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Early Nuclear Strategy, 1945-52

Early Nuclear Strategy, 1945-52

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Early Nuclear Strategy, 1945-52

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  1. Early Nuclear Strategy, 1945-52 • Now that the U.S. military had the atomic bomb, what was its value? • Truman to Army Secretary Kenneth Royall (July 1948): “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.” Summer 2005

  2. Was the Bomb the “winning weapon” or an empty threat? • Was the Soviet test in August 1949 more important than Trinity? Summer 2005

  3. Changing Military Strategy • A common debate – did nuclear weapons make conventional army/navy obsolete? • Gradually, there was shift toward deterrence – emphasis not on fighting and winning a war but in preventing one. Summer 2005

  4. Gradual ascendancy of the US Air Force and the air-atomic strategy. • By 1947 – the Bomb had become the central pillar of American security. Summer 2005

  5. US National Security Infrastructure • 1947 – Truman’s National Security Act passed. • Also (in 1946) creates a separate new branch of the military – the United States Air Force • Strategic Air Command (SAC) emerges as most powerful part of USAF. Summer 2005

  6. The Big Picture:Crises of 1949-1950 • Communists take over China • Soviet A-bomb test • Klaus Fuchs revealed as spy for USSR January 1950 • Korean War summer 1950 Holy Sh*t!!! Summer 2005

  7. Overview of US Policies • Overall Goal: Containment of Soviet expansion. • Policies in support of containment (Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan) • NSC-68 Summer 2005

  8. America’s Real Atomic Secret? 1946 = 11 nuclear bombs 1947 = 32 1948 = 110 1949 = 235 1950 = 370 1951 = 640 1952 = 1000 (with 200 of these low-yield tactical nukes) 1960 = 18,000 Summer 2005

  9. AEC Chairman David Lilienthal recalls a visit to Los Alamos in 1947: • “Probably one of the saddest days of my life was to walk down that chicken-wire enclosure at Los Alamos; [the nukes] weren’t even protected, what gimmicks they were. .. You can hardly exaggerate the unreadiness of the US military at this time.” Summer 2005

  10. Initial military views of the Bomb’s value were limited and cautious. • Air Force – especially the younger officers – was most enthusiastic about the new atomic weapons. Summer 2005

  11. The Air Force’s New Doctrine • The Army Air Force wished to apply the “lessons” from WW2 to the postwar world • “The Sunday punch” Summer 2005

  12. November 1945 military report: • Future security of the US depended on making it “apparent to a potential aggressor that an attack on the United States would be immediately followed by an immensely devastating air-atomic attack on him.” • “Air-atomic” = new synthesis of two technologies Summer 2005

  13. Gen. Curtis LeMay and the Birth of SAC • LeMay – creator of the air strategy against Japan; champion of the air-atomic strategy. • SAC formed 1946; LeMay was its leader from 1948-1957. • SAC = a “cocked weapon” Summer 2005

  14. SAC’s Mission? • “Be prepared to conduct long-range offensive operations in any part of the world, either independently or in co-operation with land and naval forces…to provide combat units capable of intense and sustained combat operations employing the latest and most advanced weapons…” Summer 2005

  15. SAC’s tools until mid-1950s – at first, long-range B-29’s armed with nuclear bombs. Later, jet-powered B-47 Stratojets. Summer 2005

  16. What was the purpose of SAC? • “In a war with the USSR, is our purpose to destroy the Russian people, industry, the Communist party, the Communist hierarchy, or a combination of these…? • Nov. 1947; Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg • No consensus on when/where Bomb would be used. Summer 2005

  17. By the end of 1948, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had agreed to the SAC plan. • “…the highest priority target system is that system constituted by the major Soviet urban-industrial concentrations.” • “Killing a Nation” strategy • The air-atomic strategy had won out. Summer 2005

  18. Who set the strategy? • President and National Security Council (NSC) • Military planners (Joint Chiefs of Staff) • USAF (i.e. SAC) Summer 2005

  19. Emergence of “Overkill” • What happens when “capabilities” takes over? • Our capabilities • USSR’s capabilities Summer 2005

  20. A Vicious Cycle? • SAC increases its target list • Truman orders massive expansion of nuclear weapons production (1949, 1950, 1952) • SAC gets more planes and resources (some 40% of military budget) Summer 2005

  21. The Next War? • War in Europe was basically seen as reply of WW2 with a nuclear prelude. • Difference before and after the more powerful hydrogen bomb. Summer 2005

  22. Deterrence Emerges as US Strategy • What is deterrence? • Deterrence became the principal function of American military power. Summer 2005

  23. In deterrence, what your enemy thinks you will do is key. • Before August 1949, this played to US strengths. • Before 1949, was the Bomb a “wasting asset”? Summer 2005

  24. Problems with deterrence strategy? Many… Summer 2005

  25. Emergence of the “defense intellectual” • RAND (R and D) Corporation in Santa Monica – leading “think-tank” for military strategy. Summer 2005

  26. Most influential early RAND analyst – Bernard Brodie • The Absolute Weapon by Brodie in 1946 • Brodie: The planners “simply expected the Soviet Union to collapse as a result of the bombing campaign…People kept talking about the Sunday Punch.” • Brodie et al. tried to encourage more rational and selective approach Summer 2005

  27. Nonetheless, by 1955, SAC’s plans called for using hundreds of nuclear bombs to destroy over 100 Russian cities. As one observer remarked, “Virtually all of Russia would be nothing but a smoking, radiating ruin at the end of two hours.” Summer 2005

  28. U.S. Strategy After Its Atomic Monopoly Broken • After Joe-1 revealed, Truman orders complete re-analysis of American strategy. • Truman also ups the ante January 1950 w. H-bomb program Summer 2005

  29. NSC-68 • Important document presented in spring of 1950 to the National Security Council. • Analyzed the current and future world situation. Summer 2005

  30. One solution… “Atomic Annie”1953 test of atomic cannon (15 kilotons) Summer 2005

  31. US now defending Europe…US troops as the “trip wire” • A new situation emerging – US and USSR forces are mutually deterring each other with threat of a counterstrike. • Result – US defense budget triples after 1950. Summer 2005

  32. Nuclear War Planning During Truman Years • Framework for nuclear strategy established • Targets emphasized preempting Soviet nuclear capability…1st strike. • SAC had a major voice in selecting targets • Did Truman ever understand the dilemma posed by Soviets having the Bomb? Summer 2005

  33. Situation c. 1952 • United States definitely less secure than it was before 1949. • Arms race poised to enter a much more dangerous phase with new technologies. Summer 2005

  34. Epilogue • Curtis LeMay retired from the Air Force in 1965. He never questioned his belief in large-scale strategic bombing. • “That beautiful devilish pod underneath, clinging as a fierce child against its mother's belly… Summer 2005