Air Force Histories Show Cautious Presidents Overruling Air Force Plans for Early Use of Nuclear Weapons

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on May 2, 2008

National Security Archive, April 30, 2008 – “The U.S. Air Force expected to use nuclear weapons against China during the Taiwan Strait crisis of 1958, but President Eisenhower required the Air Force to plan initially to use conventional bombs against Chinese forces if the crisis escalated, according to a previously secret Air Force history obtained from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit and posted today by the National Security Archive. Eisenhower’s instructions astounded the Air Force leadership, but according to Bernard Nalty, the author of one of the studies released today, U.S. policymakers recognized that atomic strikes had “inherent disadvantages” because of the fall-out danger in the region as well as the risk of escalation.”

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