The Making of the Western Defense System:
France, the United States, and MC 48
IN DECEMBER 1954 the NATO Council formally adopted a document called MC 48, a report by the Alliance's Military Committee on ‘The Most Effective Pattern of NATO Military Strength for the Next Few Years.” In approving this document, the Council authorized the military authorities of the Alliance to “plan and make preparations on the assumption that atomic and thermonuclear weapons will be used in defense from the outset.”1
This article was originally written in French for delivery at a conference on France and NATO held in Paris in February 1996. That version was published in Maurice Va'isse, Pierre Mélandri, and Frédéric Bozo, eds., La France et l'OTAN, 1949–1996 (Paris: Éditions Complexe, 1996), and appears here in English for the first time.
1 See Note de la Direction Politique, “Guerre atomique,” December 13,1954, Documents diplomatiques français: 1954 (Paris, 1987), pp. 906–7; henceforth cited in this form: DDF 1954, pp. 906–7. OnMC 48, see also U. S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States: 1952–1954, vol. 5 (Washington, D.C., 1983), pp. 482–562 (henceforth cited in this form: FRUS 1952–54, 5:482–56); Robert J. Watson, History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, vol. 5: The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy 1953–1954 (Washington, D.C.: Office of Joint History,1986), pp. 304–17; and three British documents: “Report by the Military Committee on the Most Effective Pattern of NATO Military Strength for the Next Few Years,” Annex A to J.P.(54) 77 (Final), August 19,1954, “Standing Group Report to the Military Committee on SACEUR's Capability Study, 1967,” Annex to J.P.(54) 76 (Final), September 2,1954, and “The Most Effective Pattern of NATO Military Strength for the Next Few Years: Report by the Joint Planning Staff,” J.P.(54) 86 (Final), October 21,1954, all in DEFE 6/26, British National Archives, Kew As for the French sources, the most important ones—those found in the Blanc Papers in the Service Historique de TArmée de Terre in Vincennes—will be cited below. But there is also one rather unusual source that should be cited: the “Mons notes,” found at the end of Philippe Bernert, Roger Wybot et la Bataille pour la D.S.T. (Paris: Presses de la Cité, 1975). Robert Wampler is one of the few historians to have recognized the importance of MC 48 and his analysis is fundamental: Robert Wampler, “Ambiguous Legacy: The United States, Great Britain, and the Foundations of NATO Strategy, 1948–1957” (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1991), chap. 9. For a summary, see Robert Wampler, “NATO Strategic Planning and Nuclear Weapons, 1950–1957,” Nuclear History Program Occasional Paper 6 (College Park, Md.: Center for International Security Studies, 1990), pp. 11–19. [I should also note that after this article was originally written, the full text of MC 48 has been declassified and is available on the NATO Archives website (http://www.nato.int/docu/stratdoc/eng/a541122a.pdf). The September 2 British document cited above is now also available online (http: / /www.php .isn.ethz.ch/collections/colltopic.cfm?lng=en&id=18485&navinfo=14968). It was posted in 2002 as part of a collection of documents relating to NATO planning put together by William Burr and Robert Wampler under the auspices of the Parallel History Project called “Lift