Back in Washington, General White questioned whether any of the current military proposals would solve the Laotian dilemma. On September 8, the day the fact-finding committee for Laos was approved by the United Nations Security Council, he asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff for a green light to send a squadron of Strategic Air Command (SAC) B-47 jet bombers to Clark Air Base in the Philippines. White wanted to cripple the insurgents and their supply lines by attacking selected targets in North Vietnam, either with conventional or nuclear weapons. Although White's paper called for giving the North Vietnamese a preattack warning, the other chiefs tabled it, possibly due to the inclusion of nuclear weapons. Seven months later, the proposal was withdrawn. Still, the Air Force considered it a valid reflection of the long-standing USAF belief that Asian communists would be less likely to cause trouble if they knew U.S. counteraction would not be confined to Laos or conventional weapons.This is from page 25 of a history prepared by the USAF in 1993, The War in Northern Laos, 1954-1973. The National Security Archive recently secured the release of this document through the Freedom of Information Act.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
1959 USAF Proposal to Use Nuclear Weapons in North Vietnam
One of the reasons that I decided to become a historian of the Cold War is because declassified documents are always providing new revelations about the conflict. For instance, I never would have guessed that the Air Force seriously proposed a nuclear strike on North Vietnam- in 1959!