Chapter 6:  The President And The Bomb, 1953 - 1955


The trap grew tighter when news spread that the U.S. had detonated an actual hydrogen bomb, in the BRAVO test of March 1, 1954.  Fear of nuclear war took a quantum leap around the world.  Churchill told the House of Commons that “the subject filled his mind out of all comparison with anything else.”  “There is widespread anxiety here about the H-bomb,” he wrote to Eisenhower, “and I am facing a barrage of questions tomorrow about the March 1 explosion.”  A document circulating in Washington quoted Paul Henri Spaak, the eminent Belgian diplomat:  “If something is not done to revive the idea of the President’s speech—the idea that America wants to use atomic energy for peaceful purposes—America is going to be synonymous in Europe with barbarism and horror.”  India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru publicly described U.S. leaders a “dangerous self-centered lunatics” who would “blow up any people or country who came in the way of their policy.”  With private support from the British, Nehru advocated a moratorium on testing hydrogen weapons.[1]  

Thomas Murray, a member of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, also urged Eisenhower "to negotiate an agreement to limit testing activities.” But he had a different reason: “Since all Americans agree with you that hope for ultimate disarmament rests on our atomic superiority in the interim, any testing limitation plan would of course have to admit of the continuation of an American atomic margin over the Soviets."  If the Soviets accepted negotiations, the U.S. kept its nuclear lead; if the Soviet Union rejected the idea, the U.S. would reap the propaganda advantage.[2]

Eisenhower agreed that the question of a test ban was tied up with the larger question of the world's response to the hydrogen bomb.  Dulles made the connection clear:  "We have a chance to get a big propaganda advantage—and perhaps," he added as a seeming afterthought, "results."  Within the administration the test ban idea was treated from the beginning as a problem of international public relations.[3]

Considering A Moratorium

In mid-April, Eisenhower told Dulles that “he would be willing to have a moratorium on all further experimentation whether with H bombs or A bombs.”  He was especially concerned about “a morbid obsession” in Britain “that any positive move on the part of the free world may bring upon us World War III.”  The image problem became more acute in late April, when the Soviet Union formally rejected the “Atoms for Peace” plan.  As Hewlett and Holl explain, Soviet scientists understood that the plan “would actually increase the amount of nuclear material available for weapons.…Unfortunately, according to one State Department analyst, there seemed to be some basis for the Russian claim.”[4]  

“Atoms for Peace” was the only peg on which the U.S. could hang any claim to be working for peace.  If some public admission of failure was inevitable, Dulles ordered that “consideration should be given as a matter of urgency to handling of publicity.”  This made the prospect of a moratorium more appealing, for it was the only effective PR gesture available if “Atoms for Peace” collapsed.  He suggested to Eisenhower that it would be “quite spectacular” if the president and Churchill were to “make some announcement with reference to a moratorium” when the two met at the White House in June.[5]

When the NSC first discussed the moratorium on May 6, the president expressed “with great emphasis the necessity we were under to gain some significant psychological advantages in the world.  Everybody seems to think that we’re skunks, saber-rattlers and warmongers.  We ought not to miss any chance to make clear our peaceful objectives.”  Dulles made the point even more plainly:  “We are losing ground every day in England and in other allied nations because they are all insisting we are so militaristic.  Comparisons are now being made between ours and Hitler’s military machine.…In the long run, it isn’t only bombs that win wars, but having public opinion on your side.”  If the recent tests in the Pacific had indeed "put us a lap ahead of the USSR," a moratorium now was a good idea.  Vice-President Nixon agreed that the U.S. was “taking a ‘hell of a licking’ on the propaganda front…[and] he assumed that even though we entered into a moratorium, we could continue to develop our research.”  Nixon was the only one at the table to mention that a moratorium might help not only to win the cold war, but to avoid a “hot” one whose “potentialities [were] so terrible.”[6]

Eisenhower and Dulles expected an eventual decision for a moratorium.  They decided to postpone Churchill’s impending visit to Washington until after the assumed NSC approval, so that the two world leaders could make the announcement together at the White House.[7]

Not everyone in the administration agreed that a moratorium was a good idea, however.  The Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledged that a moratorium would have “certain political advantages.”  But they argued that the drawbacks outweighed the benefits.  They still refused to consider any step toward nuclear disarmament unless it came in the framework of a total disarmament agreement covering conventional weapons too—a highly unlikely possibility.  They feared that the Soviets would cheat and use a moratorium to advance their theoretical studies, perhaps bringing them abreast of the U.S.  And they feared that a moratorium would create more pressure for “further and progressive limitation on the military application of atomic energy.”[8] 

CIA head Allen Dulles echoed the JCS concern: 

There would almost certainly be a growing feeling throughout the non-Communist world that the moratorium would have little value unless it constituted the first step toward a worldwide agreement restricting or prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons.…The U.S. would be under strong popular pressure to “ban the bomb.”  Moreover the Soviets, relying less heavily than the West on nuclear weapons, might find an advantage in a moratorium.[9]

John Foster Dulles now changed his view and seconded his brother’s arguments.  He told the NSC that a moratorium might imply that there was something morally illegitimate about large-scale nuclear explosions, which would undermine U.S. efforts to remove the nuclear taboo.  He noted that if a moratorium were accepted, it would require “a massive U.S. propaganda effort…to appropriate for the United States the word ‘disarmament’ as the Soviets have appropriated the words ‘peace’ and ‘democracy.’”  He recognized that the terms of the proposed moratorium were “‘hand tailored’ to fit the present stage of United States technical development and, presumably, to embarrass the Soviet Union.  This could readily be made apparent” by the Soviets, who could embarrass the U.S. by calling for a longer moratorium or lower limits.  “This would put us in an awkward propaganda position." Moreover, the U.S. was formally committed to refusing nuclear disarmament except in the context of an overall disarmament agreement.  Changing this policy would vitiate the New Look’s reliance on nuclear weaponry.  For all these reasons, the moratorium as a propaganda gesture could easily boomerang.[10]

As the debate unfolded, a few administration figures occasionally raised the issue of domestic public opinion.  Civil Defense chief Val Peterson urged continued testing because it would "scare the American people out of their indifference.”  Attorney General Brownell wanted to continue testing because he thought it would calm, not heighten, public fears; a moratorium would raise fears, “Americans would react adversely,” and the administration's nuclear program might proceed less smoothly.  Arthur Flemming, head of the Office of Defense Mobilization, voiced a third view:  a moratorium “would give hope to our people.  Otherwise we would produce an atmosphere of despair, and people would feel that there was no use in trying to defend themselves against atomic warfare.”  But the president showed no particular concern about domestic opinion.  In his view, the public had no special fear of nuclear weapons because it no longer distinguished between them and conventional weapons. Perhaps because the effect on domestic opinion was so ambiguous and so unimportant to the president, it was treated as a peripheral matter and had no discernible impact on the administration’s decision-making process.[11]

Rejecting A Moratorium

Eisenhower looked at the global view, but he had trouble bringing it into clear focus.  At times, he still seemed to favor a moratorium.  On May 27 he expressed his “despair to look ahead to a future which contained nothing but more and more bombs.  We must try to find some positive answer, and to do so would require more imaginative thinking than was going on at present in this Government.…All we are doing now is to make more certain our capability to destroy.”[12]  At the June 23 meeting, he made a statement that revealed another side of his despair:

There was no way in which the United States could be licked by any enemy in a protracted war of exhaustion unless we were the victims of surprise atomic attack.…The United States, for the first time in its history, was frightened at the prospect of an atomic war.…The matter of the morality of the use of these weapons was of no significance.  The real thing was that the advantage of surprise almost seemed the decisive factor in an atomic war, and we should do anything we could to remove this factor.[13]

Here Eisenhower said flatly that no moral concerns were involved, and certainly no one had raised them.  The issue was a purely pragmatic one:  removing the threat of surprise attack might outweigh considerations of cold war maneuvering.  Having raised this point, though, he quickly let it drop. 

