The First Nukes on the Korean Peninsula
Test of atomic weapon fired by the 280 mm. cannon at Frenchmen’s Flat, Nevada, 25 May 1953 during the Upshot-Knothole Grable test series. The explosive yield of the shot was 15 kilotons, in the same range as the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. After much controversy in Washington, 280 mm. nuclear-capable artillery were deployed to South Korea in January 1958. (Photo from National Archives Web site)
Published: Nov 20, 2019
Briefing Book #690
Edited by William Burr
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New Evidence on the Origins of U.S. Deployments 1958-1991
John Foster Dulles Worried “These Great Monsters” Would Be “Disastrous” for U.S. Political Position
Defense Department and Budget Bureau Pointed to “Economies” from Deployments – More Bang for the Buck
Washington, D.C., November 20, 2019 – In the late 1950s, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles worried about the hit to America’s global political standing if the U.S. stationed nuclear weapons, some of which were huge, in South Korea while senior Defense Department officials pointed to the fiscal benefits of these deployments, according to declassified records posted today by the National Security Archive. Dulles, who had presided over U.S. nuclear deployments around the world, was cautious, declaring that it would be “disastrous to our position with our Allies and the United Nations” and wondering aloud “why it was essential that we be able to haul these great monsters around,” while DOD and the Budget Bureau insisted there were “substantial economies” to be had.
These internal U.S. debates, illuminated by recent document declassifications at the National Archives, shed light on various topics of continuing relevance to nuclear policy today, including long-standing concerns over positioning nuclear arms on the Korean Peninsula and the fact that non-military factors often influence U.S. decisions to deploy atomic arsenals overseas. Eventually, more customary concerns over security and particularly the threat from North Korea helped President Eisenhower opt for deployments, but today’s posting underscores the complexities surrounding such decisions.
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During the Cold War the United States deployed nuclear weapons around the world, on the territory of allies, on surface ships, and elsewhere. A key deployment site was South Korea, a major ally in East Asia and an enduring Cold War and post-Cold War flashpoint. Recently declassified documents at the National Archives shed light on the 1957 debate between State Department and Defense Department officials over whether Washington should deploy nuclear weapons in South Korea. While Defense officials saw budgetary advantages from nuclear deployments, State Department officials raised doubts. In a memorandum to Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, published today for the first time, a senior official argued that it “would be disastrous to our position with our Allies and in the United Nations if we were to proceed and equip our forces in Korea with nuclear weapons in the absence of demonstrable and relatively comparable Communist actions.”
Especially controversial at the State Department was the proposed deployments of Honest John missiles and 280 mm. artillery. At an NSC meeting, John Foster Dulles, who worried about the diplomatic impact of nuclear deployments in Asian countries, said that “he could not understand why in the world it was essential that we be able to haul these great monsters around.” Nevertheless, JCS Chairman Arthur Radford argued that they were vital for the security of U.S. forces in South Korea. Moreover, the Pentagon supported the deployments to offset alleged North Korean violations of the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953.
For the budget-conscious Defense Department and the Bureau of the Budget, the “early introduction of nuclear weapons will enable us to make substantial economies in our financial commitments.in Korea.” With South Korea still recovering from the war, the U.S. had been underwriting Korean conventional forces, but Budget and Defense concluded that cuts were necessary and that nuclear deployments would be more useful for deterring or blocking North Korean incursions while costing significantly less. While Secretary of State Dulles raised searching questions about the deployments, he was willing to accommodate them if U.S. allies could be persuaded and if the deployments were sufficiently secret; the latter, as far as he was concerned, ruled out the “monster” weapons. Nevertheless, the momentum was too strong to head off and Eisenhower authorized deployments “as appropriate.” The South Koreans refused to make cuts of conventional forces on the scale sought by Washington, and beginning in early 1958, the United States began to deploy the weapons, including the “monsters.”
The new documents indicate that Washington had no interest in nuclear sharing with South Korea, for example, by training special Korean units. Some U.S. military officials in South Korea were interested in providing such training, but they found no support. Moreover, key U.S. allies made it evident that they would not support the deployments if they provided for a South Korean role. Nevertheless, State Department officials believed that President Syngman Rhee would want atomic weapons for his troops if they were available to U.S. units in the South.
State Department qualms about nuclear deployments in South Korea echoed concern about nuclear weapons use during the Korean War. While the United States did not ship nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula at the time, the Truman administration made emergency deployments at storage sites in the Pacific. The U.S. nuclear threat posture notwithstanding, military planners never came up with plausible scenarios for nuclear use, while State Department officials believed that such an outcome would have a disastrous impact on the U.S. global position, including relations with allies. 
