Blueprints for Battle: Planning for War in Central Europe, 1948-1968

By Jan Hofeenaar; Dieter Krüdcger et al. | Go to book overview

9
War Games in Europe
The U.S. Army Experiments with Atomic Doctrine

Donald A. Carter

At the end of World War II the U.S. Army assumed a new mission. The emergence of the Soviet Union as a hostile power and the threat posed by substantial Soviet armed forces in Eastern Europe forced American military leaders to reexamine their strategic policy. For the army, this meant developing the equipment, organization, and doctrine to meet and defeat a numerically superior opponent. Atomic weapons seemed to offer a means of evening the odds in the event of a Soviet attack. Throughout the 1950s, the U.S. Army experimented with ways to integrate the new and powerful weapons into its plans for the defense of Western Europe.

Of course, the army’s experiences with tactical atomic weapons in Europe must be placed into the larger context of the service’s role in American national security. One of the cornerstones of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “New Look” strategic policy was strength through a sound national economy. His administration looked for a “bigger bang for the buck,” as it emphasized atomic weapons, the Strategic Air Command, and massive retaliation at the expense of the army’s conventional forces. Throughout the 1950s, the army faced a series of personnel and budget cuts that threatened its existence as an organization. As one senior army general explained it, “The Army literally struggled for survival.”1 Through its development of an atomic weapons doctrine in Europe, the army hoped to prove that it had a role to play on the modern battlefield and in the national security policy of the United States.

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