At both meetings, in fact, Eisenhower allowed his caveats to remain ignored, so they had no effect on the discussion.  (On May 27 he observed parenthetically that soon "even little countries will have a stockpile of these bombs, and then we will be in a mess."  But this far-sighted comment also drew no response from the Council.)  The June 23 discussion concluded when "the President stated with great emphasis that he thoroughly agreed with the conclusions reached by the committee" to reject the proposal.[14] 

Eisenhower's decision to reject the moratorium seems surprising on the face of it.  Even if he saw no moral good in stemming the nuclear spiral, a moratorium certainly offered pragmatic benefits.  He had the power to push the policy in that direction.  But he did not.  Why not?

He gave only one explicit reason for rejecting the moratorium idea:  it was impossible to secure "a really foolproof system to ensure the abolition of atomic weapons," because the Soviet leaders could never be trusted.  Weeks earlier he himself had voiced the obvious rejoinder to this argument:  “If they violated their agreement we would go ahead promptly and conduct new tests ourselves.”  Now he seemed to forget or ignore that thought.  Perhaps his advisors’ arguments persuaded him and he offered a different argument so that he would remain a leader rather than a follower.  Perhaps he still wanted a moratorium but hesitated to insist on a policy that reluctant underlings were unlikely to implement.  Perhaps he wanted to avoid further dissension within his top staff.[15]

The evidence is certain on one point, however.  Whatever pragmatic factors pushed the president away from the moratorium, they offered him a way to return to the familiar structures of his discourse.  The assumption that Soviet leaders could not be trusted had long been fundamental to that discourse, and it would remain the fundamental stumbling block to disarmament efforts.[16]  Yet there was good reason to call this premise into question.  The principal evidence available in 1954 was the series of agreements that the Soviets and the U.S. had signed in 1945 at Yalta and Potsdam.  Did the Soviets live up to those agreements?  The controversy will probably continue as long as historians study the cold war.  But the intensity of the controversy shows that there is no simple answer.  On many points, the Soviets had fulfilled their commitments. 

In any case, Yalta and Potsdam provided poor precedents.  None of those agreements dealt with a danger of mutual national annihilation.  Eisenhower himself had long argued that the Soviet leaders recognized and responded to this new, shared danger.[17]  This was a fundamental premise of both his discourse and his New Look policy.  Logically, it implied that the Soviets were more likely to fulfill nuclear disarmament agreements than the Yalta and Potsdam accords.  Yet he did not follow this logic to its conclusion.

The president could give up old commitments when it seemed urgent to do so, as his shifting Indochina policy demonstrated.  In the case of nuclear testing, though, he saw no such urgency.  His commitment to the New Look’s discursive pattern was stronger than his pragmatic desire to save the alliance through compromise.  Faced with a radically new situation, his instinct was not to initiate or even accept change, but to restrain the dangers that innovation might portend.  So he held on to the basic premises of his strategic discourse.  New Look policies made no sense without an assumption of moralistic dualism:  U.S. innocence versus Soviet cunning and deceit.  And the New Look had to assume that the U.S. could manage the alliance without substantial compromise on nuclear policy.


The latter assumption, already called into question by the moratorium debate, became even more doubtful as Europeans learned more and more about the dangers of radioactive fallout from nuclear tests.  The AEC’s chief of biology and medicine officially recommended that the administration address the as “not a question of health and safety, but a question of public relations.”  The president seemed to agree.  Through the spring of 1955, it remained “the official position of the United States Government,” wrote Assistant Secretary of Defense Herbert Loper, “that there is no basis for concern.”[18]

Publicly, Willard Libby, a famed chemist and new member of the AEC, insisted that “there is no immediate hazard to the civilian population.”  Privately, AEC members were less certain.  When Libby told his colleagues on the commission that fallout was just a fact of life that people would have to learn to live with, chairman Strauss retorted that it was all right “if you don’t live next door to it”—“or under it” added general manager Kenneth Nichols.[19]  The AEC worried that any fears related to the bomb might hamper the government's freedom to use the bomb, or to threaten credibly to use it.  The central issue was still controlling public emotions and attitudes.  Strauss recognized that the key in this situation was total control over the flow of information.  So he directed the AEC to undertake a full study of fallout dangers.

Eisenhower approved publication of the results in early February,1955.  The New York Times gave front page coverage to his statement that the AEC report should “re-emphasize the need for world peace and disarmament” and show Americans how they could protect themselves from fallout.  The administration hoped to make fallout a symbol not only of danger but also of peace and safety.  On the same front page, though, the Times ran another article headlined, “Civilian Peril Stressed; Strauss Warns That Human Survival Might Depend on Prompt Protection.”  This pairing typified the administration’s ambiguous message:  only those vigilant and disciplined enough to cooperate with the government (through its civil defense program) would be saved in a nuclear war; the saving power of government policy was directly proportional to the magnitude of the danger; only the sufficiently fearful should feel reassured.  The public response to the question of fallout was equally ambiguous.  The AEC had some degree of credibility because it was the only source of information on fallout.  Yet it was already widely discredited, so its reassurances only served to raise suspicion, skepticism, and fear.[20]

Of course fallout from Soviet H-bombs would be dangerous only in a war, while fallout from tests would be dangerous in the immediate present and future.  Yet the administration wanted to promote acceptance of nuclear testing primarily to help remove the taboo on deploying and using nuclear weapons.  Administration officials could hardly argue that fallout from tests was dangerous but fallout from weapons in wartime use was not.  So they had to treat all forms of fallout as a single issue.  With this “package deal” they linked fears of tests and fears of war, which risked heightening both.[21] 


The growing concern about fallout, particularly in Europe, threatened to force the administration into serious negotiations on disarmament.  But Eisenhower and his aides were determined to resist the pressure.  By the summer of 1954, they feared that the verification procedures the U.S. had proposed were no longer feasible and that the allies, unaware of this technological problem, might accept Soviet proposals.  The NSC still endorsed the Pentagon’s hard line:  “The United States should continue to refuse to accept nuclear disarmament except as part of general disarmament.”  But it was official U.S. policy to continue talks in order to gain “the maximum psychological advantage.”  “We should seek to maneuver USSR into position where it rejects Indian [moratorium] proposal before we do,” Dulles cabled his UN Mission.  “Would be advantageous to couple with our rejection of Indian proposal a criticism of Soviet Union position on atomic energy control in general.”[22] 

In September, the Soviets threw what Hewlett and Holl have called “the Russian bombshell”:  they finally agreed to discuss implementation of the “Atoms for Peace” idea.  This was far from welcome news in Washington.  The administration assumed that an international atomic energy agency (IAEA) would be U.S.-controlled, without Soviet participation, and thus easily molded to serve U.S. purposes.  This would not fulfill the promise of cooperation in the “Atoms for Peace” speech.  But it would offer many cold war advantages:  offsetting adverse publicity from fallout, counteracting Soviet peace rhetoric, putting the Russians in a bad light, reducing centrifugal forces in the Western alliance, and scoring political points at home.  “The Russian bombshell” threatened all this, for it would require U.S. compromise rather than control.  So the administration showed no enthusiasm for the Soviet offer.  There is no evidence that the president involved himself to push his subordinates toward a more conciliatory response. [23]

The U.S. delegation at the UN continued to warn Washington that the international image problem was growing acute.  As Caroline Pruden notes, “had it not been for the unceasing agitation of Lodge and Jackson (at that time a member of the U.S. delegation to the General Assembly), the [Atoms for Peace] proposal would likely have died quietly in the fall of 1954.…State Department officials responded by trying ‘to keep Senator Lodge within bounds.’…Dulles complained that the U.S. delegation was ‘whooping it up too much.’”[24]

The Pentagon had no such internal conflicts.  Its leaders wanted to use disarmament negotiations to mollify NATO allies, in order to get approval for U.S. plans to nuclearize NATO.  But they continued to insist on “general and complete disarmament,” including conventional as well as nuclear weapons, which ensured that disarmament negotiations would remain deadlocked.  Unable to resolve their own deadlock, the Pentagon and State Department jointly recommended that the president turn over disarmament policy to an “outstanding individual.”[25]