For most of the Cold War, from 1958 to 1991, the U.S. stored nuclear weapons in South Korea for use in the event that the North attacked the South. Information about the deploymnets for most of those years have largely stayed secret, but significant information on their pre-history has been declassified. What made this Web posting possible is a recent archival release of State Department documents about the State-Defense debate. Further research based on that release led to additional documents in the archives, declassified years ago, that shed unique light on White House decisions to introduce nuclear weapons into South Korea. Also in the open public record is an important Department of Defense history with a short narrative of the policy debate and the timing of the deployments of “nuclear capsules” to South Korea. 
Records of NSC meetings concerning nuclear weapons deployments in South Korea have been published in the State Department’s Foreign Relations series but with significant excisions shrouding important elements of the debate. Those materials are included here to provide context but also to compare with the recently declassified documents. Pending declassification requests for the meeting records may produce more information, now that the U.S. government has declassified some of these important State Department archival records.
The United States removed its nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991 as part of a global repositioning of the U.S. arsenal; the Korean peninsula became nuclear-free until North Korea began to test and produce its own atomic weapons. That development has produced some interest in South Korea, mainly on the right, for access to nuclear weapons, either the re-introduction of U.S. armaments or the development of a national nuclear capability. A major conservative paper, the Chosun lbo, recently called for all of the above, including nuclear sharing, as a way to reduce U.S. defense costs, which are a major issue between Seoul and Washington. Yet such moves could cause greater instability and uncertainty in a region where the future U.S. military presence is unclear and where negotiations have yet to resolve the challenges posed by North Korean nuclear forces.
[Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs William] Sebald to [Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Robert] Murphy, "Disagreement with Defense on Action with Respect to Paragraph 13(d) of the Korean Armistice Agreement," 5 December 1956, Secret
Source: National Archives, Record Group 59, Department of State Records [RG 59], Central Decimal Files 1955-1959, box 2877, 711.5611/12-556
State Department official William Sebald reported that the Defense Department wanted to introduce nuclear-capable Honest John missiles and 280 mm artillery to U.S. forces in South Korea, arguing that it would be permissible under a "liberal interpretation of paragraph 13(d) of the Korean Armistice Agreement," which constrained either side from introducing "new weapons into Korea, other than piece-for-piece replacement of equipment." For others at State, the deployments would not be permissible under the armistice agreement; moreover, world tensions made it problematic to introduce weapons systems associated with nuclear missions. In addition, Communist and neutral countries would almost certainly censure the United States as would the "Swiss and Swedes and many of our Allies in Korea."
The proposed introduction of 280 mm nuclear artillery was an important element of the controversy; according to a State Department official "this little beauty must not only be towed by one heavy tractor, but pushed by another: total weight 86 tons; length about a city block; range about 20 miles."
[Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs Walter S.] Robertson to the Secretary of State, "Introduction of Atomic Weapons into Korea," 17 January 1957, with attached memorandum from Herman Phleger, 17 January 1957, Secret
Source: RG 59, Central Decimal Files 1955-1959, box 2877, 711.5611/1-1757
Assistant Secretary Walter Robertson restated Sebald’s concerns in the previous document, but allowed that "if it is determined that the security of the United States is imperiled by a failure to introduce these items, that is another matter." Moreover, State Department lawyer Herman Phleger indicated that he did "not maintain that we are forever bound by an armistice agreement when its terms become outmoded and impossible to live with, and where the other side bas already breached it."
Record of Meeting held on January 18, 1957 in the Office of the Secretary of State, 3:00 p.m., "Introduction of Atomic Weapons into Korea," prepared by Director of Northeast Asia Affairs, Howard Parsons, 23 January 1957, Secret; excised version in Foreign Relations of the United States
Source: RG 59, Central Decimal Files 1955-1959, box 2877, 711.5611/1-1857
Deputy Secretary of Defense Reuben Robertson began this discussion by arguing that the United States needed to cut back on military spending in Korea and that the introduction of nuclear-capable systems would help. The proposed cuts would be accomplished by "reducing the size" of South Korean military forces. Furthermore, the North Koreans had been violating the armistice by "throwing out of balance" the comparative effectiveness of forces in the North and the South. State Department representatives conceded that point but they argued that the United States did not have "convincing" evidence that was in a "form" that could be shown to neutrals, allies, and the United Nations. Presumably, it was classified intelligence information that had to be downgraded. The meeting concluded with State-Defense agreement to compile the information "in a form which is considered to be convincing."
Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Francis O. Wilcox to Ambassador to the United Nations Henry Cabot Lodge, 20 March 1957, Top Secret
Source: RG 59, Central Decimal Files 1955-1959, box 2877, 711.5611/3-3057
Assistant Secretary Francis Wilcox reported to U.N. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge that the State Department continued to object to the Pentagon’s nuclear deployment plan because of its "far reaching implications not only for the Armistice Agreement but also our relations with our allies in the UNC and our general position both in the UN and the Far East." During the interagency discussions of the National Security Council’s directive to update a statement of policy on South Korea that so that it reviewed the "effect and consequences" of deploying dual-use weapons, Wilcox found that the State Department was “virtually isolated;” none of the other agencies supported its position that nuclear weapons should be introduced "only after taking full account of its effect upon our position" among other considerations..
For a National Security Council discussion scheduled for 4 April, the Department would provide Secretary Dulles "with a comprehensive statement of the reasons why we believe it essential to determine the timing of the introduction of nuclear weapons in the light of various conditions, particularly the development of evidence of Communist violations comparable in nature and extent." In light of the circumstances, Wilcox asked Lodge for the U.S. Mission’s "appraisal of this problem in terms of its effect upon our position in the United Nations."
Mr. Robertson to the Secretary, "Introduction of New Weapons into Korea," 26 March 1957, Top Secret
Source: RG 59, Central Decimal Files 1955-1959, box 2877, 711.5611/3-2657
With Dulles scheduled to visit the Pentagon, Assistant Secretary Robertson wanted him to keep in mind that the Joint Chiefs had yet to provide evidence of North Korean/Communist armistice violations and that as recently as the previous summer the United States had made assurances that "it would continue to abide by [the Armistice’s] terms." According to Robertson, it "would be disastrous to our position with our Allies and in the United Nations if we were to proceed and equip our forces in Korea with nuclear weapons in the absence of demonstrable and relatively comparable Communist actions." Therefore, in discussions at the NSC Planning Board, State Department representatives proposed " essential safeguards" to ensure that "due consideration [is given] to the timing of any introduction of nuclear weapons and the bearing such action will have on other aspects of United States policy, not only in Korea but toward our Allies and in the United Nations."
With Dulles scheduled to meet with Secretary of Defense Wilson and JCS Chairman Radford, Robertson suggested that the secretary raise the risk that the U.S. could be accused of violating the armistice and that he propose a State-Defense working group to study the evidence of violations.
U.S. Mission to the United Nations telegram 680 to State Department, 26 March 1957, Top Secret
Source: RG 59, Central Decimal Files 1955-1959, box 4012, 795B.5/3-2657
Responding to Assistant Secretary Wilcox’s top secret letter, Ambassador Lodge found some of it obscure, but he understood it well enough to make a basic objection: "for us to enlarge armament on our side of Korean armistice line will be difficult thing to defend unless we can prove communists have made same or comparable enlargement on their side." The problem is all the greater "when it is case of enlarging with nuclear weapons." Lodge believed unilateral introduction of nuclear weapons "would be taken by many [delegation], especially those neutralist-inclined, as unwarranted and provocative violation armistice agreement."
Memorandum for the Record, "State-Defense Meeting on ROK Armaments," 29 March 1957, Secret
Source: RG 59, Central Decimal Files 1955-1959, box 4012, 795B.56/3-2957
A presentation to top officials highlighted the problem that intelligence on alleged North Korean violations posed for the supporters of nuclear deployments According to a Captain Mott, intelligence that had been collected, such as photographs of North Korean airfields with deployments of MIGs, and information concerning heavy weapons (tanks, artillery) was of such sensitivity that most of it could not be released to the public.
Memorandum of Discussion at the 318th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, April 4, 1957, Top Secret, Excised Copy
Source: Document 212, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Korea, Volume XXIII, Part 2 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1993)
Partially released years ago for the Foreign Relations series (and currently under declassification request), this excised NSC meeting record conveys the flavor of the interagency debate on nuclear deployments and President Eisenhower’s role in managing it. Even if the State Department was relatively isolated in the interagency discussions, Dulles had Eisenhower’s ear. Arguing that the case on North Korean violations was not strong, especially because there was no evidence of "Communist introduction of weapons with atomic capabilities," Dulles believed that the "political disadvantages" of introducing Honest Johns and 280 mm artillery were "greater … than the military advantages." The deployments "would cause serious repercussions around the world." While Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Arthur Radford thought "we might as well go the whole hog and introduce the entire list, including the two disputed items," President Eisenhower thought otherwise. He advised caution instructing that the whole matter "be held until we could talk this issue over with some of our reliable allies, particularly our NATO allies."
