America’s Plans for War Against the Soviet Union, 1945-1950

I’ve mentioned that I have been working on a book to explain the decision to build the Rocky Flats Plant where nuclear weapon components were manufactured from 1953 until 1989. The 15 volume set edited by Steven T. Ross and David Alan Rosenberg contains a wealth of information about the war plans created by the military that helps explain that decision. First and foremost is the belief that the objective of the Soviet Union was to select a time when they could invade Western Europe to begin the process of imposing Communist control of the world. The set, which consists of oversized books, “…reproduces in facsimile 98 plans and studies created by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

The JCS in 1945 believed that Moscow was not ready to launch a Third World War until they had rebuilt their war machine, but as prudent planners they had to prepare for armed conflict on a global scale earlier than expected. The plans, which were all classified Top Secret or Secret and occasionally were also marked to contain Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) restricted data, were of course all declassified before the series was published. I will warn that you won’t find the volumes on Amazon, or at least I didn’t. My local public library was able to find several of them on interlibrary loan. I’ll give all the detail I know about Volume 1 at the end of this review if a reader wants to try to obtain the volume by the same process.

American war plans included:

  • Emergency War Plans for a conflict during the next fiscal year
  • Mid-Range War Plans for a war two to five years in the future
  • Long Range War Plans for a war five to ten years in the future
  • Industrial Mobilization Plans describing a general war to provide guidance for military and economic mobilization planning
  • Special studies, which describe a global conflict in order to guide long range fiscal planning

Supporting papers included:

  • Estimates of Soviet power (and their overwhelming advantage in men under arms)
  • Logistic feasibility studies of American war plans (which were often  found to not be feasible)
  • Examinations of the impact of atomic weapons on the future of modern warfare (which were not encouraging for the protection of American cities and offensive capabilities)

America and Allies no match for Soviet army:

All of the war plans recognized that the huge Soviet and Satellite armies would be able to overwhelm the relatively small allied forces. Earlier plans listed “…the possession and, until 1949, a presumed monopoly of atomic weapons…” and a large and expanding industrial base to be the main advantages of America and its allies. The plans virtually conceded that the Soviet armies could decisively and quickly take Western Europe and most of the Middle East. The allies hoped to be able to establish and maintain “…bases in Great Britain, Egypt, Japan, and possibly northern India and Greenland, from which to launch the strategic air offensive…The liberation of Western Europe would not be the result of direct military operations, but rather a function of the presumed Soviet collapse under the combined weight of the atomic and conventional aerial attack and the counteroffensive against the southern regions of the USSR…the United States would not seek to defend or recover any positions on the Asian mainland, a position that remained unchanged even after the start of the Korean War.”

As an example of an individual plan, the first was “JIS 80/7, 23 October 1945, Russian Capabilities.” The Joint Intelligence Staff prepared this report “To estimate the Russian political situation with particular emphasis on aims and potentialities for expansion of her sphere of influence by means short of war, by 1 January 1948…” World War II had left the Soviets at a high level of political prestige, but weakened by massive destruction and loss of life. A major weakness was the lack of an atomic bomb capability.

I’ll give you a flavor of what the plans included by summarizing “JCS 1477/1 30 October 1945, Over-All Effect of Atomic Bomb on Wartime Organizations.”

The plan states that the greatest effect of development of the atomic bomb was the security of the United States after another country acquires that weapon. It was noted that an aggressor nation with atomic weapons could “…achieve the effects of Pearl Harbor on a vast and relatively complete scale.”The risk presented by another country acquiring the weapons “…emphasizes the importance not only of readiness for immediate defense, but also for striking first, if necessary, against the source of threatened attack.” The only defense against atomic attack is by destroying the carriers in flight, and lessons from World War II indicated that defense cannot be total. Some planes would get through and cities would be destroyed. It was estimated at the time of the report (30 October 1945), that, “…the United States has a head start which is roughly estimated as the equivalent of five years of technological advantage.” (That estimate wasn’t far off.) It was also stated that the U.S. had control of “…major sources of uranium and other essential ores.” (That statement turned out to be incorrect.) It was recommended that there be an accumulation of a “…stockpile of atomic bombs and other new weapons sufficient to implement United States strategic war plans.” That last statement is an example of why the series goes a long way in supporting the decision to build Rocky Flats.  

I may post reviews of some other volumes, but you’ll have to wait for me to finish the book before you see my full assessment of what is include.

Information on the series:

Steven T. Ross and David Alan Rosenberg, editors, America’s Plans for War Against the Soviet Union 1945-1950, A 15 volume set reproducing in facsimile 98 plans and studies created by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, A Garland Series, 1989-1990. The information in this posting is from Volume 1, which has a subtitle of The Strategic Environment.

Leave a Reply

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