RUMORS OF WAR: Russia massing troops on North Korea border | End Time Headlines

RUMORS OF WAR: Russia massing troops on North Korea border | End Time Headlines


Russia appears to be preparing for war as troops have lined up on the North Korea border just one day after Vladimir Putin’s nation fired a ballistic missile. A large number of soldiers were seen arriving near the Khasan crossing point between the two nations on Tuesday. Photos captured some of the troops patrolling the top of Zaozyonara Hill, a meeting point between Russia, North Korea and China. Russia is thought to be concerned at the build-up of US troops in South Korea as Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un continue their war of words. Moscow has previously denied moved more troops to the border area as tensions between the US and Kim’s regime reach boiling point. Earlier this year, the movement of heavy weaponry towards the border was also caught on camera. Frants Klintsevich, the first deputy chairman of the Russian upper house’s Committee on Defence and Security, has warned that any US action against North Korea would also be seen as a hostility towards Russia due to their shared border.

Exposed – WW3 ALERT ~ North Korea war about to break out triggering military invasion

Exposed – WW3 ALERT ~ North Korea war about to break out triggering military invasion

The highest tensions have been in decades. North Korea and the United States are at an entirely new level of conflict. At any minute something could trigger an all out invasion of North Korea and multiple nuclear missile launches at the United States, South Korea and Japan.

Shocking – California Preparing for Nuclear War Attack

Shocking – California Preparing for Nuclear War Attack


[ATS] Last month a bulletin was issued by the Joint Regional Intelligence Center, regarding preparing California for a nuclear attack from N. Korea. I know Kim would be insane to start a war with the U.S. and unfortunately we all know he is insane.

Things have ramped up since this was issued, and I’m concerned that our President is pushing Kims buttons. Kim has painted himself in a corner on this, and saving face could cause him to do something radically stupid.

It contains some advice that I think everyone might want to know. Readers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with nuclear response emergency procedures. How to lessen the exposure to nuclear radiation, and what to expect from the Govt.

According to

With U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un trading insults and threatening war, California officials are taking the threat of nuclear exchange seriously.

Noting the heightened North Korean threat, the Los Angeles-area Joint Regional Intelligence Center issued a bulletin last month warning that a nuclear attack on Southern California would be “catastrophic” and urged officials in the region to shore up their nuclear attack response plans.

The report cites North Korea’s late July test of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could, in theory, reach the West Coast of the United States. “North Korea’s propaganda videos feature ruins of San Francisco and Washington,” the document says.“North Korea’s propaganda videos feature ruins of San Francisco and Washington,” the document says.

The 16-page “Nuclear Attack Response Considerations” bulletin is dated Aug. 16 and marked for “official use only.” It was circulated last month to Los Angeles-area local, state, and federal agency personnel and also throughout the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies across the country.

The idea behind the unclassified report was to share planning and guidance with as wide a distribution as possible, according to two officials involved in responding to a nuclear strike and who received the bulletin. Many agencies are involved in responding to an attack and are often staffed with personnel without access to classified information.

DHS did not respond to requests for comment.

Much of the information in the report is based on well-known facts about the effects of a nuclear blast, including the effects of radiation, the possibly of an electromagnetic pulse disabling communications, and the destructive effects of the initial blast on human life and infrastructure.

Citing figures from the Rand Corp., the report says a nuclear blast at the Long Beach Port could cause more than $1 trillion in damage, including loss of life and destruction of homes and infrastructure.

In a section on “radiation protection basics,” the report offers a primer on what to do during a nuclear attack. “Lie face down and place hands under the body to protect exposed skin,” it recommends. “Remain flat until the heat and shock waves have passed.”

There are also sections explaining the basic mechanisms of a nuclear blast as it occurs and discussion of specific things expected to happen in the event of a nuclear attack that should be considered and prepared for in advance.

It also warns of the difficulties government authorities would likely encounter in dealing with the aftermath of a blast. The public will need to evacuate, the report says, but with “limited understanding of radiation risks, they will experience high anxiety and may be non-compliant.”

Challenges with contamination spread by pets and through clothing are among the many public health and logistical coordination issues spelled out for potential emergency responders.

“The consequences of a nuclear attack in Southern California would be catastrophic,” the report says. “Nonetheless, government entities and first responders are expected to remain operational to preserve human life, maintain order, and aid in the recovery process.”

The report, which is largely directed at local, state, and federal agencies and first responders located in the Los Angeles region, notes that the federal government will likely be of limited help immediately after a nuclear blast.

“[T]here will be no significant federal assistance at the scene for 24-72 hours following the attack,” the bulletin says.

Revealed – Secret Government Entity Portrayed Terrible Costs of Nuclear War

Revealed – Secret Government Entity Portrayed Terrible Costs of Nuclear War

After Briefing on Likely Death Tolls, JFK Remarked: “And We Call Ourselves the Human Race”

Net Evaluation Subcommittee Nevertheless Initially Projected U.S. Prevailing in Global Nuclear Conflict — Although Final Report Described a “Nuclear Stalemate”

Some Studies Depicted U.S. as Launching First, Preemptively

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 480


For more information contact:
William Burr –
202/994-7000 or


Reports of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee

Estimated distribution of radioactive fall-out on U.S. caused by a Soviet retaliatory launch-on-warning (LOW) attack in mid-1965 on a range of U.S. target systems: urban-industrial (also Canadian), air defenses (also Canadian), SAC bases, naval bases, command-and-control, and military depots.

Washington, D.C., 2014 – On the morning of 20 July 1961, while the Berlin Crisis was simmering, President John F. Kennedy and the members of the National Security Council heard a briefing on the consequences of nuclear war by the NSC’s highly secret Net Evaluation Subcommittee. The report, published in excerpts today for the first time by the National Security Archive, depicted a Soviet surprise attack on the United States in the fall of 1963 that began with submarine-launched missile strikes against Strategic Air Command bases. An estimated 48 to 71 million Americans were “killed outright,” while at its maximum casualty-producing radioactive fallout blanketed from 45 to 71 percent of the nation’s residences. In the USSR and China, at the end of one month 67 and 76 million people, respectively, had been killed.

This was President Kennedy’s first exposure to a NESC report, but the secret studies of nuclear war scenarios had been initiated by his predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower. It may have been after this briefing, described by Secretary of State Dean Rusk as “an awesome experience,” that a dismayed Kennedy turned to Rusk, and said: “And we call ourselves the human race.”

The NESC reports on nuclear war were multi-volume, highly classified studies and none has ever been declassified in their entirety. The summaries published here today — for the annual reports from 1957 to 1963 — provide a glimpse of the full reports, although important elements remain classified. Besides the summaries and fuller reports for 1962 and 1963, today’s posting includes a number of special studies prepared by the NESC, including an especially secret report requested by President Eisenhower that led to the production of the comprehensive U.S. nuclear war plan in 1960, the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP).