Eisenhower, too, was in a quandary.  He was suspicious of disarmament proposals, he told Hagerty:  “Of course the Reds were proposing to eliminate all atomic weapons, which would have the result of going back to ground forces alone, which would leave them with the preponderance of military power in Europe.”  Moreover, he told the NSC,

he had now become convinced that it was not possible to devise a foolproof system to abolish nuclear weapons and to see that they remained abolished.  Accordingly, he had now come to change his view and to revert to support of the position which the United States had taken in the UN, linking conventional and atomic weapons in any plan for the control or abolition of armaments.…Every time recently that the subject of disarmament had come up in a conversation, he was reminded of the fate of Carthage [which was destroyed because it accepted the Romans’ deceitful disarmament plan].[26]

However, when Eisenhower reminded Dulles, “We have got to be in a position to use that weapon,” the secretary of state responded that “at the political and public relations level there was still strong resistance.”  This was the rub.  The weapon was usable only if it were accepted by the allies, who demanded some U.S. commitment to disarmament.  Unable to square this circle, the president enthusiastically endorsed the proposed delaying maneuver, agreeing that “disarmament was a subject with which some one exceptional brain ought to occupy himself exclusively.”  The “exceptional brain” that he hand-picked was Harold Stassen, who would serve as “essentially a ‘Secretary for Peace.’”[27] 

Stassen had a proven record as a cold warrior.  In 1954, for example, he urged the NSC to make an official commitment to rollback of communism, adding:  “We should proceed at once to prepare the U.S. and allied public opinion for the use of [nuclear] weapons.”  Stassen had no objection to using words of peace for cold war ends, as long as the U.S. always showed a “determination to maintain the alternative of force.”  “First priority,” he declared, “now must be accorded to the preventing of the destruction of the United States itself through nuclear attack.”  Eisenhower knew that his new “Secretary for Peace” supported his strategy of apocalypse management solidly down the line.[28] 

From the outset, there was little chance that Stassen’s efforts would bear meaningful fruit.  The president told him:  “If confidence can be had in the peaceful intentions of others then progress in disarmament can begin.”[29]  As always, administration discourse  assumed that the U.S. was wholly innocent and therefore obliged to make no concessions or changes in policy.  The only change required of the U.S. was a more vigorous effort to leave the foe no option but capitulation.

National security advisor Dillon Anderson had his staff draw up an overview of the U.S. approach to disarmament.  The report acknowledged that policymaking had been “mainly stimulated by…fear of Soviet proposals which might gain international support but be impossible for the U.S. to accept; concern over similar pressures from our allies.”  It added another factor driving U.S. policy:  “a general desire to keep the initiative on the question in U.S. hands in a manner which will demonstrate to the free world our good record and basically peaceful and constructive intentions.”  Dulles reminded Eisenhower:  “This is the problem which the peoples of all the world demand we should solve and the U.S. must assume leadership.”  The president agreed that if Stassen “could do something to dramatize our interest in ‘peace’ to counteract the Soviet peace offensives that might be good.”  Disarmament policy would continue to be, above all, a matter of public relations.  In private, Eisenhower and his advisors put little effort into figuring out how to rid the world of the bomb.[30]

Nor did they think of nuclear weapons primarily as deterrents to war.  Eisenhower did once tell the military chiefs:  “We must deter them this year, next year, and for the next fifty years.  We should think in terms of fifty years, of reaching for fifty years of peace”; peace still meant a continuing restraint of every enemy threat.  And he told Congressional leaders that “the ability to blunt an initial enemy attack also gives a major deterrent effect.”  But this was merely an afterthought in a discussion about winning a nuclear war.  Similarly, in a comment to Churchill about preemptive war, he mentioned that “a concomitant problem” was how to inform the enemy of the intention to preempt, to deter an attack.  The “also” and “concomitant” indicated that his first priority was to have a massive retaliatory capability, not merely for deterrence, but for actual use.[31]

The president explicitly rejected the concept of deterrence when he told the NSC that it was “wholly erroneous” to think that nuclear “plenty” would make the weapons unusable.  On the contrary, “the more atomic weapons each side obtains, the more anxious it will be to use these weapons.”  He knew that he was regularly approving the research, testing, and deployment of more U.S. nuclear weapons systems.  Perhaps he also knew that the U.S. was already producing one new nuclear bomb every day.  But he never considered reversing the arms race as an option.  The only alternative to the New Look, he affirmed once again, was to “transform ourselves forthwith into a garrison state.”  So unexpected Soviet nuclear advances demanded a corresponding U.S. buildup “in certain specific areas”—presumably the nuclear areas.  The U.S. had to stay ahead in the arms race at any cost.[32]

Charting Nuclear Strategy

When the president talked about the bomb in private, he focused not on disarmament or deterrence, but on using it to win a war.  Late in 1953, he told Anthony Eden that he saw no difference between nuclear and conventional weapons:  “The development of smaller atomic weapons and the use of atomic artillery makes the distinction impossible to sustain.”  When he said that, he already knew that hydrogen bombs would soon be in his arsenal.  Yet he forced the “new weapons” into his old discursive pattern.  A traditional massive assault was still the key to victory.  He expressed to Congressional leaders his “absolute conviction” that in the nuclear age the only possible plan was "to hit the Russians where and how it would hurt most.…Hit the guy fast with all you’ve got if he jumps on you.”  (It was not unusual for Eisenhower to use such colloquialisms in discussing all-out nuclear war, treating it as a fight between two individuals.)[33]

However the president did not imagine World War III as an instantaneous affair.  He expected to fight a long drawn-out conflict much like World War II.  He told the NSC that the U.S. should plan to ward off an initial attack “and as quickly as possible ourselves to be able to destroy the war potential of the enemy.…The United States might have to contemplate a 12-year mobilization program to achieve final victory.”  This was the only kind of war he found worth considering.  To those who suggested that the U.S. military might be immobilized by an initial strike, “the President said that if you were to think on that basis, there was no sense in doing anything.…The war wasn’t going to be over in a couple of days.”  He encouraged plans for government relocation during a general war, but only in the case of "possibly 25 or 30 cities being shellacked.…If we got to the stage of scientific destruction envisaged by intercontinental ballistic missiles, we would be beyond the point of keeping the nation together," and there was no point in talking about relocation or anything else.[34]

He expressed a similar view when the NSC met to approve NSC 5410, "U.S. Objectives in the Event of General War with the Soviet Union."  Trying to imagine a full-scale war concretely enough to plan for it, his mind boggled:  "The President expressed skepticism as to whether any nations as we now know them would continue to exist at the conclusion of this war.…The chaos resulting from a third world war would be so great" that there was no point in trying to determine "precise objectives and courses of action."  He treated chaos as an absolute, an instantaneous extinction beyond the ken of reason, much as he had in a private comment four years earlier:  “As a practical matter, if we are all to be destroyed in the twinkling of an eye, what is there to do about it?"[35] 

By clear implication, the president directed his subordinates to base their planning not on their best estimate of the empirical realities of war, but on hypothetical scenarios that seemed to make planning for recovery realistic.  (In his second term he would make this guidance explicit.)  His desire for clearly defined plans turned his own and his administration's eyes away from the empirical realities of the H-bomb’s power.  Indeed, as late as March 1955, he could still tell the NSC that “the effect of the H-bomb in comparison to the A-bomb was merely to widen the crater which it created,” and even an H-bomb crater would be “only” one mile across.  A month later, he still had to ask Strauss about the radius of the bomb’s lethal effects.[36]

What he thought about was not the destruction, but the loss of freedom that a war would bring.  Assuming a U.S. victory, “a totalitarian system was the only instrument by which Russia could be ruled for a considerable interval after the war.”  But the victor would suffer the same fate:  "The President said that, of course, his imagination as to the horrors of a third world war might be overdeveloped, but he believed that every single nation, including the United States, which entered this war as a free nation would come out of it as a dictatorship."  When civil defense chief Peterson "observed that if we had a major attack, dictatorship is the answer you have to come to, even if you couldn’t talk about it," neither Eisenhower nor anyone else demurred.[37] 

