National Security: Its Theory and Practice, 1945-1960

national securityI was able to get this book on an interlibrary loan, but the book wasn’t available on Amazon. The United States Military Academy at West Point held a symposium April 21-23, 1982 with the above title. It has some crucial information about why the decision was made to build a site for construction of more nuclear weapons, which is the subject of my quest to write a book about the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant. The book comprises seven essays presented at the symposium with an introduction and conclusion prepared by the editor. The “…burgeoning fears of the U.S.S.R…determined character and magnitude of American security policy.” “What began as a cautious and contested move toward nuclear power in the Truman years evolved under Eisenhower into a massive nuclear arsenal of almost incomprehensible proportions.”

The introduction by Norman A Gaebner discusses how Americans generally viewed the Soviet Union after World War II as “…a valiant ally.” However, diplomats who dealt with the Soviets predicted trouble despite FDR’s assurances that he and Stalin “got along fine.” Events following the war proved the Soviets intended to use the land power it had gained and American politicians took note. Arthur Vandenberg, Republican leader in the Senate wrote in his diary, “FDR’s appeasement of Russia is over.” James Forrestal advocated a showdown with the Soviets in the spring of 1945 rather than later. The United States was in a position of power with its atomic monopoly and two thirds of the world’s capital wealth. The Soviet Union had lost more than 2000 towns and cities, 20 million deaths, and much of its resources. Despite the magnitude of its losses, the U.S.S.R. was becoming increasingly threatening. National Security Council (NSC) documents declared, “The ultimate objective of Soviet-directed world communism is the domination of the world.” Secretary of State Dean Acheson “…developed the promising concept of negotiation from strength.” Consistent with that policy, Truman decided to proceed with the development of the hydrogen bomb.

Richard D Challener wrote that Truman would not have approved a 300 percent increase in the defense budget called for in NSC 68 if the Korean War hadn’t begun. The concept of nuclear deterrence became a key to defense strategy, but the U.S. had only nine atomic bombs in 1946. There were over fifty by the end of 1948. David Rosenberg wrote that Truman viewed the atomic bomb as a weapon of terror and a weapon of first resort. Despite that, he ordered vast increases in production facilities. On July 14, 1949 Truman told his top advisors, “Since we can’t obtain international control we must be the strongest in atomic weapons.” He approved a substantial increase in nuclear production in the fall of 1949 and an additional increase after the outbreak of the Korean War. Those approvals led, in part, to the construction of the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant in Colorado.

Dwight Eisenhower was even more aggressive about nuclear weapons. He viewed the atomic bomb as an essential part of national defense and a weapon of first resort. A section by Rosenberg has a title beginning with “The Origins of Overkill.” It describes how the military’s Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) evolved from a few tens of targets in the Soviet Union when a war began to thousands of targets in the Soviet Union, China, and the communist satellite nations. The number of targets had grown to over 18,000 by the end of the 1950s. The weapons also continued to be increasingly more powerful.  The war plans were given code names such as BROILER, HALFMOON, and the poorly chosen FROLIC. Eisenhower asked George Kistiakowsky to assess the plans. His report was that the planned megatonnage would “…kill 4 or five times over somebody who is already dead.”

The military briefed Eisenhower in May 1954 recommending that the United States consider “…deliberately precipitating war with the USSR before Soviet thermonuclear capability became a real menace.” They also warned that the attack could not “…prevent the Soviets launching a strike unless we hit first.” Eisenhower commented, “The only prudent course would be to get out striking force into to air immediately upon notice of hostile action by the Soviets. Massive retaliation was the key to survival.”

I enjoyed reading that the nuclear armed Nike Hercules surface to air missiles were first deployed in 1958 with an order from Eisenhower to authorize “,,,the Air Defense Command to use these missiles immediately in case of a surprise attack.” My last military assignment was at Ent Air Force Base in Colorado Springs Colorado with the Army Air Defense Command headquarters for the Nike Hercules sites surrounding major metropolitan areas.

The U-2 reconnaissance flights dispelled the “bomber gap,” and made Eisenhower suspicious of the “missile gap” projected by the military. He also was becoming more suspicious of the continuous calls for more nuclear capability. He recalled that the JCS had predicted in the early 1950s that destroying 70 targets would be enough to defeat the Soviet Union. He said that the military was trying “…to get themselves into an incredible position of having enough to destroy every conceivable target all over the world, plus a three-fold reserve.” He became increasingly convinced about the insanity that would be an all out nuclear war. He said, “All we really have is meaningful is a deterrent. The central question is whether or not we have the ability to destroy anyone who attacks us, because the biggest thing today is to provide a deterrent to war.” However, NSC-5904/1 retained “…the option of preemptive response to an impending Soviet strike…” He ran into increasing disagreements with military leaders and several politicians by the end of his presidency.

The book ends with conclusion by Graebner that although,   “…defense expenditures under Eisenhower was sufficient to produce an arsenal which even he regarded excessive, it was far below what it might have been.” Eisenhower more than once used “atomic diplomacy.” There is evidence, “…that Eisenhower broke the diplomatic impasse (on prisoner exchange after the Korean War was agreed to be ended) in mid-May 1953 by hinting that the United States might use atomic weapons if the Chinese did not accept the truce.” Dulles would “…later claim that the July 1953 truce in Korea demonstrated the effectiveness of atomic diplomacy.” Newsmen questioned Eisenhower whether he would use nuclear weapons when the Chinese began shelling the Nationalist Chinese islands of Quemoy and Matsu. He replied in part, “I see no reason why they shouldn’t be used just exactly as you would use a bullet or anything else.”

The book would be interesting to people wanting to understand the Cold War. Apparently it can’t be bought, but the interlibrary loan system is wonderful for obtaining such books. My local library has only failed me once in obtaining a book, and that was for a book listed as being available only at one location in England.

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