The National Security Council’s Net Evaluation Subcommittee was a small and highly secret organization that prepared annual reports analyzing the “net” impact of a U.S.-Soviet nuclear exchange, in terms of losses of people, military assets, and industrial resources. For Eisenhower such studies were essential; he came to believe that a U.S.-Soviet military conflict would quickly go nuclear and that as long as winning was what mattered, “one could not be meticulous as to the methods by which the force was brought to bear.”[1] Studies on nuclear war, mainly the estimated impact of a U.S. atomic air offensive, had begun during the Truman administration — for example, the 1948 Harmon report and Weapons System Evaluation Group [WSEG] study 1 — but they were not prepared at the presidential level and did not estimate the impact of a Soviet attack on the United States.[2]

For years, the very existence of the NESC was a well-kept secret. Its name leaked to the press only once when a deputy director died in a 1956 plane crash in the Potomac, but the news stories provided no explanation of the NESC’s work. Historians and the interested public did not know anything about the Subcommittee until the 1980s and 90s, when presidential libraries started to declassify documents about its role in government, and the State Department’s Foreign Relations of the United States series began to publish records of NSC meetings where the NESC presented its findings.[3]

Directors of the National Security Council’s Net Evaluation Subcommittee, from the late 1950s through 1964

Gen. Gerald C. Thomas (U.S. Marine Corps), 1957-1958. (Copy from U.S. Marine Corps History Division)
Lt. General Thomas Hickey (U.S. Army), 1959-1961. (Copy from photo collections, U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)
General Leon W. Johnson (U.S. Air Force), 1962-1964. (Copy from Still Pictures Division, National Archives, RG 342B, box 493)

With the end of the Cold War, the NESC scenarios of a U.S.-Soviet general nuclear war appear obsolete and irrelevant. Even with renewed tensions with Russia, the possibility of nuclear war or even a direct conventional military confrontation is exceedingly remote. Nevertheless, the terrifying NESC scenarios are a reminder of the concerns that motivated Kennedy and his successors to seek to control the nuclear arms race and to avoid conflicts by pursuing détente with the Soviet Union. In any event, the threat of nuclear war is not an imaginary one. Today India and Pakistan are pursuing a dangerous and destructive nuclear arms race and war could produce terrible consequences for the people of South Asia. Whether the leaders of those countries have asked their nuclear experts to undertake NESC-like studies is unknown, but they may find the reports of the Eisenhower-Kennedy era to be useful examples for projecting the possible consequences of the worst-case scenario.

With the focus on the relative power positions of the United States and the Soviet Union, the conclusions of the annual reports present an interesting progression, with some confidence about the outcome in the earlier studies and a more sober assessment at the end. The 1958 study suggested that despite the terrible destruction, the United States would come out ahead in terms of the “balance of strength” in strategic nuclear forces and industrial capacity. In the 1959 study, the Soviet Union “would receive the greater industrial damage and population casualties.” Some of the conclusions are excised from the 1961 study, but the 1962 report concluded that in the two general war scenarios reviewed the “US strategic military posture would remain superior to that of the Soviet Union.” The next year, however, the NESC found no advantage: “neither the US nor the USSR can emerge from a full nuclear exchange without suffering very severe damage and high casualties.” That held true even if the United States launched first. Thus, President Kennedy concluded that Moscow and Washington had reached a “nuclear stalemate.”[4]

The 1963 report was the last of the NESC’s annual assessments. Perhaps because the studies showed the same terrible consequences year after year, policymakers asked the NESC to look more closely at crisis management issues. A report in late 1963 focused on “The Management and Termination of War with the Soviet Union,” while one the following year examined a military crisis in Western Europe. By early 1965, at the instigation of a turf-conscious Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, the NESC no longer existed. McNamara argued for its abolition on grounds of organizational efficiencies, but a key problem was that the NESC had prepared a report that was not to his liking [See documents 10A-C].

The declassification of NESC reports raises questions about the claim that the “U.S. was never the aggressor” in war games and other exercises depicted as occurring in an “official future.”[5] This claim needs to be considered carefully because the Subcommittee produced several reports — namely, for 1962 and 1963 — that postulated the United States as the initiator of preemptive nuclear attacks, close to a classic first strike. Whether a preemptive strike is “aggressive” depends on the point of view; the concept of preemption depends on accurate strategic warning of an attack, so it could be seen as an aggressive response to imminent aggression. But a preemptive strike based on an inaccurate warning would be both aggressive and catastrophic. In any event, well before 1962, preemption was an element of U.S. nuclear war planning and U.S. military planners continued to assess whether it was advantageous or not.[6]

The classified NESC reports are under the control of the National Security Staff at the White House. At the close of the Clinton administration, the NSS turned over most of the historical National Security Council institutional files to the presidential libraries but a sub-set of intelligence files, such as records of the 303 and 40 committees that vetted intelligence operations, remain in White House hands. The Staff works with the presidential libraries and documents in this collection can be requested from the relevant library. Because the NESC reports are large, multi-volume works, the Archive began by requesting summaries of the reports during 1957-1963. That alone, including a prolonged appeals process, took over 12 years to accomplish. In the meantime, the Defense Department has denied in its entirety a 2001 FOIA request for reports from the Eisenhower period, necessitating a new appeal. Separate requests for declassification of the first volumes of the 1956, 1961 and the 1963 reports are also underway.



Document 1: Report of the Net Capabilities Evaluation Subcommittee, 3 November 1954, Top Secret, excised copy, released under appeal

Source: Dwight D. Eisenhower Library (DDEL), National Security Council Staff Records, 1948-1961. Disaster File, box 37, Net Evaluation Subcommittee (3)

The NESC had forerunners, including a Special Evaluation Subcommittee and a Net Capabilities Evaluation Subcommittee, both of which focused on the methodology of a Soviet attack and the damage that it would cause the United States.[7] The report of the Net Capabilities Evaluation Subcommittee, which reviews a Soviet attack on the United States in mid-1957, was recently declassified. It provides great detail on how and why the Soviets would attack — to strike the “first blow” against an expected U.S. attack, essentially a preemptive strike. According to the report, the Soviets would prefer a non-nuclear war because of the U.S. nuclear advantage, but they also understood that Washington “would not permit itself to be deprived of its most powerful weapon.”

The estimated Soviet nuclear stockpile was relatively small, which led the analysts to posit an attack centering on Strategic Air Command bases and strategically important U.S. metropolitan areas. The bases were critically important because Moscow would see destroying them as essential to “blunting the retaliatory blow that … would be directed at the USSR upon the initiation of hostilities.” Reflecting Cold War suspicions and anxieties, clandestine detonations were an essential element of the Soviet attack. The Soviet air offensive could take different forms, low- or high-altitude or even a small “sneak attack.” However the offensive unfolded, Soviet air crews would be flying one-way missions and would have to be induced to “accept missions for which there would be little chance of return.”

The report includes a detailed description of the estimated damage that an attack by some 1,000 Soviet long-range bombers would cause to U.S. military installations and economic resources, including industry, money-credit system, and nuclear energy facilities. The damage assessment includes an estimate of death caused by high-altitude or low-altitude attacks, with or without evacuation from cities. Without evacuation, the high-level attack would cause 9,600,000 deaths in industrial areas; but with evacuation the numbers would be in the range of 4,400,000. For the low-altitude attack, the numbers were 3,100,000 and 5,100,000 respectively.


