No source PDF is given as this was originally found in the Naval Historical Center Operational Archives and declassified in the late 1980s, and reprinted in

"Smoking Radiating Ruin at the End of Two Hours": Documents on American Plans for Nuclear War with the Soviet Union, 1954-55
David Alan Rosenberg; W. B. Moore
International Security, Vol. 6, No. 3. (Winter, 1981-1982), pp. 3-38.

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Briefing of WSEG Report No. 12

Admiral Radford, Gentlemen:

My purpose is to present to you the salient features of the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group's Report No. 12 titled '”Evaluation of an Atomic Offensive in Support of the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan”

(Chart I to remain up throughout the briefing.)

[OCRer’s Note: not included].

I will first enumerate these features. This chart listing them is in effect an outline of the briefing.

We were directed to “evaluate the combined effects to be expected from all applications of atomic weapons in support of the U.S. war objectives as of 1 July 1955, projected from the present plans of the Unified and Specified Commanders” and within the tentative weapons allocations of 1 January 1955.

Further, we were told to utilize the stockpile composition as approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff for 1 July 1955, and that the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not expect the question of feasibility to be considered as a feature of the study.

It was necessary in the study to deviate from the Directive in that specific plans of the Unified and Specified Commanders were not, in every instance, available as the basis for our evaluations. For instance, SACEUR's plans did not suballocate his weapons to troop targets in the several areas of his responsibility. We therefore somewhat arbitrarily assumed 135 of 175 weapons would be used in Central Europe and 40 in Southern Europe [DELETED] against troop targets.

The most important assumption affecting the study and, at the same time the most unrealistic, is the assumption that all U.S. weapons allocated are delivered to the bomb release line as planned. This results from the Directive not to consider the feasibility of delivery. However, the effects of aborts, attrition, and gross errors are taken into account where they would produce significant delays in completing the air campaign.

There are three limitations in WSEG Report No. 12, all stemming from the lack of definite intelligence or the limitations of present evaluation techniques. These limitations are:

The combined atomic offensives are estimated to cause a total of seventy-seven million casualties within the Soviet Bloc of which sixty million will be fatalities. Such casualties, coupled with the other effects of the atomic offensives, may have an important bearing on the will of the Soviets to continue to wage war. In examining this question, WSEG consulted with Dr. Max Millikan of M.I.T. who in turn consulted with an additional eight outstanding social and political scientists and psychologists in the U.S. This established that there presently exists no basis on which to assess quantitatively the effects on the Soviet will to continue to fight. Nevertheless, casualties of such magnitude and the total loss of 118 out of the 134 major Soviet cities would have a calamitous effect. The majority of the skilled personnel living in those cities would be lost, as would the centers of direction and political action. Their loss would profoundly degrade the capabilities of the Bloc. Whether such losses would cause the Soviets to lose the will to continue to fight remains for the present a matter of judgment rather than of deduction or evaluation.

In WSEG Report No. 12 the various objectives are studied separately. The effects stemming from the attacks in support of the individual objectives are given as the sum of all of the effects. However, it is important to keep in mind that the summation does not evaluate the magnification of the effects which result from the concurrent nature of the attacks. Because of this our conclusions may seriously underestimate the combined effects of the offensives.

The study does not now evaluate the effects of the combined offensives on Soviet governmental and military control systems. In January WSEG discovered intelligence in the National Security Agency which might permit such an evaluation. Using this intelligence, Dr. Allen, of CIA, is heading a group which is currently attempting such an evaluation. If Dr. Allen's work indicates that significant changes or additions should be made to the conclusions stated in WSEG Report No. 12, a supplemental report incorporating such changes or additions will be issued.

These restrictions impose severe limitations upon our conclusions and they condition all I have to say to you this morning.