A draft of NSC 5410 set out as the primary war aim, "To achieve a victory which will ensure the survival of the United States as a free nation and the continuation of its free institutions in the post-war period."  Eisenhower said "he would change [it] by putting a period after 'victory' and deleting the rest of the paragraph, if not the rest of the paper."  In the end he settled for, "To achieve a victory which will insure the survival of the United States," which was, for him, tautological. "By and large, concluded the President, the main purpose served by this paper was to emphasize how vital it was to avoid a third world war."  His comments indicate that he found it vital to avoid war chiefly because of the totalitarianism, not the human suffering, that war would bring.[38] 

Historians have often cited Eisenhower's warnings that nuclear war must be avoided, giving the impression that he frequently voiced such a sentiment in private, where there could be no question of speaking for public effect.  In fact, there were relatively few instances of this in his first three years in office.[39] And his statements to this effect, both private and public, should be interpreted in the context of his two different images of the results of World War III.  One was sheer, ungovernable, unimaginable chaos.  The other was a rigid totalitarian system imposed to bring order out of that chaos.  These were the two principal ways in which selfishness manifested itself, according to his long-standing ideological scheme.  And he assumed that World War III would necessarily lead to one or the other.  So he could see no way that this apocalypse could lead to the victory of spiritual good over evil.

The president acknowledged to the NSC that he found it “frustrating not to have plans to use nuclear weapons generally accepted.”  The frustration came not only from allies’ fears, but from the inherent limitations of the weapons.  Here was a professional soldier, now the commander-in-chief, with the most powerful weapon in history, but no way to use it to gain a meaningful victory.  He told his Joint Chiefs of Staff that “if we batter Soviet cities to pieces” there would be no way to “achieve the objectives for which we went to war.”  So he directed them “to use more imagination in contemplating the best way to fight the next war with the least dislocation to the world.”  When Dulles affirmed that U.S. nuclear deterrence was “restraining local aggression by the Communists,” Eisenhower (perhaps thinking of Indochina) added one more cause for frustration:  “The President said that the theory of retaliation falls down unless we can identify the aggressor.  In many cases … it is difficult for us to know whom to retaliate against.”[40]    

Eisenhower assured a Marine audience that the U.S. could destroy all major Soviet cities in 24 hours.  But then he reflected out loud: 

Here would be a great area from the Elbe to Vladivostok and down through Southeast Asia torn up and destroyed without government, without its communications, just an area of starvation and disaster.  I ask you what would the civilized world do about it?  … Gain such a victory and what would you do with it? …I repeat there is no victory in any war except through our imaginations, through our dedication, and through our work to avoid it.[41] 

Historians often interpret this passage to mean that, although one could imagine winning a victory, in reality there could be no meaningful victory, so the military should dedicate its imagination to finding ways to avoid war.  But perhaps Eisenhower was giving the Marines, in one syntactically tortured sentence, the full range of his views:  Try to avoid a world war, but if there is a war, be sure to destroy every major city, not only across the Soviet Union, but also in China and in all the satellite states, yet try to find a way to fight that would make victory meaningful by avoiding either chaos or totalitarianism.

In a letter to a personal friend, Boeing executive Earl Schaefer, Eisenhower summed up his views in typically apocalyptic terms:  “Men ought to be intelligent enough to devise ways and means of avoiding suicide.”  This was the same kind of plaint he had made during and after World War II.  Things had changed quantitatively, but not qualitatively.  And he still lamented that so few people had the kind of intelligence needed.  Yet he was also admitting, implicitly, that he too had failed to solve the problem.  And his laments about impending apocalypse were still only rhetorical flourishes, with no impact on military policy.  So, he continued to Schaefer, “as of the moment national preservation requires” an effective capacity for massive nuclear retaliation.  If the threat of bombs failed to save the nation from attack, the New Look assumed that bombs would actually be used for a saving counter-attack.  In effect, he was telling Schaefer that he wanted to be able to view, and use, those bombs as the shield against national suicide, not the trigger of global suicide.[42]  

In the first half of 1954, then, Eisenhower's private discussions about nuclear weapons followed a familiar pattern.  He had been warning against war for many years.  For just as many years, he had been insisting that Soviet leaders would refrain from war.  When he spoke about war, he showed as much concern for the chaos caused by U.S. as by Soviet bombs.  That had not changed.  Nor had the moral acceptability of using weaponry changed, in his view.  He would use the weapon only when he was convinced that the nation faced absolute chaos.  Then he would use  absolute force to restore absolute order.  For all practical purposes, the fact that such a response might destroy the U.S. homeland was rendered largely irrelevant in Eisenhower's discourse.  He treated that potential chaos largely as an abstraction, not something to be concretely planned for. 

His apparently fearful musings about “avoiding suicide” and “a future which contained nothing but more and more bombs” were correspondingly abstract.  They expressed a vague sentiment, which was appropriately alarmist, but never a basis for, nor even connected with, concrete policy planning.  Despite the unexpectedly massive destructiveness of the H-bomb tests, he worried little about nuclear weaponry as a danger in and of itself. He admitted that the bomb’s most radical new implications were beyond his ken and therefore, to him, not worth considering or even learning about. 

Surprise Attack

The administration’s plans always assumed that war would begin with a Soviet surprise attack.  As Raymond Garthoff concludes, “President Eisenhower and Secretary Dulles were both confident that the Soviet leaders would not launch an attack.”  The president said repeatedly, both publicly and privately, that Soviet leaders were too enamored of their own power to risk it by attacking the U.S.  As the power of nuclear weapons grew, though, his anxiety about an unlikely worst-case scenario grew too.  A mid-1954 briefing by the JCS Advance Study Group gave him a considerably higher estimate of how damaging an attack would be.  Eisenhower commented “that he had been inclined in the past to pooh-pooh intercontinental bombing.  With the advent of the hydrogen bomb, however, he had revised his earlier view.”  Yet in the same breath he doubted “the accuracy of the mathematics of atomic warfare.…He lacked faith in the completeness and the accuracy of destruction indicated in the briefing.”  Fear and confidence, always in tension in Eisenhower's discourse, were pitted against each other most acutely on this issue.[43]

Gradually, the fear came to dominate.  “The real thing,” he told the NSC in June 1954, “was that the advantage of surprise almost seemed the decisive factor.”[44]  By the end of that year, he no longer spoke so much about his fear of the chaos and totalitarianism that war would bring.  He now put surprise attack at the top of his list of perils to be feared.  Throughout 1954, growing fears of a first strike pushed some administration figures (especially within the Pentagon) to urge consideration of a preventive first strike.  The talk was serious enough that the president felt obliged to argue against it on several occasions.  His warnings about the horrors of nuclear war were uttered primarily in this context.  By late 1954 the discussion seems to have ended in high-level circles.