Document 2: National Security Council Staff, “Megatonnage Involved in Previous Net Evaluation Studies,” attached to “Planning Board Questions Net Evaluation Presentation,” 26 April 1960, Top Secret

Source: National Archives, Record Group 273. Records of the National Security Council, box 84, 442nd Meeting of the National Security Council, April 26, 1960

When the NSC Net Evaluation Subcommittee was established in 1955, it started by focusing on the net impact of a Soviet attack, although U.S. retaliatory strikes would be taken into account. In 1956 the NESC received instructions to look in detail at the impact of the U.S. attack on Soviet bloc targets. Each of the reports would postulate the total megatons detonated by Soviet and U.S. nuclear strikes. Over the years this information has been classified but it was disclosed in this FOIA release. For the purposes of comparison, one megaton-a million tons-of explosive yield is equivalent to about 66 of the 20 kiloton weapon that devastated Hiroshima.


Document 3: “Summary and Conclusions,” 1957 Report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee, National Security Council, 15 November 1957, Top Secret, excised copy

Source: DDEL FOIA release

The NESC’s report for 1957 analyzed the consequences of four Soviet bomber-missile attacks launched under various circumstances in 1960, three of which were surprise attacks on U.S. forces at different states of readiness. Except for air defenses, U.S. forces were at “full alert” for the fourth scenario. All four attacks were devastating although the attack under condition II was less so because U.S. air defense forces were in a high state of readiness. Thus, the U.S. suffered an estimated 46 million fatalities instead of 85 million.

The attack scenario began with the detonation of clandestinely-introduced nuclear devices in New York City and Washington, D.C. This was a scenario that reflected Cold War suspicions and obsessions, but by the mid-1950s, U.S. intelligence estimated that the Soviets had the capability to introduce clandestine devices under diplomatic cover but would be more likely to use them as an “auxiliary” method of attack than as an important means of disabling the United States. In the NESC scenario, the surprise detonations provided early warning to SAC alert forces which made it possible for them to launch a devastating strike that left the Soviet Union with “no remaining capability to deliver a nuclear attack” against the United States. Nevertheless, “a nuclear war initiated by the USSR against the United States under circumstances of either ‘Strategic Surprise’ or ‘Full Alert’ would result in the devastation” of both countries.

The NESC looked closely at the U.S. retaliatory attack that would be launched in response to the Soviet attack under condition VI. Seven hundred and twenty SAC bombers and 47 strategic missiles delivered an attack on military targets in the Soviet Union, including 74 government control centers. SAC did not target industry or populations per se, so devastation and fatalities were caused by the “fallout and the bonus received from the blast and thermal effects of’ weapons detonating off their desired targets or on military targets in population centers.” “Bonus” conveyed the idea of unplanned but nevertheless useful destruction, but is misleading because blast and thermal effects were inherent features of the weapons.

The NESC analysts argued that the study demonstrated the need for more effective defenses and robust alert forces: air defenses, anti-ballistic missile systems, dispersed nuclear forces on constant alert, hardened ballistic missile sites, fallout shelters, and electronic systems for warning of Soviet missile attacks. Such recommendations recurred in subsequent reports.


Document 4A-D: The 1958 Report

A:”Summary and Conclusions,” 1958 Report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee, National Security Council, 10 November 1958, Top Secret, excised copy

B: Memorandum by NSC Executive Secretary S. Everett Gleason, “Discussion at the 387th Meeting of the National Security Council, Thursday, November 20, 1958,” 20 November 1958, Top Secret

C: Gerard C. Smith to Under Secretary of State Herter, “Oral Presentation of the Annual Report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee,” 25 November 1958, Top Secret

Sources: A: FOIA request to DDEL; B: DDEL, Ann Whitman File. NSC Series. Box 10. 387th Meeting of the National Security Council; C: Record Group 59, Records of the Department of State, Policy Planning Staff Records, 1957-1961, box 205, S/P Chron, 1957-59

The NESC report for 1958 presented a devastating Soviet attack in 1961 involving the detonation of 553 nuclear weapons on the United States with a total yield of 2,186 megatons. The attack produced “widespread fires” burning out 169,000 square miles or 5.7 per cent of the U.S. land area.[8] Moreover, a “lethal blanket of radiation” covered “at its maximum one-half the nation, and persisted in small areas for over two years.” Fifty million Americans were dead and nine million were sick or injured, out of a pre-attack population of 179 million. When housing and food supplies were destroyed, exposure and starvation caused more deaths.

The U.S. retaliatory attack on the Sino-Soviet bloc was by 805 bombers, 5 ICBMs and 41 IRBMs. At President Eisenhower’s instruction, the NESC staff was to posit an attack on a combined military/urban-industrial target system. That included, according to the NSC minutes and a memorandum by Gerard C. Smith, every city with a population of over 25,000. Moscow itself was targeted with a 100-megaton attack by missiles and bombers.

The contemplated U.S. attack completely destroyed “command facilities” in Moscow, Beijing, and Pyongyang and killed 71 million people at once; 30 days later, a total of 196 million people had died (out of a total of 952 million people in the bloc). The attack reduced the Soviet GNP by 75 per cent for the year following the attack. The total bloc GNP was decreased by about 56 percent. The U.S. attack “would virtually eliminate [the Soviet Union] as a world power.” Thus, as the NESC observed, the 1958 report, like the earlier one, drew a picture of a devastated U.S. and Soviet Union. Nevertheless, according to the report, at the end of the nuclear exchange, “The balance of strength would be on the side of the United States.”

The report generated rather differing assessments by Smith and President Eisenhower, but also an important nuclear planning initiative. Smith raised questions about morality and over-destruction, while Eisenhower suggested that the destructiveness was about right, but should not be increased. . Noting that that the estimated attack would “paralyze the Russian nation” and “[destroy] the will of the Soviet Union to fight,” Eisenhower thought it would be wrong to go further and to “require a 100 per cent pulverization of the Soviet Union.” “There was obviously a limit — a human limit — to the devastation which human beings could endure.” These considerations led Eisenhower to request a study on what types of retaliatory attacks would best deter the Soviet Union from future attacks: an attack on a military-target system or an “optimum mix” of military and urban-industrial targets. The request was NSC Action 2009 and the resulting studies would lead to the first Single Integrated Operational Plan.


Documents 5A-B: The 1959 Report

A: “Summary and Conclusions,” 1959 Report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee, National Security Council, n.d., Top Secret, excised copy

B: Lt. Col. Brian Gunderson to General Martin, “Briefing to Net Evaluation Subcommittee,” 2 December 1958, Top Secret

Sources: A: DDEL FOIA release; B: FOIA release from NARA, Record Group 341, United States Air Force (Air Staff), Directorate of Plans, Records for 1958, box 36, OPS 40 (Speeches, Briefings, Presentations) (6 Sept 58-Dec 58).

This report evaluated a different Soviet surprise attack, occurring in 1962 but under different circumstances: with U.S. and allied military forces on high alert beginning 48 hours in advance. The damage to the United States inflicted by the Soviet attack was: “of such magnitude that [it] could not fully return to pre-attack status for years.” Within a year of the attack, 60 million Americans had died, over half from radiation exposure. In this scenario, Soviet missiles caused about 1/3 of the damage. The U.S. counterattack caused 96 million Russian fatalities, over half from fallout as in the United States. Because U.S. forces were on high alert, The USSR would receive the greater industrial damage and population casualties. But, according to the NESC, the “initial nuclear exchange” did not settle the war’s outcome since both sides “would retain significant military forces capable of further limited operations.”

