Ace in the Hole: Why the United States Did Not Use Nuclear Weapons in the Cold War, 1945 to 1965

By Timothy J. Botti | Go to book overview

7
FRENCH CHESTNUTS IN THE FIRE

Under certain contingencies, time would not permit consultation [on use of nuclear weapons] without itself endangering the very security we seek to protect. So far as feasible, we must seek understanding in advance on measures to be taken under various circumstances. In these ways, our joint capacities will be best calculated to deter aggression against any of us and to protect us in case it should occur." -- John Foster Dulles, April 23, 19541

Anglo-French misgivings notwithstanding, Eisenhower and Dulles were anxious to advance Allied and world understanding, and hopefully approval, of proposed American reliance on nuclear weapons to facilitate cuts in the defense budget, and in particular reduction of American ground forces in Korea. Thus the Secretary of State gave a speech in New York to the Council on Foreign Relations on January 12, 1954 announcing the Massive Retaliation policy. "The basic decision," he explained, "was to depend primarily upon a great capacity to retaliate, instantly, by means and at places of our choosing." Just as Churchill had predicted, Dulles' public pronouncement caused a furor and heightened fear of war.2

At this juncture, SAC really did have the capability of retaliating massively, as LeMay indicated in a top secret briefing for military officers and intelligence officials in Washington on January 28. He now had under his command 825 bombers, including 187 B-36s and 351 B-47s, 90% equipped for atomic warfare. In an emergency they would operate out of bases in the U.K., French Morocco, the Mediterranean area, the Pacific area, and the northwest U.S. including Thule, Alaska. Their mission would be to saturate the defenses of the Soviet Union from all directions so that all 600 Russian airfields would be attacked and destroyed as well as urban-industrial, command and control, atomic energy, and other military targets. Although coordination with the Navy's now substantial atomic force in the Atlantic was lacking and LeMay was still dissatisfied that he did not have all the aircraft and resources he wanted to carry

-55-

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Ace in the Hole: Why the United States Did Not Use Nuclear Weapons in the Cold War, 1945 to 1965
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Military Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • 1 - Sayonara Sanity? 1
  • 2 - War Scare 7
  • 3 - The Soviets Draw an Ace 17
  • 4 - Strategic Error 23
  • 5 - First Forbearance 31
  • 6 - The Cart Before the Horse 44
  • 7 - French Chestnuts in the Fire 55
  • 8 - The President Vacillates 66
  • 9 - Muscling Up 78
  • 10 - Sword of Damocles 95
  • 11 - The Last Sideshow 102
  • 12 - The Autobahn to Armageddon 109
  • 13 - Cocked Gun 121
  • 14 - Amateur Hour 138
  • 15 - Harebrained Schemes 151
  • 16 - Muddling Through 163
  • 17 - Multilateral Folly 171
  • 18 - High Noon 185
  • 19 - Two Bluffs 201
  • 20 - Best-Laid Plans 216
  • 21 - Strategic Incompetence 230
  • 22 - Unplayable Card? 243
  • Notes 253
  • Index 301
  • About the Author 313
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