But Eisenhower did not argue against the idea of a massive preemptive nuclear strike; he was fully determined to get in the first blow if he thought war unavoidable.  He warned Congressional leaders that the crucial period was only “the first fifteen days.”  This was “the threat that endangers our very existence.  The first priority must therefore be to blunt the enemy’s initial threat—by massive retaliation.” He told his advisors that “when we talk about power and massive retaliation, we mean retaliation against an act that to us means irrevocable war.”  And he left no doubt that the first blow would be nuclear.  If the great fear was now sudden all-out attack on the heart of the “free world”, rather than gradual erosion at its edges, national security meant using the bomb to prevent a sudden total catastrophe, rather than preventing many small losses in constant battles.  So the hugely expensive mobilization planned by the Truman administration would be unnecessary.  Whereas Truman had made the atomic bomb a weapon of last resort, Eisenhower made both the atomic and hydrogen bombs “in effect, a weapon of first resort," as David Alan Rosenberg observes.[45]

To the military chiefs, the president “indicated his firm intention to launch a strategic air force immediately in case of alert of actual attack.”  SAC plans assumed a preemptive first strike.  But “alert” was an ambiguous term.  He wrote to Churchill that “the very life of a nation, perhaps even of Western civilization, could, for example, come to depend on instantaneous reaction to news of an approaching air fleet.”  But he went on to urge “the most careful studies on our part to decide upon the conditions under which we would find it necessary to react explosively.”  Obviously, an approaching air fleet was not the only such condition.  Weeks earlier, in fact, he had set up a committee to study what Soviet actions “should leave no doubt in the President's mind as to the need for taking immediate military action.”[46]

As Marc Trachtenberg points out, “a strategy of preemption is implied in a large number of documents from the Eisenhower period”; the nuclear buildup the president wanted “could make a difference [only] if the U.S. struck first.”  George Kennan was surely correct when he said:  “’Massive retaliation’ is only another expression for the principle of first strike.’”  Yet Eisenhower still held to his long-standing philosophy of war:  "Never use force in international affairs— but if you do, use it overwhelmingly."  Preemption fit readily into his penchant for speaking in absolutes.  He was absolutely determined to avoid war; but if it came, it would be fought with absolute power to an absolute conclusion.[47]

Eisenhower assumed that two to four weeks of initial counterstrikes would be needed after any preemptive strike.  This use would be the first phase of a two-phase war, “the initial attack and counterattack,” in which the goal would be “the aversion of disaster; in phase two we would go on to win the war.”  Phase one, leaving perhaps “15 [U.S.] cities in ruin,” would be “a period when all we can do is to avert disaster.  If we have time to do that job and hit back hard, then we can do the rest in time.  But unless we can do this, gentlemen, take my word for it we are going to be shot to pieces.”[48]

The second phase of this two-phase war would be a protracted, more or less conventional war.  The memory of World War II was still overpowering; the side that produced the most war materials over the duration would win:  “The only attack we fear is a long-range atomic attack.  As long as we can keep up our productive power, keep it in operation, we can lick anybody anytime.”  “To do that we need not just more men.  We need more equipment, an expanded Air Force and an expanded warning system.”  The Army manpower needed to “avert disaster” during the initial phase was a relatively small but well-disciplined reserve to “take over and preserve order” in the U.S.; martial law would be necessary to keep up production.  A large Army could then be drafted to fight and win a long war, much like the war that had first made Eisenhower a hero.[49]

As he presided over the ever-mounting nuclear buildup, Eisenhower felt little pressing need to explore new facts, nor to ask whether they might fall outside his familiar framework.  He bent all his efforts toward controlling the weapons’ effects for U.S. advantage.  He worried only about how to use the weapons in a way that would stave off, not set off, the apocalyptic destruction of his nation through total chaos or rigid totalitarian order.  Though he still found that problem insoluble, he continued to base the nation’s security on a nuclear foundation.  Had he begun to question that foundation, he might have escaped from the trap in which his discourse had ensnared him and turned back the fearful trend toward nuclear confrontation.  By clinging to his familiar structure of discourse, in hopes of holding back the winds of change, he lost that opportunity.  Instead, he reaffirmed the patterns of discourse that were steadily enhancing national insecurity. 

The Bomb And Fear In Presidential Rhetoric

Of course Eisenhower could not talk about openly about his nuclear policies in public.  He warned the NSC that it would be unwise to reveal publicly “some of the things we may have to do in case of war.  He thought it would be better to continue to emphasize constructive peace.  To attempt to educate public opinion now on the weapons that might have to be used in war might produce very great strain on our alliances.”  Nuclear fears were beginning to emerge at home, too.  The president objected to plans for sending top government officials underground in wartime "because the public would be greatly upset."[50] 

 On the other hand, the fear of cold war apathy still plagued the Eisenhower administration.  The administration needed to manage public emotion skillfully enough to sustain a “national will” to wage cold war for an indefinite “age of peril.”  The president aimed to keep the public sufficiently frightened, though not “hysterical.”  So even his most reassuring talk was interlaced with words that provoked anxiety.  His principal rhetorical strategy to dampen nuclear fear was to portray the bomb as merely one among a panoply of perils.  “The world is suffering from a multiplicity of fears," he told reporters.  “What I fear more than anything else in this time, is a failure to look this danger in, you might say, its broad face.”[51] 

In early April, when the president gave a major speech about fear, nuclear fear was a rather minor theme.[52]  As Hagerty noted, the basic purpose was to “take the Red play from McCarthy.”  It was a bid to control the public discourse of fear by identifying the administration with the rational—hence controllable—fear, while placing both McCarthyites and communists squarely on the side of irrational—hence uncontrollable—“hysteria.”  “Sometimes you feel, almost, that we can be excused for getting a little bit hysterical,” the president told the nation, “because these dangers come from so many angles, and they are of such different kinds."  But “the H-bomb—the H-bomb and the Atomic Age—they are not in themselves a great threat to us,” he insisted.  They were dangerous only because of the potential “insanity” of Soviet leaders.  Irrationality, whether from the Kremlin or the McCarthyites, was the real danger, the speech implied:  “We do not have to be hysterical.  We can be vigilant.  We can be Americans.”[53]  

Later in the year, as the congressional election approached, Eisenhower was politically astute enough to mute all public talk about fears and limits.  "We should constantly present the Republican Party as the Party of peace," he told party chairman Len Hall.[54]  He reminded many audiences of areas where cold war contest had ceased since the Republicans had entered the White House:  Korea, Indochina, Iran, Guatemala, Trieste.  To lay claim to the title of peacemaker, though, he had to construct all of these conflicts rhetorically as potential dangers to the U.S.  Many voters might never have felt threatened by Indochina, Iran, Guatemala, or Trieste had their president not instructed them.  Occasionally, he made the point explicitly when he slipped back into his familiar language:  “The whole Nation is constantly exposed to the threat of destruction.”  Most often, though, he urged voters to “work toward a world peace.…The nearer we approach that, the nearer we approach perfection for America."[55]

The president's campaign rhetoric reflected the religious foundations of his ideological commitments.  He spoke in apocalyptic tones, offering doom and utopian peace as the only alternatives.  He depicted all the sources of doom as facets of the spiritual flaw of innate selfishness.  Toasting Korean President Rhee, he theologized:  "There is one factor that is completely unpredictable, completely unreliable and untrustworthy, and yet never changes—only one—and that is human nature."  Even "those misguided and irresponsible people who…spread fear,” he insisted, were doing so “for individual advantage.”  But he offered no way to escape fear, for he saw every fear at bottom as (in his own words) fear “of ourselves”—of human nature itself.[56]

When he turned to the utopian side of his discourse, Eisenhower also turned to religious values.  The main antidote to fear that he offered was not a trustworthy peace, but the power of faith.  The basic purposes of U.S. foreign policy, he declared, “conform to the will of the Highest of All Rulers.”  "The American dream is a goal that can be achieved only…in unity among men and faith in God."[57]  He used language of faith to sacralize all the terms in the chain of virtually synonymous "free world" values:  peace, faith, "the American way," U.S. preeminence, and cold war victory.  Every term in this chain became a representation of salvation, the ultimate good.  Fighting the war, winning the war, and making peace were equivalent manifestations of the faith on which salvation depended.  At the same time—sometimes explicitly and always by implication—he demonized all the terms in the opposing chain of associated terms. 

By shaping the pattern of public discourse, Eisenhower also sacralized the political authority of his administration.  Addressing the public like a parent scolding a frightened child, Eisenhower linked himself with God as a protective father figure.  The president's great prestige and popularity (plus his privileged access to public news space) gradually ousted any competing discursive options.  It became harder to find any linguistic foundation on which to frame challenges to, or even questions about, the administration's basic orientation.