A briefing by Colonel Brian Gunderson on “Air Force Concept of Operations in the 1962 Time Period for Unrestricted General War” provides an example of the kind of input that the NESC received to develop its scenarios. Noting that U.S. policy rejected preventive war, Gunderson argued that this did not mean the United States must “suffer a surprise, direct and possibly massive and devastating attack before our strategic offensive force is launched.” It was possible to initiate “hostilities … under other circumstances” To destroy Soviet counter-force targets, the Air Force could take the “initiative” by which Gunderson probably meant preemption; consistent with this, he later mentioned the possibility of receiving a strategic warning. In the event of a surprise attack that inflicted substantial losses, the Air Force needed a force that could “prevail” by having a capability to destroy remaining Soviet strategic-nuclear forces.

For Gunderson, a force that could “prevail” would be a deterrent. “The U.S. must have a force in-being that can inflict decisive damage on the complete nuclear delivery capability of the Soviets, and we must convince our enemies of our determination to employ this force if we are to deter them and save this nation from nuclear devastation.”


Document 6: The Origins of the SIOP

Net Evaluation Subcommittee, Appraisal of the Relative Merits, from the Point of View of Effective Deterrence, of Alternative Retaliatory Efforts, 30 October 1959, Top Secret, excised copy. Page 13 missing in file and page 39 incomplete.

Source: DDEL MDR release, under appeal

In late 1960, as one of the last acts of his administration, President Eisenhower signed off on the first Single Integrated Operational Plans, SIOP-62 (for fiscal year 1962). The history of SIOP-62 is well known, thanks to David A. Rosenberg’s path-breaking studies and the declassification of significant documents from the period.[9] Nevertheless, this study, a key starting point for SIOP-62, has been classified for decades and is still only available in part. Requested by President Eisenhower in December 1958, the study was so secret that the regular members of the NESC, such as the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and the Federal Civil Defense Administrator, were out of the loop. Only Staff Director Lt. General Thomas Hickey (U.S. Army) and the Committee staff were involved in its production.

Following Eisenhower’s instructions, General Hickey and the NESC staff reviewed three target systems-military, urban-industrial, and an “optimum-mix” of urban-industrial/military targets-to determine the extent to which a capability to destroy them would provide an effective deterrent and enable the United States to “prevail” in the event of general war. The result of the NESC’s effort was a several-hundred-page study, some of which has been declassified with excisions (annexes E, F, and G are still undergoing review). But the basic conclusion stands out: compared with retaliation against urban-industrial targets or military targets only, the attack on the “optimum mix” target-system, if successful, would “substantially destroy or neutralize the enemy nuclear delivery capability, retard the movement of land, sea, and air forces in the USSR and China, substantially destroy primary and secondary military and government controls, cause in excess of 35 percent casualties in the USSR and 15 percent in China, and indefinitely paralyze the war-supporting industries of both countries. Such extensive destruction would place the United States in “a position of relative advantage from which to ultimately prevail.” That sanguine assumption became the premise of SIOP-62.[10]

The official definition of “prevail,” found in National Security Council document 5904 (and repeated in Annex C) posited that the United States would “survive as a nation” and that its adversaries will have “lost their will and ability to wage war.” Yet the NESC observed that by the early 1960s the assumption of prevailing would become “questionable” when the Soviet Union had a long-range missile force, whether ground- or submarine-launched. With both bombers and missiles, the Soviets would be able to launch an attack with such “overall-weight” that “survival might be doubtful.” Therefore, the United States would in the future have to develop a capability to counter a missile attack by “destroying the force at its source.” Moreover, a capability to provide adequate warning of a missile attack was essential: “The point cannot be made too strongly that survival and prevailing are directly dependent on receiving the maximum amount of warning at the tactical level.”

Estimates of destruction or damage expectancy and of assurance of delivering a weapon to the Bomb Release Line were significant elements of the report. Assurance of delivery ranged from 75 to 90 percent. Because 100 percent destruction was impractical and too expensive, the NESC called for a 90 percent probability of achieving varying degrees of damage-ranging from “severe” to “significant.” Anything less than 90 percent would raise questions about the value of the target as such. When the first SIOP was constructed by the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff, 90 percent (or higher) was boiler plate, which White House science adviser George Kistiakowsky and some Navy and Army leaders saw as a sign of excessive destruction or “overkill” that needed to be scaled back. Nevertheless, high levels of damage expectancy remained a basic feature of the SIOP for years to come.


Document 7A-D: The 1961 Briefing

A: “Summary and Conclusions,” 1961 Report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee, National Security Council, n.d., Top Secret, excised copy

B: “Notes on National Security Council Meeting, 20 July 1961,” Top Secret

C: President’s Daily Schedule, 20 July 1961, excerpt

D: Memorandum for the President, 21 November 1961

Sources: A: FOIA Release, B: Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, VP National Security File. National Security Council (II); C: John F. Kennedy Library, President’s Office File, President’s Secretary File, D: John F. Kennedy Library at

President Kennedy received his first NESC briefing during a well-attended NSC meeting at 10 a.m. on 20 July 1961, in the midst of the Berlin crisis. What has been declassified from the summary presents a dire picture of a post-attack United States and Soviet Union, and the excised portions may show an even more calamitous picture. It may have been after the presentation, described by Secretary of State Dean Rusk as “an awesome experience,” that a dismayed John F. Kennedy turned to Rusk and said: “And we call ourselves the human race.”[11]

On the basis of a sketchy record of this NSC meeting, one researcher concluded that the 1961 report was an actual plan for a “preemptive strike” on the former Soviet Union.[12] But this confuses the NESC’s analytical purposes with the nuclear war planning which went on elsewhere in the federal government. The topic of the 1961 report was the usual Soviet surprise attack and U.S. retaliation, all taking place in the fall of 1963. The summary included a striking overview statement: “the scope and intensity of destruction and the shattering of the established political, military and economic structure resulting from such an exchange would be so vast as to practically defy accurate assessment.” Estimated population losses were huge: in the USSR and China at the end of one month: 67 million and 76 million people respectively. The United States “suffered severe damage and destruction from the surprise Soviet attack … Tens of millions of Americans were killed outright; millions more died in subsequent weeks. The framework of the federal and of many state governments was shattered.” Between 48 and 71 million were killed and casualties increased during the year that followed.

A detailed record of this meeting has not surfaced, but the previously mentioned summary includes President Kennedy’s admonition that the meeting and its purpose were to be kept secret. Nevertheless, some word about the event leaked and an article by Fletcher Knebel-co-author of Seven Days in May published in 1962-mentioning the briefing appeared in Look Magazine on 21 November 1961. In a memorandum to President Kennedy, McGeorge Bundy rebutted the Knebel article point-by-point.


Documents 8A-B: Strategic Systems Requirements

A: “A Study of Requirements for US Strategic Systems; Final Report,” 1 December 1961, Top Secret, excised copy

B: Memorandum for Secretary of Defense from Defense Department Comptroller Charles Hitch, “Review of the Hickey Study,” with evaluation attached, 22 December 1961, Top Secret, excised copy

Sources: A: FOIA request; B: MDR request

The report on targeting [Document 6] was not the last special project requested of the NESC. Another one came in March 1961 when Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara asked General Hickey to prepare a study that would serve as a “foundation for the determination of requirements for delivery vehicles for strategic nuclear weapons” and to do this by laying out alternative U.S. nuclear postures and strategic objectives and to evaluate them in terms of the achievement of strategic objectives, implications for budgets, Soviet objectives/postures/budget levels, and “alternative circumstances of war outbreak and termination.” The first study, not yet available, was due 1 June 1961. The Final Report, prepared months later, represented an attempt to “flesh out” the actual strategic force levels, for each year from 1961 to 1971, required for implementing the Kennedy administration’s “controlled response” strategy.