Turning now to Objective A. In support of this objective the plans examined provide explicitly for attacks primarily on:

Airfields and atomic energy installations. It is emphasized, however, that all other U.S. atomic attacks, particularly those on military headquarters and government control centers, have important effects on this objective. If intelligence has not missed a significant fraction of the Soviet Bloc atomic energy industry, and if those plants whose exact locations are unknown can be identified and successfully attacked, the twenty-five weapons (including fifteen TN's) allocated to this industry are estimated to leave the Soviets virtually no atomic weapons production capability during D to D + 12 months.

In support of the neutralization objective, 645 Soviet Bloc airfields are attacked. Even so, this attack does not encompass all known airfields pertinent to the Soviet operational and dispersal capabilities. Some 320 Soviet emergency airfields remain unstruck. Of this total, about 25 per cent might be temporarily unusable even for dispersal purposes as a result of radioactive fall-out. Thus, during, and immediately after the U.S. offensive at least 240 unstruck and uncontaminated emergency airfields would be available to the Soviets for the dispersal of their inventory of aircraft capable of delivering atomic weapons. At the beginning of the attack the Soviet inventory is estimated to be approximately 1,530 medium bombers and 3,570 light bombers. Also, the Soviets are estimated to have 284 atomic weapons (range 190 to 426) if the stockpile composition is assumed to be of 60 KT and 1 MT weapons. Hence, it can be seen that the Soviets need to save only a small fraction of their aircraft inventory and to recuperate only a few of their operating and staging bases in order to be physically capable of undertaking some level of atomic operations after our attack. In general, the destruction of Soviet aircraft and airfields has an important degrading effect on Soviet atomic capabilities, but even under the improbable assumption that only 5 per cent of the aircraft survived, seventy-five weapons could be lifted against the U.S., and 85 per cent of the remainder of the stockpile could be lifted against U.S. overseas bases and Allies in a single strike as soon as a few bases are recuperated.

Therefore, if the neutralization offensive is to be made more effective, more weapons must be allocated to this mission to insure coverage of potential dispersal airfields, and to insure that all the important Soviet operational and staging bases are destroyed in the first strike. Further, additional weapons should be allocated for subsequent attacks designed to complete the destruction of the Soviet aircraft inventory, and to prevent the Soviets from recuperating airfields and regrouping and launching their surviving bombers.

The effects of attacks on military headquarters, government control centers, and war supporting industries on the Soviet capability to conduct atomic operations, cannot be explicitly stated. For example, 75 per cent of known Soviet Bloc air force headquarters are subject to attack. Even if all of those headquarters are destroyed, we still cannot assess the impact of this destruction because the capabilities of identified but unattacked headquarters and alternate headquarters are not known. The war supporting industries would be very heavily damaged, but appreciable logistic support for atomic operations may survive since post-attack POL [Petroleum-Oil-Lubrication] and aircraft inventories appear large as compared with the requirements for atomic air operations alone.

We were asked to analyze the importance of timing in the accomplishment of each of the objectives. With respect to neutralization the Soviets can, in a single strike against the United States, launch more than sufficient one-way sorties to lift all of their atomic weapons. Thus, if the Soviets launch such a strike before our offensive is begun, or before our bombs fall on targets, the U.S. offensive may not materially reduce the Soviet atomic capabilities. Therefore, the factor of timing is of vital importance.

Relative to Objective B, the critical industrial categories, having a measurable relation within a two-year period to military support, are atomic energy, aircraft, POL, ammunition, steel and electric power. Because of the large Soviet stocks of finished ammunition and certain raw materials such as synthetic ammonia, and because of the significant survival of and much reduced post-attack demands for steel and power—these three categories—though heavily damaged, still appear capable of meeting all Soviet Bloc requirements in the period D to D + 6 months. We will look at the remaining three categories in order. First, the airframe and aero engine industry. Our evaluation assesses 90 percent damage to that industry, with little or no recuperation possible during the period D to D + 12 months. In terms of output, this means that the Soviets are denied 12,000 to 13,000 combat type aircraft which might have been produced by an undisturbed industry during the first year of the war. While the preattack availability of stored aircraft, particularly piston types, is high, the post-attack availability would be limited by the destruction of stored units and the disruption of withdrawal processes. These limiting factors cannot be estimated with any certainty.