God seemed to be on the president's side because there was no longer any other discursive side on which God could be.  Therefore, in Rachel Holloway’s felicitous phrase, “the sinister bomb became a saving grace."  Journalist William Lee Miller observed at the time that Eisenhower was trying to make religion itself a weapon of containment.  But he could also speak of the bomb as an enemy to be defeated by faith in American omnipotence:  “United, Americans can conquer the atom bomb and hydrogen bomb, or anything else in this world to which they set their minds and their hearts.”[58] 

Although Eisenhower tried to make fear the rhetorical opposite of faith, he actually bound the two together.  American faith could "open before the world a true golden age of our civilization.  We need not despair.  We must not," he preached.  Faith was a more rational kind of anxiety:  "We must, of course, prevent ourselves always from overexaggerating danger, just as we refuse to become complacent.…I am certain also that America does not forget the power that is concentrated in the faith we have."[59]  With God and threat so intimately intertwined, neither faith in the government nor the rhetoric of faith could diminish public anxiety.  When the president spoke of peace and security, he meant not diminishing global polarization but heightening it.  When he spoke of faith as the only route to peace, he meant confronting the enemy with a “free world” so firmly in control of its fear that it could live on the brink of disaster without losing self-control, and therefore wage cold war successfully, as long as necessary.  His mission as self-appointed spiritual leader was to prepare the nation to live forever, if need be, on a discursive brink, where an endless sense of nuclear threat was called security and peace. 

 Eisenhower's apocalypticism allowed no way to give the nation’s growing awareness of limits any positive meaning.  Limits could be portrayed only as the gateway to disaster.  This made the limits seem immensely dangerous and more frightening than they had to be.  If there was no way to talk of faith and peace without talking about catastrophic threats, it was that much more appealing to talk of faith and peace as merely a stable structure of security, impervious to every threat.  This structure had meaning, and offered hope, only as long as there was a threat for it to hold back. 

The ultimate limit was the limit to discursive clarity.  The president's rhetorical efforts to create a stable public mood only heightened the discursive instability, because his rhetoric, like his policy, was built out of contradictory elements:  war threats and peace moves, images of confrontation and images of conciliation, insistence on U.S. self-interest and compromise with allies' interests, a secular balance of power and sacred eschatology, hope for a better world and fear of the end of the world.  He often spoke as if he believed he could find the perfect balance point in each set of conflicting opposites.  Yet in language, as in policy, pursuit of perfect control only made the chimerical goal more difficult to attain. 

A public assaulted by such frightening, confusing language could hardly feel genuinely confident, no matter how often the avuncular Ike preached optimism and smiled at them from the golf course.  His words merely helped to accomplish the goal of Operation Candor:  diverting public anxiety into new channels that called for new efforts at emotion management.


Notes to Chapter 6


[1] House of Commons Debate, fifth series, vol. 525, col. 1052, 3/23/54; Churchill to Eisenhower, 3/29/54, in Boyle, Churchill-Eisenhower Correspondence, 131-132; Committee on Atomic Development memo, 4/12/54, C. D. Jackson Papers, Box 55, “Gi-Misc”; Gopal, Jawaharlal Nehru, 396, 395.  See also Divine, Blowing on the Wind, 18; Memorandum of Dinner with Sir Winston Churchill, 4/12/54, John Foster Dulles Papers, White House Memorandum Series,  Box 1, “Meetings with the President, 1954 (4).”  On the British anxiety, see Wittner, The Struggle Against the Bomb, 14-17, 27-28.

[2] Murray to Eisenhower, 2/5/54, AWF, Administration Series, Box 4, "AEC, 1953-1954 (5)." See  Hewlett and Holl, Atoms for Peace and War, 222-223.

[3] Eisenhower to Murray (draft by Lewis Strauss), 2/10/54, AWF, Administration Series, Box 4, "AEC, 1953-1954 (5)"; Dulles to Lodge, 4/20/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 1387.  Henry Cabot Lodge, the U.S. representative at the UN, had argued that a moratorium could bring "great political benefits" to the U.S., particularly in mollifying Nehru; it might be tailored to help the U.S. and hurt the Soviet Union strategically: Lodge to Department of State, 4/12/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 1383; Lodge to Dulles, 4/14/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 1385.

[4] Dulles memorandum, 4/19/54, John Foster Dulles Papers, White House Memoranda Series, Box 1, “Meetings with the President, 1954 (3)”; Eisenhower to Jackson, 4/14/54, PDDE, 15: 1019; Eisenhower to Hazlett, 4/27/54, PDDE, 15: 1044 (see also diary, 4/27/54, PDDE, 15: 1041); Hewlett and Holl, Atoms for Peace and War, 221.

[5] Dulles to Department of State, 4/28/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 1398.

[6] NSC, 5/6/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 1425-1429; Memorandum of Luncheon Conversation with the President, 5/11/54, John Foster Dulles Papers, White House Memoranda Series, Box 1, “Meetings with the President, 1954 (3).”  See also Dulles to Eisenhower, 5/17/54, AWF, Dulles-Herter Series, Box 3, “Dulles, John Foster — May 1954 (2)” and Eisenhower to Dulles, 5/6/54, John Foster Dulles Papers, White Hosue Memoranda Series,  Box 1,  “White House Correspondence, 1954 (3).”

[7] Dulles memorandum, 4/19/54, John Foster Dulles Papers, White House Memoranda Series, Box 1, “Meetings with the President, 1954 (3).”  Dulles was recapitulating the views of his policy planning chief, Robert Bowie, who also noted that a moratorium would let the U.S. keep it advantage in nuclear technology: Bowie to Dulles, 5/5/54, FRUS, 1952-1954, 2.2: 1419-20.

[8] Radford to Wilson, 4/30/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 1438.

[9] Allen Dulles to Lay, 5/25/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 1446.  For the opposition from Strauss and the AEC, see Hewlett and Holl, Atoms for Peace and War, 223-225.

[10] Dulles to NSC, 6/23/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 1467; NSC, 6/23/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 1469.  For Dulles’ evolving rejection of a moratorium, see NSC, 5/27/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 143-145; Merchant to Bowie, 5/25/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 1448; Dulles to Anderson, Strauss, A. Dulles, 5/26/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 1449.  Dulles had learned from Strauss that the U.S. was working on a small nuclear anti-aircraft weapon, well below 100 KT, that would be ready for testing in 1956, and he apparently agreed that a moratorium would have to be tailored to allow for those tests.  But if the U.S. agreed to any kind of moratorium, the pressure to go down to 10 kilotons, or even a total ban on tests, might be irresistible.  This was yet another reason to avoid any moratorium. 

[11]  Peterson to Lay, 5/26/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 1450-2; NSC, 5/27/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 1456.

[12] NSC, 5/27/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 1455.

[13] NSC, 6/23/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 1469-1470.

[14] Ibid., 1470.  By October, 1954, Eisenhower was considering a moratorium on tests over 100 kilotons to aid U.S. psychological warfare efforts and retard Soviet progress toward nuclear parity.  Lewis Strauss argued that a moratorium would "imperil our liberty, even our existence"; the only alternatives to continued testing were nuclear war or appeasing communism.  James Fisk, a member of the Killian Panel, persuaded Eisenhower that the U.S. needed more tests “to tailor nuclear weapons to a variety of military needs”:  NSC, 10/26/54, AWF, NSC Series, Box 6, “219th Meeting, 10/26/54.”  By December, the test moratorium was no longer actively considered.  When AEC Commissioner Thomas Murray persisted in urging the idea on Dulles, the latter noted curtly, “I thanked Mr. Murray for his ideas”:   Memorandum of Conversation, 12/14/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 1585.

[15] NSC, 6/23/54, FRUS, 1952-1954, 2.2: 1470; NSC, 5/6/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 1426.

[16] For Eisenhower's distrust of Soviet motives as early as 1944 and 1945, see GE, 69, 71-72; for his early disinterest in disarmament efforts, see GE, 123-126.

[17] See, e.g., GE 74, 162-163.  He repeated the point in his Radio and Television Address to the American People, 4/5/54, PPP, 375-376.