Among the new systems proposed by the report was an Advanced Minuteman, a new Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile, an advanced Titan II ICBM, “Supersonic Low-Altitude Penetrators” launched by “Standoff Missile Launching Aircraft,” and a reconnaissance strike aircraft (RS/X). Some of the proposed systems would contribute toward the strategic “reserve force”-the heart of “controlled response”-needed to survive a surprise attack and help improve “intra-war bargaining power.” Other purposes were to deter “wanton wartime strikes against U.S. cities,” and provide a capability to “strengthen prospects for war termination on favorable terms by having an option to selectively attack urban-industrial targets even during the later stages of a war.”

The Final Report was the topic of a detailed summary and assessment prepared for McNamara by his comptroller, Charles Hitch, who noted that the force postures proposed by Hickey “inherently have varying degrees of first-strike capability” which needed to be analyzed. Taking exception to some of the specific recommendations, Hitch argued that “the requirements for a controlled response strategy are … exaggerated and its feasibility is underestimated.” According to Hitch, strategic programs then under way, should provide a “satisfactory posture” for controlled response by 1964 “if not sooner.”


Documents 9A-C: The 1962 Report

A: Introduction and Conclusion, 1962 Report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee, National Security Council, n.d. [Circa 22 August 1962], Top Secret, excised copy

B. “1962 Report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee, National Security Council,” Volume 1, n.d., [circa 22 August 1962], Top Secret, excised copy

C: Memorandum for the Chairman, Net Evaluation Subcommittee, 22 August 1962

Source: A: FOIA release by Kennedy Library; B and C: NARA, Record Group 218, Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Records of JCS Chairman Lyman Lemnitzer, box 19, 381 Net Evaluation

In 2006, five years after the Archive requested summaries of the NESC reports from the Kennedy years, volume 1 of the 1962 report was declassified from JCS records at the National Archives. So far, this is the most complete release of any of the NESC annual reports and it is more complete than the excerpts for 1962 released under FOIA. The declassification at NARA included a list of the attendees at the briefing: President Kennedy and members of the National Security Council, along with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, civil defense chief Edward McDermott, and several senior White House staffers. Substantially fewer people attended this briefing than the one held the previous July, probably because of the press leak mentioned earlier.

This NESC report is of a Vietnam War scenario in 1965 with conflict stemming from a North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam and Laos escalating into general war with China and Soviet Union. The NESC depicted two “general wars,” one involving Soviet preemption against the U.S., the other a U.S. preemptive attack against the Soviet Union. Both wars started out with counterforce strikes against nuclear targets, but they culminated with massive targeting of urban-industrial targets. As expected, both wars involved enormous destruction with millions of fatalities and injuries on both sides; nevertheless, the NESC found that in both wars “the net balance …would favor the US.” In both scenarios, the “US strategic military posture would remain superior to that of the Soviet Union.” In overall terms, the Subcommittee found that in both scenarios “the net balance … would favor the US.” The next year’s report provided a striking contrast.


Documents 10A-B: The 1963 Report

A: “Summary and Conclusions,” 1963 Report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee, National Security Council,” n.d., Top Secret, excised copy

B: 1963 Report of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee, National Security Council Oral Presentation, 27 August 1963, Top Secret, excised copy

C: McGeorge Bundy to President Kennedy, “Net Evaluation Subcommittee Report 1963,” 12 September 1963, Top Secret

Sources: A: John F. Kennedy Library; B: NARA, Record Group 218, Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Records of JCS Chairman Maxwell Taylor, box 25, 381 Net Evaluation; C: NARA, Record Group 273, Records of the National Security Council, Records of NSC Representative on Internal Security, box 66, Net Evaluation Subcommittee, 1961-64

Summarizing the longer report, the “Oral Presentation” prepared for an NSC meeting analyzed several hypothetical nuclear wars during 1964-1968; like the 1962 report, in each, one of the superpowers initiated a preemptive strike and the other retaliated. The NESC’s conclusions were grim: for “the years of this study … neither the US nor the USSR can emerge from a full nuclear exchange without suffering very severe damage and high casualties.”

Soon after the report was completed, the National Security Council received a briefing by the NESC’s director, General Leon Johnson, on 12 September 1963. McGeorge Bundy had already prepared President Kennedy with the basic conclusions as well as some questions that he could raise. According to the record of the meeting, the judgment that the United States would not suffer less damage than the Soviet Union brought President Kennedy to the conclusion that the superpowers were in a “nuclear stalemate” and that preemption, which Bundy had equated to a first strike, no longer offered an advantage. While NESC director Johnson believed that in the new stalemated situation “nuclear war is impossible if rational men control governments,” Rusk was skeptical, arguing that “if both sides believed that neither side would use nuclear weapons, one side or the other would be tempted to act in a way which would push the other side beyond its tolerance level.”

Even with the stalemate, the SIOP would continue to include a preemptive option in the unlikely event that decision-makers had “strategic warning” of an impending Soviet attack. Moreover, by the 1970s, with the Defense Support System giving approximately 25 minutes of warning before an attack, a launch on warning option became available although it was fraught with risk of a false alarm.


Documents 11A-B: The War Termination Study

A: Net Evaluation Subcommittee, “The Management and Termination of War with the Soviet Union,” 15 November 1963, Top Secret

B: Memorandum from Colonel William Y. Smith to General Maxwell Taylor, 7 November 1963, Top Secret

Sources: A: Record Group 59, Department of State Records, Records of Policy Planning Council, 1963-64, box 280, file “War Aims,” previously posted on National Security Archive Web site; B: Record Group 218, Records of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Maxwell Taylor Papers, box 25

Not long after the presentation of the 1963 report, the NESC staff completed the first U.S. government systematic study of the problem of nuclear war termination. Worried about the inflexibility of U.S. nuclear strategy, the Kennedy administration had begun to look closely at “flexible response” and “controlled response” strategies for fighting conventional war or lower-level nuclear conflicts in NATO Europe. Consistent with that, the NESC took up the daunting task of considering whether it was possible to fight a nuclear war in a “discriminating manner” so that it ended on “acceptable terms” to the United States while avoiding “unnecessary damage” to adversaries and allies. To illustrate the problem of war termination, the NESC presented three scenarios of a U.S.-Soviet nuclear war, 1) an all-out Soviet attack on the U.S., 2) a U.S. preemptive counterforce attack (based on certain knowledge of Soviet attack preparations), and 3) escalation from conventional to limited nuclear conflict, with scenarios of European and Far Eastern conflicts.

Commenting on a nearly final draft of this study, Col. William Y. Smith, then assistant to JCS Chairman Maxwell Taylor, summarized key points. He found the recommendations unsurprising: a need for improved command and control, better planning, more discriminate weapons, etc. Some readers, he observed, “may question that [the report] makes the unreal seem possible, by treating the possibility of exerting some control over the use of nuclear weapons at the tactical and strategic level.”