The effectiveness of attacks on POL is strongly dependent upon the weight and rapidity of the attacks on refineries, stored products, and the plans to deny possible POL accretions to the Soviets. Approximately 95 per cent of the Soviet Bloc refining capacity, and 37 per cent of the storage capacity, are brought under attack. The attack on storage capacity is limited to 37 per cent because most of the remainder is very widely dispersed or is unlocated. Recuperation of refining capacity during the period D to D + 6 months will contribute very little to total POL availability. If rationing is put into effect immediately after attack, and if stored fuel can be made available when and where needed, substantially all Soviet Bloc military and civilian requirements can be met during the first six months of the war from the remaining 5 per cent of Soviet Bloc production and from surviving storage. Our estimates indicate that thereafter only 22 to 45 per cent of the total military requirement could be met even if no POL is allocated to civilian use. However, the POL stocks and refining capacity in West Germany, east of the Rhine, appear more than sufficient to meet the annual Soviet military requirements in the European theater. We were unable to discover any Allied plan for the destruction of these stocks and refineries. Many of these facilities might, of course, be destroyed by Allied air attack if they are captured intact by the Soviets.

As previously stated, the Soviet atomic energy industry may well be destroyed.

A rough idea of the weight of the attack against the Soviet Bloc industrial potential is indicated by the fact that out of a total of 134 major cities in the Soviet Union, only sixteen are not brought under attack. In the 118 major cities attacked fatalities range from 75 to 84 per cent. Studies by other agencies of the effects to be expected from such losses indicate that cities in which 50 per cent of the population are casualties could barely sustain the survivors. For this reason industries located in such heavily damaged cities are assumed to have no production or recuperative capability during the period D to D + 6 months regardless of what plant capacity survives.

In summation it can be stated that the atomic offensive would force the Soviet Bloc to fight essentially with the material in stockpile, pipe line, or in the hands of the armed forces on the day war starts. The evaluation indicates that the gross amount of military end products possessed by the Soviet Bloc, at the end of the atomic offensive, is sufficient to meet their military needs for some four to seven months. I emphasize that this is correct only if the Bloc retains the capability to make these end products available when and where needed. Disruption of controls and transportation may seriously prejudice the retention of this capability. Nevertheless, it appears that suitable weapons should be made available to our commanders for use against stockpile targets in both forward and rear areas as such targets are developed by reconnaissance or other means.

Turning now to Objective C, our evaluation is based on the principle that atomic weapons can be used effectively against enemy ground forces. In order to achieve the estimated effects, it is necessary that the following conditions be fulfilled:

Allied ground strength must be adequate to force the Soviets to concentrate to the extent that they present good targets for atomic weapons;

The Allies must have adequate ground forces to exploit the effects of atomic weapons by counterattacking;

The Allies must be able to provide a defense in depth capable of breaking up such penetrations as the Soviets may make;

The Allies must have adequate logistic support for their combat forces;

The Allies must have air superiority. I will discuss these conditions separately.

We have made no direct statement concerning the adequacy of Allied ground forces to make the Soviets concentrate and present good targets for atomic weapons. However, the capability of Allied forces available as of 1 July 1955 appears to be marginal at best, particularly since the possible use by the Soviets of atomic weapons on Allied forces could further reduce Allied capabilities. If the Soviets conduct ground offensive operations in all theaters concurrently, they could break through the main Allied defense line in Central Europe within one or two months. However, for the rate of Soviet build-up assumed for the jointly accepted Soviet worldwide strategy, an increase on the order of 100 additional atomic weapons for troop targets, bringing the total to 235, might give the Allies a fair chance of containing the Soviets in Central Europe for the duration of the emergency period, provided the forces available to the Allies initially are sufficient to force the Soviets to concentrate and present good targets for atomic weapons, provided the Allies secure and maintain air superiority, and provided the Soviets use no atomic bombs on Allied troop targets.

