THE TRUMAN AND EISENHOWER YEARS
It is a terrible thing to order the use of something that… is so
terribly destructive, destructive beyond anything we have ever had.
You have got to understand that this isn't a military weapon …
It is used to wipe out women and children and unarmed people,
and not for military uses. So we have got to treat this differently
from rides and cannon and ordinary things like that.
—President Harry S. Truman, April 1948
You boys must be crazy. We can't use those awful things against
Asians for a second time in less than ten years. My God.
—President Dwight Eisenhower, April 1954
as the first nation to develop, test, and acquire nuclear weapons, and most significantly as the one and only state ever to use an atomic weapon, the United States has played a crucial role in the evolution and sustenance of the tradition of non-use. Much of the discourse on the tradition has occurred in the United States. This is not surprising given that the intellectual foundations of nuclear deterrence theory came out of American policy and academic worlds. However, based on available historical records, among all the nuclear powers, it has been the United States that has most often pondered the possibility of nuclear use against nonnuclear adversaries.1
It is important to trace the evolution of the tradition of non-use of nuclear weapons for the United States by looking at the key turning points and events that shaped its path. What contributed to the rise and persistence of the tradition in the U.S. case? What role did reputation, strategic/tactical calculations, and moral considerations play in this process? This chapter goes through the historical record under presidents Truman and Eisenhower, by exploring the key events that marked significant turning points in the evolution of the