Documents 12A-C: The End of the NESC

A: JCS Chairman Wheeler to McGeorge Bundy, 15 October 1964, Top Secret

B: McGeorge Bundy to Wheeler, 26 October 1964, Confidential

C: Robert McNamara to Secretary of State et al., enclosing memorandum to the President, “Elimination of the Net Evaluation Subcommittee of the National Security Council,” 23 December 1964

Sources: A and B: NARA, Record Group 273. National Security Council. Records of NSC Representative on Internal Security, box 66. 1964 Net Evaluation; C: NARA, Records of Department of State Participation in the Operations Coordinating Board and the National Security Council, 1947-1963, box 96, NSC 5816

The last NESC report on the management of possible U.S.-Soviet crises remains classified but a short summary is available, as is Secretary of Defense McNamara’s proposal to abolish the NESC immediately thereafter. To prepare the report, members of the subcommittee staff, including James E. Goodby, met with top U.S. military officers in Western Europe, including Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Lyman Lemnitzer. A meeting with 7th Army Commander General William Quinn (father of Washington Post journalist Sally Quinn) was especially important because Quinn questioned the deployment of Allied forces in West Germany and the degree to which they could counter a Soviet attack. Goodby recalls that the report addressed a number of issues that the military thought needed attention, but which Defense Department planners were not considering, such as maldeployment of Allied forces across the North German plain. The implication was that the task of creating a non-nuclear flexible response that would be compatible with forward defense was a tougher problem than McNamara was portraying and would probably require greater defense expenditures by the Allies than he had proposed..

Recalling that McNamara became “visibly angry” during the briefing, Goodby surmised that he saw the NESC as a challenge to his authority because it was an independent channel for the military to provide its analysis to the White House. The next day, McNamara proposed to President Johnson that he abolish the NESC.[13] McNamara’s proposal did not mention policy disagreements. Instead, he emphasized organizational efficiencies; for example, that the Subcommittee duplicated functions that Pentagon offices, such as the JCS Special Studies Group, were already performing better. According to McNamara, while the NESC’s “annual study program …had value and relevance in 1958, its contribution today is marginal.” President Johnson concurred and the NESC was soon disbanded.



[1] Quoted from Marc Trachtenberg, “A Wasting Asset: American Strategy and the Shifting Nuclear Balance,” History and Strategy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), page 138.

[2] David A. Rosenberg, “American Atomic Strategy and the Hydrogen Bomb Decision,” Journal of American History 66 (1979): 62-87.

[3] See, for example, Andreas Wenger, Living with Peril: Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Nuclear Weapons (Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997), 143, and Lawrence Freedman, Kennedy’s Wars: Berlin, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 282-284. Freedman does not mention the NESC as such, but discusses the findings of the 1963 report as referred to in FRUS (see note 2).

[4] See “Summary Record of the 517th Meeting of the National Security Council,” 12 September 1963, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States 1961-1963 VIII (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1996), Document 141

[5] Matthew Connelly et al, “‘General, I Have Fought Just as Many Nuclear Wars as You Have’: Forecasts, Future Scenarios, and the Politics of Armageddon,” The American Historical Review 117 (2013), 1451.

[6] For the role of preemption in nuclear planning and its relationship to launch-on-warning options, see Bruce Blair, The Logic of Accidental Nuclear War (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1993).

[7] For the work of the NSC Special Evaluation Subcommittee, see Report to the National Security Council by the Special Evaluation Subcommittee of the National Security Council, 18 May 1953, and Memorandum of Discussion at the 148th Meeting of the National Security Council, Thursday, 4 June 1953, both published in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954, Volume II, Part 1 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1979).

[8] This is one of the few explicit references to mass fires in the NESC summaries, although fires and fire storms are a predictable feature of nuclear explosions and can be much more destructive than blast effects. See Lynn Eden: Whole World on Fire: Organizations, Knowledge, and Nuclear Weapons Devastation (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004).

[9] David Allan Rosenberg, “The Origins of Overkill: Nuclear Weapons and American Strategy, 1945-1960,” International Security 7 (Spring 1983): 3-71. See also “New Evidence on the Origins of Overkill,” National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 236.

[10] For divergent JCS views on the NESC report, but approval of the “Optimum Mix” concept, see Memorandum from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to President Eisenhower, “Appraisal of Relevant Merits, from the Point of View of Effective Deterrence, of Alternative Retaliatory Efforts,” 12 February 1960,” U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States 1958-1960 Volume III (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1996), 383-385.

[11] Dean Rusk, As I Saw It (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1990): 246-247.

[12] James K. Galbraith,“Did the U.S. Military Plan a Nuclear Strike for 1963?,” The American Prospec, Fall 1994.

[13] Telephone conversation with Ambassador James Goodby, 5 June 2014.



The National Security Archive – The United States, China, and the Bomb

The National Security Archive – The United States, China, and the Bomb


Washington, D.C. – The National Security Archive has initiated a special project on the Chinese nuclear weapons program and U.S. policy toward it. The purpose is to discover how the U.S. government monitored the Chinese nuclear program and ascertain what it knew (or believed that it knew) and thought about that program from the late 1950s to the present. Besides investigating U.S. thinking about, and intelligence collection on, the Chinese nuclear program as such, the Archive’s staff is exploring its broader foreign policy significance, especially the impact on China’s relations with its neighbors and the regional proliferation of nuclear weapons capabilities. Through archival research and systematic declassification requests, the Archive is working to collect key U.S. documents on important developments in Chinese nuclear history, including weapons, delivery systems, and strategic thinking. To put the nuclear issue in the broader context of the changing relations between the United States and China, the Archive is also trying to secure the declassification of key U. S. policy papers that elucidate changes in the relationship.

In particular, the Archive’s project is exploring Washington’s thinking about the Chinese nuclear weapons program in the context of U.S. nuclear proliferation policy. The Archive is probing Washington’s initial effort to brake the development of the Chinese advanced weapons program by encouraging allies and others to abstain from the shipment of products that could have direct or indirect military applications. Moreover, the Archive is seeking the declassification of materials that shed light on an important concern since the late 1980s, China’s alleged role as a contributor to the proliferation of nuclear capabilities in South Asia and elsewhere. To the extent possible, the Archive will try to document the U.S. government’s knowledge of, and policy toward, China’s role as a nuclear proliferator and its efforts to balance proliferation concerns with a policy of cooperation with Beijing.

In the spring of 1996, the Archive began a series of Freedom of Information and mandatory review requests to the CIA, State Department, Defense Department, National Archives, and other agencies to prompt the release of relevant documents. Although this will take time, the State Department’s own systematic declassification review of central files from the 1960s has already made available some very useful material. Moreover, previous declassification requests by the Archive are beginning to generate significant material. This makes it possible for the Archive to display, on our Web site, some newly released documents on U.S. policy toward the Chinese nuclear weapons program.

The documents that follow are from 1964 when U.S. government officials recognized that China would soon acquire a nuclear weapons capability. As this material indicates, the degree of apprehension varied, with some officials truly worried that a nuclear armed China would constitute a formidable threat to the security of China’s neighbors as well as the United States. Others, however, believed that Beijing’s orientation was fundamentally cautious and defensive and that the political and psychological implications would be more immediately consequential than any military threat. Although China’s attitude toward U.S.-Soviet nonproliferation efforts was hostile, as far as can be determined, no one anticipated a development of later decades: the PRC’s apparent role as a purveyor of nuclear weapons and delivery systems technologies.

