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

12
THE AUTOBAHN TO ARMAGEDDON

If the Russians want war over Berlin, they can have it.

-- Dwight D. Eisenhower, November 22, 19581

Comparison between the offshore islands situation and West Berlin was inevitable. Both were within the physical environs of major Communist powers, both had become symbols of American determination to resist Sino-Soviet aggression, and both were untenable militarily unless defended by nuclear weapons. But a fight over Berlin would prove much more dangerous than a ruckus in the Formosa Straits because any exchange of gunfire between Soviet and American forces could set off general war in a matter of hours. As the second offshore islands crisis developed, the Army augmented SACEUR's firepower with 8-inch howitzers capable of firing atomic shells.

The real Soviet concern was Norstad's plan to provide atomic weaponry for other NATO forces, especially the Bundeswehr. SACEUR wanted the West Germans armed with atomic missiles as well as F-84F and F-104 fighter- bombers. Although details of payment, delivery, training, and access to warheads needed to be worked out, by fall 1958 the Germans had ordered and were receiving three NIKE battalions armed with 60 non-nuclear Ajax and 40 atomic-capable Hercules missiles and two Honest John missile battalions. A Matador battalion and 225 F-84Fs were scheduled for delivery beginning in August 1959.2

Up to that point, the U.S. had stockpiled no atomic warheads or bombs on German soil for use by West German forces. A considerable number had been put into bunkers for British Corporal missile regiments and British Canberra squadrons, however, about which Norstad was not altogether pleased because the arrangement was a bilateral U.S.-U.K. affair and Norstad wanted all nuclear weapons systems on the continent under SACEUR command and within the NATO atomic stockpile structure. He therefore sought authority to deal directly with NATO ministries of defense on detailed arrangements for the delivery of

-109-

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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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