If, as an alternate strategy, the Soviets concentrate their entire ground offensive effort in Central Europe while holding in other theaters, the Allies appear to have inadequate ground forces for successful defense regardless of the number of atomic weapons used in their support. It should be noted that this is a WSEG estimate unsupported by analysis appearing in the report.

Reverting now to Soviet Strategy I, that is, concurrent ground operations in all theaters, if the Soviet Bloc masses sufficient forces in the first few days to launch a substantial offensive in Southern Europe and the Near East, they could probably break through Allied positions very rapidly. An increase of approximately 130 atomic weapons for the troop targets, making the total 170, would give the Allies a fair chance of holding.

In the Far East any Soviet attempts at amphibious operations without air cover could probably be defeated without increasing present weapons allocations to that theater. If a defense of South Korea is found to be desirable or necessary, it appears, on the basis of a military estimate, that a successful defense could be implemented with present ROK and U.S. forces, provided we can gain and maintain air superiority in that area and can successfully use 100 to 150 atomic weapons on Communist troop targets.

It does not appear that the Allies have adequate forces in any area, except possibly Korea, to exploit the effects of atomic weapons by counterattack. Further, as of 1 July 1955 the Allies do not appear to have sufficient ground forces to provide a defense in depth capable of breaking up Soviet penetrations.

I have stated that Allied air superiority is a must for successful ground operations in any theater. With the present U.S. allocations of atomic weapons, the outcomes of the tactical air battles in the several theaters are uncertain, in part because of the extreme sensitivity of the outcomes to the Soviet employment of atomic weapons. In Central Europe, if the Soviets deliver only 50 atomic weapons on Allied tactical air bases, the Allies appear to have a better than even chance of winning the air battle. However, if the Soviets use 75 weapons, approximately 30 per cent of their stockpile, the Allies would probably lose. This strongly indicates the necessity to have atomic delivery forces in being in the U.S. ready to be deployed and committed to action.

In each of the other two areas considered, that is, Southern Europe and the Far East, the conclusions are similar. If the Soviets use no atomic weapons against Allied tactical air bases in these theaters, the Allies, with their present allocations of atomic weapons, appear to have a better than even chance of winning the air battle. However, if the Soviets use only 15 atomic weapons against Allied tactical air bases in each theater, the Allies would probably lose. In any case, to have a chance of winning the air battle, Allied air forces must be in a state of military alert prior to the Soviet attack, must have atomic weapons available for immediate retaliation, and must have plans which are so closely coordinated that they can take effective counteraction in spite of the disorganization and destruction caused by the Soviet atomic attack.

Interdiction of Soviet land lines of communications is a part of SACEUR's plan. If the Soviets employ the world-wide strategy, it is estimated that any reasonable Allied interdiction effort, both atomic and conventional, would probably not limit the Soviets logistically in Central Europe. However, the uncertainties involved in this estimate are so large that such a conclusion may be incorrect. The major contribution of tne Allied atomic interdiction effort may be the initial imposition of a few days delay upon the Soviet build-up thereby allowing the Allied ground forces additional time in which to attain their best defensive posture.

My concluding remark on halting the Soviet Bloc military offensive as close to D-day frontiers as possible, is that Allied air superiority is a must for successful ground operations in any of the theaters. Therefore, the allocation of additional atomic weapons to troop targets is not warranted at the expense of weapons required to gain air superiority.

