Eisenhower Advisers Discussed Using Nuclear Weapons in China





Senior Air Force officers proposed using 10-to-15-kiloton nuclear bombs against targets in Communist China in 1958, in the event that Beijing blockaded the Taiwan Strait, but President Dwight D. Eisenhower ruled out that option, according to a newly declassified Pentagon document.

At a Cabinet meeting in mid-August 1958, as the threat of a Chinese blockade of Taiwan was developing, Air Force Gen. Nathan F. Twining, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, explained "that at the outset American planes would drop 10- to 15-kiloton bombs on selected fields in the vicinity of Amoy," a coastal city on the Taiwan Strait now called Xiamen, according to the documents.

But "the President simply did not accept the contention that nuclear weapons were as conventional as high explosives," according to the now-declassified Air Force history of the Taiwan crisis.

In releasing the official history, William Burr of George Washington University's National Security Archive said Eisenhower's decision forced Air Force leaders to think more seriously about conventional warfare instead of relying on nuclear arms.

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