This article assesses how the U.S. National Security Council, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Strategic Air Command (SAC)—devised highly classified plans for nuclear war against the People's Republic of China (PRC) in the period after the July 1953 Korean armistice. The Eisenhower administration was seeking to rely more heavily on nuclear weapons in East Asia. Important differences of opinion emerged during intra- and interagency debates on the matter. The Air Force's preference for nuclear operations aimed at the total destruction of the PRC's military-industrial potential clashed with the State Department's desire to retain allied support by avoiding mass civilian casualties through selective targeting. The expansive nuclear planning that was eventually undertaken was an Asian counterpart to the “overkill” usually associated with SAC's plans for general war with the Soviet Union during this era.

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