[18] Divine, Blowing on the Wind, 42; Ferrell, The Diary of James C. Hagerty, 217 (see also 211); Hewlett and Holl, Atoms for Peace and War, 290 (see also 277-279); Herbert Loper to Gerard Smith, 5/25/55, quoted in ibid., 294.  The news of another Soviet H-bomb test and the death of a Japanese crew member of the Lucky Dragon, irradiated in the Bravo test, also raised allies’ anxieties.  But Lewis Strauss argued that fallout from tests in Nevada was “nothing of any significance whatsoever”:  NSC, 10/26/54, AWF, NSC Series, Box 6, “219th Meeting, 10/26/54.” 

[19] Divine, Blowing on the Wind, 33, 35; Hewlett and Holl, Atoms for Peace and War, 290.

[20] NYT, 2/17/55, 1; Weart, Nuclear Fear, 186, 205.  Robert Wampler notes that fallout did heighten fears in Europe:  “Ambiguous Legacy, 683-685.  Eisenhower worried that this fear might undermine European support for rearming West Germany.  But the British were soon to make a public statement painting a frightening picture, and the president did not want his own people hearing the news first from another government, “the more so since we would probably be obliged to state that the British exposition was substantially true.”  In addition, Strauss told the NSC, “the Civil Defense people have been screaming for months for some such statement as this”: NSC, 2/3/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 20: 12, 14.  At a later NSC meeting Eisenhower urged making civil defense drills “a regular part of our lives,” because they would “help discipline the public”:  NSC, 3/3/55, AWF, NSC Series, Box 6, “239th Meeting, 3/3/55.  See also Memorandum of Conversation with the President, 2/7/55, John Foster Dulles Papers, White Hosue Memoranda Series, Box 3, “Meetings with the President, 1955 (7)”; Hagerty’s press release in U.S. News & World Report, 2/25/55, 134.

[21] Hewlett and Holl, Atoms for Peace and War, 283-85.  

22 The Disarmament Problem and U.S. Policy Before the NSC, 4/22/55, White House Office, OSANSA, Special Assistant Series, Subject File, Box 4, “Disarmament – General 1955-1956 (3)”;  Guidelines Under NSC 162/2 for FY 1956, FRUS 1952-54  2.1: 717-718; NSC 5431/1, 8/13/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 1490; Dulles to UN Mission, 7/19/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 478.

[23] See Hewlett and Holl, Atoms for Peace and War, 226-232.

[24] Pruden, Conditional Partners, 150-151. See also Appleby, “Eisenhower and Arms Control,” 65-68; Bowie and Immerman, Waging Peace, 237-39.

[25] Memorandum, 2/9/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 20: 20.  See Appleby, “Eisenhower and Arms Control,” 59; Bowie in Pilat et al., Atoms for Peace, 21.

[26] Hagerty diary, 2/24/55, quoted in Ambrose, Eisenhower, 246; NSC, 12/13/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.1: 806; NSC, 2/10/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 20: 31. 

[27] Memorandum of Conversation, 3/7/55, John Foster Dulles Papers, White House Memoranda Series, Box 3, “Meetings with the  President 1955 (6)”; NSC, 2/10/55, FRUS, 1955-1957, 20: 30; Eisenhower to Wilson, 3/22/55, AWF, DDE Diary, Box 10, “DDE Diary March 1955 (1).”  

[28] NSC 8/5/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.1: 706, 711; NSC 5/27/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2:1456.  For other examples of Stassen’s hard-line cold war stance, see, e.g., NSC, 10/7/53, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.1: 530; NSC, 4/29/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 13: 1440-1441; NSC, 6/24/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.1: 690, 692, 698; NSC 11/24/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.1: 794.   Several years earlier, he had pronounced it “morally justified” for the U.S. to drop an atomic bomb on the Kremlin:  White, The American Century, 268.

[29] Conference between Eisenhower and Stassen, 3/22/55, FRUS 1955-1957, 20: 61.  When Eisenhower edited the public announcement of the new post, he emphasized that Stassen would not develop policy, but only “the broad studies, investigations and conclusions” that Eisenhower and the NSC would use to decide policy:  Preliminary Draft for Possible Release by President, 3/15/55, AWF, Administration Series, Box 34, “Stassen, Harold E. 1954-1955 (2).”  No doubt the president was anticipating bureaucratic quarrels over authority in this area (which would soon erupt quite forcefully).  But he was also raising doubts, from the beginning, about how important Stassen’s role would really be.

[30] The Disarmament Problem and U.S. Policy Before the NSC, 4/22/55, White House Office, OSANSA, Special Assistant Series, Subject File, Box 4, “Disarmament – General 1955-1956 (3)”; Dulles to Eisenhower, 3/1/55, AWF, Administration Series, Box 34, “Stassen, Harold E. 1954-1955 (2)”; Eisenhower to Wilson, 3/22/55, AWF, DDE Diary, Box 10, “DDE Diary March 1955 (1).”

[31] Memorandum of Conference with the President, 12/22/54, AWF, Ann Whitman Diary Series, Box 3,  “ACW Diary, December 1954 (2)”; Notes on Legislative Leadership Meeting, 12/14/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.1: 826; Eisenhower to Churchill, 1/25/55, PDDE 16: 1522-1523.  See also Stassen and Houts, Eisenhower, 238-239.

[32] NSC, 6/24/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.1: 689, 692, 693; Ambrose, Eisenhower, 93.  H. W. Brands notes that Eisenhower’s commitment to the New Look at this point was also a way to avoid confronting the split over the policy within his own administration:  “The Age of Vulnerability,” 976-980. 

[33] Diary of Sir Evelyn Shuckberg, 12/5/53, cited in Carlton, Anthony Eden, 335; Notes of Legislative Meeting, 1/5/54, AWF, Legislative Meetings Series, “Legislative Meetings-1954 (1) (Jan.-Feb.).”  Perhaps Eisenhower was influenced by stories he had heard in his boyhood about showdowns in the streets of Abilene, two or three decades before his birth.  He supported a massive assault on northwest Europe in the earliest days of U.S. participation in World War II:  see GE, 29.  On advances in tactical nuclear weapons, see David Alan Rosenberg, “The Origins of Overkill,” 143. 

[34] NSC, 6/24/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.1: 689; NSC, 1/28/54, AWF. NSC Series, Box 5, "182nd Meeting, 1/28/54."  The NSC devoted a lot of time to relocation plans in numerous meetings.  In this initial discussion, Eisenhower even suggested giving the topic a fixed amount of time at every NSC meeting. 

[35] NSC, 3/25/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.1: 642; NSC, 3/4/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.1: 636; Eisenhower to Regis Colasanti, 3/21/50, PDDE, 11: 1019.

[36] NSC, 3/3/55, AWF, NSC Series, Box 6, “239th Meeting, 3/3/55”; NSC, 4/7/55, AWF, NSC Series, Box 6,“244th Meeting, 4/7/55.”  See Rosenberg, “The Origins of Overkill,” 146-151.

[37] NSC, 3/4/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.1: 636; NSC, 3/25/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.1: 640-643.

[38] NSC 5410/1, 3/29/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.1: 645; NSC, 3/25/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.1: 642.  Eisenhower’s fear that another war would bring dictatorship went back to the early post-World War II years: GE, 78-79.  He also worried that another war would produce “a tremendous swing toward isolationism” in the U.S.:  NSC, 3/4/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.1: 636.  When he suggested that the war plan might be useful for C.D. Jackson's propaganda work, Jackson retorted that he "simply wouldn't know what to do" with such "dream stuff":  NSC, 1/28/54, AWF, NSC Series, Box 5, "182nd Meeting, 1/28/54."

[39] In the summer of 1953, he allegedly announced that “the only thing worse than losing a global war was winning one”:  Cutler Memorandum on Solarium conference, 7/16/53, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.1: 397.  This often-cited quote does not sound like something Eisenhower would have said.  His occasional assertions that the only thing worse than winning a war would be losing one sound much more typical.  It is possible that Cutler got the wording confused. 