* * *

This briefing book was prepared by William Burr, the Archive’s analyst for the China nuclear weapons project and for a related project on U.S. nuclear weapons policies and programs. Currently a member of Dipomatic History‘s editorial board, he has published articles there and in the Bulletin of the Cold War International History Project. He previously directed the Archive’s project on the Berlin Crisis, 1958-1962 (published by Chadwyck-Healey in 1992).

The National Security Archive thanks the W. Alton Jones Foundation for the generous financial support that made this project possible. Anthony Wai, Duke University, and Matthew Shabatt, Stanford University, provided invaluable research assistance for this project.



Document 1: “Implications of a Chinese Communist Nuclear Capability”, by Robert H. Johnson, State Department Policy Planning Staff, with forwarding memorandum to President Johnson by Policy Planning Council director Walt W. Rostow, 17 April 1964.

Source: U.S. National Archives, Record Group 59, Department of State Records, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1964-1966, file DEF 12-1 Chicom.

Robert Johnson (now associated with the National Planning Association) was one of the Department’s leading China experts. Between 1962 and 1964, he directed a number of studies on the Chinese nuclear program and its ramifications, not only for the United States but also for China’s neighbors in East and South Asia. This document is a summary of a longer study which remains classified but is undergoing declassification review. In this paper Johnson minimized the immediate military threat of a nuclear China, suggesting instead that Chinese leaders were more interested in a nuclear capability’s deterrent effect and were unlikely to engage in high-risk activities. Consistent with his relatively moderate interpretation, Johnson ruled out preemptive action against Chinese nuclear facilities except in “response to major ChiCom aggression.” Johnson explored the issue of preemption in another study: “The Bases for Direct Action Against Chinese Communist Nuclear Facilities,” also April 1964. That study is unavailable but is discussed in document 5.


Document 2: Special National Intelligence Estimate, “The Chances of an Imminent Communist Chinese Nuclear Explosion” 26 August 1964.

Source: Lyndon B. Johnson Library

The timing of a Chinese atomic test was a controversial subject during the summer and fall of 1964. As this document shows, CIA officials believed that the Chinese would not test a weapon until “sometime after the end of 1964.” State Department China specialist Allen Whiting, an official at the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, thought otherwise. Like his colleagues he was unaware that the Chinese had an operating gaseous diffusion plant which was producing weapons-grade material. Yet, he made more than the CIA of the fact that the Chinese had already constructed a 325 foot test tower at Lop Nur. Whiting was certain that the Chinese would not have taken the trouble to construct a tower unless a test was impending, although CIA technical experts were dubious. As other intelligence information becomes available, Whiting estimated a test on 1 October. (Interview with Whiting by William Burr, 13 December 1996).


Document 3: Memorandum for the Record, McGeorge Bundy, 15 September 1964

Source: Lyndon B. Johnson Library.

This report of a meeting between President Johnson’s top advisers discloses the administration’s basic approach toward the first Chinese nuclear test but nevertheless raises questions that have yet to be settled. Although it is evident that the administration had provisionally ruled out a preemptive strike, it is unclear whether Secretary of State Rusk ever had any substantive discussions of the Chinese nuclear issue with Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin during the weeks after this meeting.

Until recently, paragraph 3 of this document was entirely excised but a successful appeal by the National Security Archive led the National Archives to release all but the date of the proposed “Chinat” overflight, presumably by a U-2. The date of the overflight is unknown although a number took place in late 1964 and early 1965 to monitor Chinese nuclear weapons facilities.


Document 4: “China As a Nuclear Power (Some Thoughts Prior to the Chinese Test)”, 7 October 1964

Source: FOIA request to State Department

This document was prepared by the Office of International Security Affairs at the Department of Defense, possibly by, or under the supervision of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Henry S. Rowen, who drafted other papers on the Chinese nuclear program during this period. It probably typified the “worst case” scenarios developed by those who believed that a nuclear China would become such a serious threat that it would be necessary to attack Chinese nuclear weapons facilities as a counter-proliferation measure.


Document 5: State Department Telegram No. 2025 to U.S. Embassy Paris, 9 October 1964

Source: U.S. National Archives, Record Group 59, Department of State Records, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1964-1966, file DEF 12-1 Chicom

This document provides one example of Washington’s efforts to get “hard” information on the PRC’s atomic test not long before it occurred on 16 October. In early September, several weeks before the State Department sent this cable, Allen Whiting saw a CIA report on a meeting earlier in the year between Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and President of Mali Modibo Keita, when Zhou was visiting West Africa. Zhou told Keita that China would be testing an atomic device in October and asked him to give political support to the test when it occurred. Whiting was sure that Zhou’s statement should be taken seriously and on the basis of this and other information he convinced Secretary of State Rusk to announce, on 29 September, that a test would soon occur. (Interview with Whiting). The CIA report is unavailable but this telegram suggests that Zhou’s statement or similar comments by PRC officials to friendly governments may have leaked to the press.


Document 6: “Destruction of Chinese Nuclear Weapons Capabilities”, by G.W. Rathjens, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, 14 December 1964.

Source: FOIA request to State Department

George Rathjens, the author of this document, was an ACDA official serving on an interagency group, directed by White House staffer Spurgeon Keeny, that assisted the President’s Task Force on the Spread of Nuclear Weapons, better known as the Gilpatric Committee after its chairman, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric. Whether Rathjens prepared it as his own initiative or at the Committee’s request is unclear, but it may have been the latter because the Committee considered the possibility of recommending an attack on Chinese nuclear weapons facilities as part of a program to check nuclear proliferation. In this document, Rathjens summarized Roben Johnson’s still classified study of the costs and benefits of various types of attacks on the Chinese nuclear weapons complex. Apparently one of the possibilities, an “air drop of GRC [Government of the Republic of China] sabotage team” received serious consideration earlier in the year.

Taking a more bullish view of the benefits of attacking Chinese nuclear facilities, Rathjens took issue with Johnson’s conclusion that the “significance of a [Chicom nuclear] capability is not such as to justify the undertaking of actions which would involve great political costs or high military risks.” However confident Rathjens may have been that a successful attack could discourage imitators and check nuclear proliferation, that recommendation did not go into the final report, which has recently been declassified in full.

Before ACDA declassified this document in its entirety, a lightly excised version was available at the Johnson Library. Shane Maddock of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s History Department, published the excised version with stimulating commentary in the April 1996 issue of the SHAFR Newsletter.


Document 7: “As Explosive as a Nuclear Weapon”: The Gilpatric Report on Nuclear Proliferation, January 1965

Source: Freedom of Information Act request to State Department

Sections excised from previous releases are outlined in red.

Note: Since the Archive published this document, the Department of State has released Foreign Relations of the United States, Arms Control and Disarmament, 1964-1968, Volume XI, which includes the full text of the Gilpatric Report along with valuable background material.

Here the Archive publishes, for the first time, the complete text of the “Gilpatric Report”, the earliest major U.S. government-sponsored policy review of the spread of nuclear weapons. Largely motivated by concern over the first Chinese atomic test in October 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson asked Wall Street lawyer and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric to lead a special task force in investigating, and making policy recommendations on, the spread of nuclear weapons. Owing to his extensive connections in high-level corporate and governmental circles, Gilpatric was able to recruit a group of unusually senior former government officials, including DCI Allen Dulles, U. S. High Commissioner to Germany John J. McCloy, White House Science Adviser George Kistiakowsky, and SACEUR Alfred Gruenther. Johnson announced the formation of the committee on 1 November 1964. The committee completed its report in early 1965 and presented it to President Johnson on 21 January 1965.

