By Charles Matthews

Sunday, July 4, 2010

12. A Fiery Peace in a Cold War, by Neil Sheehan, pp. 279-311

Book V: Winning a President, 45. A Difficult Dialogue at Geneva; 46. Dazzling the Monarch; 47. More Nitpicking; 48. A Radar in Turkey
When the John Birch Society claimed that Dwight Eisenhower was a dedicated agent of the communist conspiracy, it had in mind things like the 1955 summit meeting in Geneva at which Eisenhower met the post-Stalin leaders of the USSR. At the time, it was unclear precisely who was in charge among Bulganin, Zhukov, Molotov and Khrushchev, but it was the last who emerged there as the most decisive figure. Eisenhower made his arms-control proposal called Open Skies, which would allow aerial photographic reconnaissance of the military installations of the participating nations. The United States was backed by Britain and France in the proposal, and at first Bulganin seemed amenable to considering it. But it was clear that Khrushchev "wanted none of it." (In fact, the United States was preparing to do unilateral photoreconnaissance anyway, with the U-2.) So Eisenhower returned to Washington "in a mood to listen to a briefing on how to build an ICBM."

Schriever and his team were ready to present their case, and did so on July 28, 1955. They were aware of the powerful forces in the Pentagon arrayed against them, each believing that its project deserved priority above the others. They had to persuade Eisenhower "that the ICBM was not just another parochial Air Force project, but rather an issue of the most acute national and international significance." At the meeting they would be facing not only Eisenhower and Vice President Richard Nixon, but also Arthur Radford, the chairman of the joint chiefs; Secretary of State John Foster Dulles; and his brother, Allen Dulles, the head of the CIA. Gardner went first, discussing how the downsizing of the hydrogen bomb "had made possible the creation of the intercontinental ballistic missile" and that it was now possible to lob a nuke from the Soviet Union to the United States in thirty minutes. Von Neumann followed with a technical explanation that he made clear to non-scientists and adding that during half of the time a Soviet ICBM would be on its way to the target, it would be undetectable given the state of the American radar system at that time. And Schriever -- whom Sheehan, with his fondness for nicknames, describes as looking like "James 'Jimmy' Stewart," the "Hollywood actor" -- described the way the current Atlas project was set up.

The presentation went over well, especially with Nixon: "'Why haven't we started this sooner? What's been the holdup?' the vice president said, tapping the palm of his left hand with the stiffened fingers of his right in a gesture of emphasis that was peculiar to Nixon." And then they had to give the spiel all over again to the National Security Council's Planning Board, which would draft the directive for the president to sign. Which Eisenhower did, two months later, giving the project "the highest priority above all others." But still the project was tangled up in bureaucracy, so Schriever drew up some "spaghetti charts" that demonstrated the tangle of red tape that any request for the project would encounter and Gardner put a man named Hyde Gillette in charge of a committee that presented a request for streamlining the approval process to Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson. The result, approved by Wilson, became known as the Gillette Procedures, which essentially "pushed authority downward to those who were doing the work."

 Meanwhile, long-range surveillance of the Soviet Union was being improved with the creation of a specialized radar installation in the Kurdish region of eastern Turkey. The Turkish Radar, as it came to be called, was made possible by the work of Burton Brown, a radar specialist at GE, with the encouragement of Trevor Gardner. It went online in June 1955, with the expectation that the Soviets would try to jam it immediately. But they never did, partly because of another Cold War standoff: in return, the Americans could jam their radar off of Cape Canaveral. Only a week or two after the Turkish Radar was activated it discovered that the Soviets had a missile capable of traveling 1,100 miles. They "were clearly testing an intermediate-range ballistic missile, or IRBM. It was certain now that they were in a race."

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