[40] NSC, 8/5/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.1: 707; Rosenberg, “Origins of Overkill,” 148.  Rosenberg notes that at the time some RAND strategists “were quietly promoting a ‘no-cities’ strategy.”

[41] Ferrell, The Diary of James C. Hagerty, 69.

[42] Eisenhower to Earl Schaefer, 4/12/54, PDDE, 15: 1017.  For parallels from the 1940s, see GE, 125, 129.

[43] Garthoff, Assessing the Adversary, 14; NSC, 6/3/54, AWF, NSC Series, Box 5, “200th Meeting, 6/3/54.  See also Ambrose, Eisenhower, 172; Immerman, "Confessions of an Eisenhower Revisionist,” 331, 334.

[44] NSC, 6/23/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.2: 1469.

[45] Notes on Legislative Leadership Meeting, 12/14/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.1: 826; Memorandum of Conference with the President, 7/20/54, quoted in Perret, Eisenhower, 450; Rosenberg, “Origins of Overkill,” 141.

[46]Memorandum of Conference with the President,12/22/54, AWF, Ann Whitman Diary Series, Box 3, “ACW Diary, December 1954 (2)”; Eisenhower to Churchill, 1/25/55, PDDE 16: 1522, 1523; FRUS 1955-1957, 19: 1, n. 3.  See also Jacob Beam Memorandum, 12/31/54, FRUS, 1955-1957 19: 1-2.  McGeorge Bundy argues that U.S. policy called for nuclear retaliation against a non-nuclear Soviet attack on Europe, although Eisenhower and Dulles “comforted themselves with the inaccurate assertion that their policy was to use nuclear weapons only in response to nuclear attack”:  Danger and Survival, 254.  Eisenhower's discussions of war rarely considered this non-nuclear scenario. 

[47]Trachtenberg, History and Strategy, 134, n. 121; Kennan, Memoirs, 246; Thompson, “The Strengths and Weaknesses of Eisenhower's Leadership,” 22.  See the detailed analysis in Trachtenberg, A Constructed Peace, 160-165, as well as Rosenberg, “Origins of Overkill,” 146-148; Wenger, Living With Peril, 65-69; Herken, Counsels of War, 96-97. 

[48] Memorandum of a Conference with the President, 12/22/54, AWF, Ann Whitman Diary Series, Box 3,  “ACW Diary, December 1954 (2)”; Ferrell, The Diary of James C. Hagerty, 166, 155.

[49] Ferrell, The Diary of James C. Hagerty, 155, 182, 183; Notes on the Legislative Leadership Meeting, 12/13/54, FRUS 1952-1954, 2.1: 823-825.  On Eisenhower's belief that the U.S. could win a nuclear war, see Erdmann, “War No Longer Has Any Logic Whatever,” 98-99.  Since productivity also depended on high morale, Eisenhower wanted to maintain at least the trappings of ordinary government, including a functioning Congress.  So he urged Congressional leaders to keep working on war relocation plans.

[50] NSC, 8/5/54, FRUS, 1952-1954, 2.2: 706-7; NSC, 1/28/54, AWF, NSC Series, Box 5, "182nd Meeting, 1/28/54."  By 1954, the White House had developed an extensive public opinion research network.  The results, compiled by the advertising agency Young & Rubican, were “remarkably coherent” throughout the year, says Craig Allen.  The dominant public concerns were Soviet military power and nuclear weapons.  “Yet the people were baffled by such things as test-ban treaties and megatonnage; they seemed simply to want a president who could calm their fears”:  Eisenhower and the Mass Media, 39.

[51] Press conference, 3/17/54, PPP, 1954, 330-31; Press conference, 6/10/54, PPP, 1954, 547.  See also, e.g., press conference, 3/10/54, PPP, 1954, 309; Remarks at the Lincoln Day Box Supper, 2/5/54, PPP, 1954, 241-43.  At the March 17 conference, Eisenhower asked:  "What would you do if you suddenly were facing a gigantic [nuclear] Pearl Harbor?  This thing isn't academic." His answer was to give the president more power to act instantly—"to do whatever you think will save best the people of the United States," including (by obvious implication) launching a nuclear counter-strike.  Yet when he catalogued the greatest fears—"the men in the Kremlin," "unwise [anticommunist] investigators," economic depression—he made no mention of nuclear weapons..

[52] The New York Times mistakenly assumed that the speech was a response to “mounting alarm over the devastating potentialities of the hydrogen bomb”:  NYT, 4/6/54, 28.  Historians have made the same mistake; see, e.g., Holloway, “Keeping the Faith,” 64; Allen, Eisenhower and the Mass Media, 32; Bundy, Danger and Survival, 259. 

[53] Ferrell, The Diary of James C. Hagerty, 36; Radio and Television Address to the American People, 4/5/54, PPP, 1954, 372-81.  Eisenhower's initial notes for the speech listed six categories of fear.  "The Kremlin" came first; "the atom age and mass destruction" came last:  Notes, 3/24/54, AWF, DDE Dairies, Box 6, "DDE Diary, March 1954 (1)."  See also Notes, 3/29/54, AWF, DDE Dairies, Box 6, "DDE Diary, March 1954 (1)."

[54] Eisenhower to Leonard Hall, 10/12/54, PDDE, 15: 1346.  Newsweek noticed the change tone as early as August.  Under the headline “Ike and a Wave of Optimism” (8/23/54, 15), the magazine summed up the new message:  “The outlook for world peace and for successful resistance to further Communist conquests is the best it has been for a long time.”  Eisenhower did sometimes use optimistic tones even before the campaign started; he told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:  “You are striving for the positive factors of happiness and enjoyment in life, not in the mere negative idea that we are avoiding destruction or disaster this one day. … A long face never solved anything":  Remarks at the 42d Annual Meeting of the United States Chamber of Commerce, 4/26/54, PPP, 1954, 424.  He had used the “long face” line years earlier to teach his Pentagon staff officers that a leader must restrain his own fear and sound optimistic:  GE, 141-146. 

[55] Remarks at Trinity College, 10/20/54, PPP, 1954,  917; Remarks at Natrona Airport, Casper, Wyoming,  9/4/54, PPP, 1954, 836.

[56] Toasts of the President and President Rhee of Korea at the White House, 7/26/54,  PPP, 1954, 656; Address at the Hollywood Bowl, 9/23/54, PPP, 1954, 872.

[57] Address at American Legion 8/30/54, PPP, 1954, 786; Address at Alfred E. Smith Dinner, New York City, 10/21/54, PPP, 1954, 937

[58] Holloway, "Keeping the Faith," 66; Miller, Piety Along the Potomac, 45; Speech at Transylvania College, 4/23/54, PPP, 1954, 417.  Miller’s comments on the public impact of Eisenhower’s religiosity, first published in The Reporter in 1953 and 1954 and later collected in his book, remain the most insightful to date on this subject.  See also Keller, “The Intellectuals and Eisenhower,” chapters 5 and 6; Pierard and Linder, Civil Religion and the Presidency, 24-27, 184-205; Linder, “Universal Pastor.”  Linder finds Eisenhower the best historical example of the president as “the nation’s pastor,” offering rhetoric of spiritual inspiration and comfort in troubling times.  But his efforts to maintain a significant level of public fear, which Linder does not note, call this description into question.  James David Fairbanks suggests that presidents always use religious symbols and rhetoric, not only to legitimate specific policies, but more basically to legitimate "political authority itself by defining political obligation through the sacred cosmos":  "The Priestly Function of the Presidency," 224.  Fairbanks applies his theoretical model to Eisenhower specifically in "Religious Dimensions of Presidential Leadership,” 260-267.

59 Address at Iowa State Fair 8/30/54, PPP, 1954, 791; Remarks at the 42nd Annual Meeting of the United States Chamber of Commerce, 4/26/54, PPP, 1954, 422.  See also, e.g., Remarks at the 42nd Annual Meeting of the United States Chamber of Commerce, 4/26/54, PPP, 1954, 424; Remarks at the Armed Forces Day Dinner, 5/14/54, PPP, 1954, 480-482.