The report came at a time when senior Johnson administration officials had important disagreements over nuclear proliferation policy. Johnson and Secretary of State Dean Rusk were already heavily committed to a Multilateral Force [MLF] designed to give the Germans and other European allies the feeling of sharing control over NATO nuclear weapons decisions while diverting them from developing independent nuclear capabilities. This complicated negotiations with Moscow which saw the MLF as incompatible with a nonproliferation treaty; nevertheless, Johnson and Rusk gave the MLF priority on the grounds that it would secure West Germany’s non-nuclear status1. Further, some senior officials thought that nuclear proliferation was inevitable and, among the right countries, potentially desirable. Thus, during a November 1964 meeting, Rusk stated that he was not convinced that “the U.S. should oppose other countries obtaining nuclear weapons.” Not only could he “conceive of situations where the Japanese or the Indians might desirably have their own nuclear weapons”, Rusk asked “should it always be the U.S. which would have to use nuclear weapons against Red China?” Robert McNamara thought otherwise: it was “unlikely that the Indians or the Japanese would ever have a suitable nuclear deterrent2.

The Gilpatric Committee tried to resolve the debate by taking an unhesitatingly strong position against nuclear proliferation, recommending that the United States “greatly intensify” its efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons. Besides calling for an international treaty on “non-dissemination and non-acquisition of nuclear weapons”, the report included a range of suggestions for inhibiting proliferation in specific countries in Europe, the Near East, and Asia. The latter generally involved a carrot and stick approach: inducements to discourage independent nuclear programs but a more assertive policy if inducements failed. For example, with respect to Israel, Washington would continue to offer “assurances” against Egyptian-Syrian attack; however, “make clear to Israel that those assurances would be withdrawn if she develops a nuclear weapons capability.” With respect to the MLF controversy, the report questioned Johnson administration policy by suggesting the “urgent exploration of alternatives” to permanently inhibit German nuclear weapons potential.

Spurgeon Keeny, the Committee’s staff director, believes that the report “got to LBJ that the Establishment was really worried about nuclear proliferation and that steps could be taken to do something about it”3. Yet, however Johnson may have thought about the report’s line of argument and recommendations, his immediate response appears to have been skeptical because it challenged the Administration’s emphasis on the MLF as a means to manage the German nuclear problem. Unquestionably, this contributed heavily to his decision to bar circulation of the report except at the cabinet level. Dean Rusk fully agreed, according to Glenn Seaborg’s account of a briefing for Johnson, Rusk opined that the report was “as explosive as a nuclear weapon.” Like Johnson, Rusk worried about leaks; moreover, he opposed the report’s message on Germany as well as other countries that it singled out. Uncontrolled revelations about the report would have quickly complicated U.S. relations with France, Germany, and lsrael, among others4.

One important section of the report, on possible initiatives toward the Soviet Union and their relationship to nonproliferation goals, has been declassified for some time. In it (beginning on p. 16), the Committee called for a verified fissile material cutoff (although production of tritium permitted) and strategic arms control agreements. By recommending a strategic delivery vehicle freeze (misspelled “free” in text), significant reductions in strategic force levels, and a moratorium on ABM and ICBM construction, the report presaged (and went beyond) the SALT I agreement of 1972. Elsewhere (p. 8) the Committee called for U.S. efforts to work with the Soviets in building support for a comprehensive nuclear test ban. For the Committee, U.S.-Soviet cooperation in those areas were essential because they would help create an “atmosphere conducive to wide acceptance of restraints on nuclear proliferation.”

Participants and close observers have offered conflicting analyses of the report’s impact. Some, such as Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Glenn Seaborg, downplay its significance noting that other political developments had more influence on Johnson administration policy. Others, such as Keeny and Raymond Garthoff (who represented the State Department on the Committee’s interagency staff) believe that even if the Gilpatric report did not quickly lead to tangible policy changes, it educated the President as well as its members on the significance of the nuclear proliferation issue. Keeny further argues that the report helped prepare Johnson to give strong support to a nonproliferation treaty in 1966 after the MLF approach to the German nuclear problem had lost momentum5.

No doubt owing to classification problems, the literature on the Gilpatric Committee and the early history of U.S. non- proliferation policy is sparse6. With the report fully declassified and other related information becoming available, it should now be possible for historians and social scientists to assess the Gilpatric Committee’s contribution to Lyndon Johnson’s nuclear proliferation policy. Whatever the Gilpatric report’s immediate impact may have been, the future turned out very differently than its critics anticipated. The slowing of nuclear proliferation has proven to be possible and a major goal of the Gilpatric committee–a nearly universal nonproliferation regime–came to pass. To the extent, however, that important measures supported by the Committee have yet to be acted upon–e.g., a fissile materials production cut off–or ratified, e.g., the CTBT–the report stands in harsh judgement of current international efforts to curb nuclear proliferation.



1. For a useful overview of the MLF-NPT interrelationships, see George Bunn, Arms Control By Committee, Managing Negotiations with the Russians (Stanford University Press, 1992), 64-72.
2. Presumably, Rusk thought it better that Asians use nuclear weapons against each other rather than Euro-Americans using them against Asians. Quotations from memorandum of conversation by Herbert Scoville, ACDA, “Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons- Course of Action for UNGA – Discussed by the Committee of Principals”, 23 November 1964, National Archives, Record Group 359, White House Office of Science and Technology, FOIA Release to National Security Archive.
3. Telephone conversation with Spurgeon Keeny, 24 March 1997.
4. Glenn Seaborg with Benjamin S. Loeb, Stemming the Tide: Arms Control in the Johnson Years (Lexington, MA: 1987), 143-145. This is the only generally available account of Johnson’s meeting with the committee. Neither Dean Rusk’s nor Lyndon Johnson’s memoirs mention the report.
5. Seaborg, Stemming the Tide, 148-149, although he provides a dissent from Keeny. Herbert York, Making Weapons, Talking Peace: A Physicists odyssey from Hiroshima to Geneva (New York, 1987), also downplays the report’s significance. Telephone conversation with Keeny, 24 March 1997; conversation with Raymond Garthoff, 28 March 1997. George Bunn, Arms Control by Committee, 75-81, is useful on the negotiations but does not mention the report.
6. George Perkovich’s “India’s Ambiguous Bomb” (forthcoming Ph.D. dissertation, University of Virginia), explores the impact of the Gilpatric report on Johnson’s policy, among other subjects.


For further reading:

Willis C. Armstrong et al., “The Hazards of Single-Outcome Forecasting,” in H. Bradford Westerfield, Inside ClA ‘s Private World: Declassified Articles from the Agency’s Internal Journal, 1955-1992 (New Haven, 1995), 238-254

Gordon H. Chang, Friends and Enemies: The United States, China, and the Soviet Union, 1948-1972 (Stanford, 1990)

Rosemary Foot, The Practice of Power, U.S. Relations with China Since 1949 (Oxford, 1995)

John Wilson Lewis and Xue Litai, China Builds The Bomb (Stanford, 1988)

Chris Pocock, Dragon Lady: The History of the U-2 Spyplane (Airlife, England, 1989), especially ch. 6, “Parting the Bamboo Curtain”