With respect to the objective of securing Allied lines of communication, it appears that if planned Allied efforts to counter Soviet threats to sea transport are implemented, Allied merchant shipping losses will not cause a critical reduction in the support of the overseas theaters of operations. In addition to limiting Soviet submarine operations, the U.S. atomic strikes against Soviet naval bases and supporting facilities are expected to reduce substantially the Soviet's capability to conduct amphibious operations and to provide seaborne logistic support for their forces. In contrast to the foregoing favorable conclusions, we estimate that because of insufficient stockpiles and manufacturing rates, the Allied forces in Central Europe would become short of artillery ammunition during the third month of fighting. This would reduce Allied chances of halting the Soviets even if they had air superiority, adequate ground forces, and sufficient atomic weapons. It appears this estimated shortage must be overcome if the Allies are to hold in Central Europe. In the Far East, Allied logistic support seems adequate.

I will now summarize the principal combined effects of the atomic offensives as determined by this evaluation:

The atomic offensives do not provide a high degree of assurance of neutralizing the Soviet atomic capability. This lack of assurance stems from:

1) The probability that U.S. deliveries of weapons on Soviet targets may well occur after the Soviets have launched atomic attacks against the U.S. and/or its Allies.

2) The incomplete targeting of known Soviet airfields to which Soviet bombers might disperse, and the assignment of weapons of inadequate yield to some operational airfields.

3) Incomplete intelligence upon which to base an evaluation of the Soviet air forces' residual capability after our attacks. In other words, we cannot assess the effects of the imbalances which will exist.

The atomic offensives would virtually eliminate the Soviet Bloc industrial capabilities and preclude any significant recuperation for at least one year. Nevertheless, because large military stockpiles might survive, the Soviets might not experience serious shortages until D + 4 to D + 7 months provided that the disruption caused by the attacks does not preclude appropriate and timely distribution of the surviving stocks.

The outcome of the ground battle is contingent upon the outcome of the air battles and upon the ability of Allied ground forces to make the Soviet ground forces concentrate and present good targets for attack with atomic weapons. In Europe it is also contingent upon the ability of NATO forces to provide defenses in depth against possible Soviet penetrations and to exploit the U.S. atomic attacks. There is no assurance that present Allied ground forces, even with air superiority in their favor, are adequate to fulfill the conditions for successful use of atomic weapons on Soviet ground forces.

Because of the slow build-up capability of the allies as compared to that of the Soviets, it appears unlikely that the Soviets could be contained in Central Europe for more than one or two months with the present U.S. allocation of atomic weapons. The allocation of approximately 100 additional atomic weapons for use against troop targets in Central Europe would give the Allies a fair chance of holding for some five to six months against the jointly accepted Soviet world-wide strategy, provided the Allies have air superiority and the Soviets can be forced to concentrate.

Allied chances of success would be greatly enhanced by:

Reduction of the vulnerability of Allied air forces in all theaters.

The earmarking of additional nuclear delivery forces for commitment to overseas theaters, and the training of these units for rapid commitment.

Provision of ground forces in being, particularly in Central Europe, in such strength that they will have a high probability of being able to force Soviet ground forces to concentrate, thus presenting good targets for atomic attack, and to exploit the success thus achieved.

Amelioration of the expected shortage of artillery ammunition. —Development of an adequate integrated air defense system for Western Europe and the United Kingdom.

Achievement of a military alert status by all Allied air forces prior to the Soviet attack and the completion of detailed preparations for prompt counteraction.

The allocation or reallocation of the present stockpile of atomic weapons should be investigated with a view to assigning larger weapons to some airfield targets, to some ports and naval facilities, and to about thirty-three of SACEUR's interdiction targets, particularly bridges.

Finally, the present allocation of bombs to Soviet airfields will not deny the Soviets the physical capability of air-lifting atomic weapons against the U.S. and its Allies even if we should strike first. To achieve a high degree of assurance of destroying all known Soviet operational and staging air bases would require an allocation of approximately twice that evaluated in WSEG Report No. 12. Even this additional allocation cannot prevent the Soviets launching a strike unless we hit first.