Many scholars have argued that a taboo on the use of nuclear weapons became widely accepted in the 1960s, spurred on by the Cuban missile crisis and the subsequent growth of U.S. and Soviet long-range nuclear missile forces. The Eisenhower administration, in contrast, has been seen as relatively more willing to use nuclear diplomacy to achieve its military objectives. This article examines the Eisenhower administration's attitudes toward nuclear weapons during four crises in East Asia: the end of the Korean War, the siege of Dien Bien Phu, and the shelling of Quemoy and Matsu in 1954–1955 and 1958. U.S. officials at first acted almost as if nuclear weapons were simply “bigger bombs,” but as the decade progressed, nuclear weapons were increasingly seen as all but unusable. Much of the confusion regarding Dwight Eisenhower's attitude toward this issue resulted from changes over time and the complex interactions he had with members of his administration who argued for a more aggressive stance toward foreign enemies.

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