Robert R. Bowie [Director, Policy Planning Staff] to Mr. Robertson, "Modernization of United States Forces in Korea," 15 May 1957, Secret
Source: RG 59, Policy Planning Staff Country Files, 1947-1952, box 29, Korea 1957 (3)
Robert Bowie, who was then well known in the State Department for his "epic debates" with John Foster Dulles, strongly objected to the proposed deployments.  He saw no evidence that North Korea’s conventional forces had reached levels that needed to be matched with nuclear weapons. Moreover, he argued that nuclear deployments would not enhance South Korea’s security, but could "stimulate an arms race which would make it more difficult to reduce U.S. support costs."
Department of State telegram 8073 to U.S. Embassy United Kingdom [et al.], 17 May 1957, Secret
Source: RG 59, Central Decimal Files 1955-1959, box 2877, 711.5611/5-1757
The consultations with allies that Eisenhower sought began on 23 April 1957 with talks with the Australians, British, Canadians and New Zealanders. During follow-up talks with those countries in mid-May, U.S. officials presented their plan on the "timing and method" for introducing "new weapons" into South Korea., beginning with a statement at a meeting of the Military Armistice Commission at the DMZ. Plainly concerned about nuclear deployments, the Australians and New Zealanders wanted an "assurance" that no "dual-capability" weapons be provided to the South Koreas.
Memorandum of Conversation, "Introduction of Atomic Weapons into Korea," 20 May 1957, Secret
Source: RG 59, Policy Planning Staff Country Files, 1947-1952, box 29, Korea 1957 (3)
As part of the effort to persuade governments belonging to the United Nations Command to accept U.S. proposals to introduce "new weapons" into South Korea, senior U.S. officials, including JCS Chairman Radford, met with French diplomats. The talking points included the assertion that U.S. deployments would compensate for Communist armistice violations that "seriously upset the relative military balance by building up military capability in the area vastly superior to that which [China and North Korea] had at the time of the Armistice." Embassy Counselor Jean Landy asked what types of weapons the United States would be deploying, referring to "recent press reports indicating that major types of atomic weapons would be included." Landy may have worried about what South Korea could be getting because Radford observed that "the United States has no intention of equipping the army of the Republic of Korea with dual-capable weapons."
The French may still have been concerned about nuclear deployments; according to Chargé d’Affaires Jacques Vimont "the world will. also want to know whether the United States intends to go beyond actions which the Communists have taken." Radford replied: "the world would have to trust the United States."
Department of State telegram 4652 to U.S. Embassy France [et al.], 20 May 1957, Secret
Source: RG 59, Central Decimal Files 1955-1959, box 2877, 711.5611/5-2057
After meetings with the French as well as Thai and Turkish representatives, the State Department sent a summary telegram. At the sessions, the French, Thais, and Turks indicated that they understood the situation, although the French had yet to respond officially because Chargé d’Affaires Vimont "would want to be assured that U.S. not going beyond Communist actions as to character items to be introduced." Apparently "trust" of the United States, which JCS Chairman Radford had called for, was not quite enough. The record of any follow-up has not yet surfaced.
Mr. Parsons to Mr. Robertson, "ROK Reaction and Expectations Should U.S. Forces in Korea be Given Nuclear Weapons," 23 May 1957, Secret
Source: RG 59, Central Decimal Files 1955-1959, box 2877, 711.5611/5-2357
Korea desk officer Howard Parsons warned Robertson that if Washington equipped its forces with nuclear weapons but did not do the same for South Korea it should expect a "serious political problem." The U.S. government had intention to do so, but equipping South Korea with nuclear forces had been considered in a policy paper and some U.S. officers in Korea had raised the possibility of "token" Korean units with a nuclear capability.
If Washington went ahead with nuclear deployments, it would "almost certainly lead to continued and stronger demands on the part of President Rhee and the ROK Government and military for the equipping of ROK forces with weapons of atomic capability." Moreover, it would be "extremely difficult to convince" Korean leaders, especially President Rhee, "that the modernization of United States forces should be accomplished by the reduction of the ROK Army by four divisions."
[David G.] Nes to [Howard] Parson, "Consultations with Allies on Modernization of United States Forces in Korea." 10 June 1957, Secret
Source: RG 59, Central Decimal Files 1955-1959, box 2877, 711.5611/6-1057
With all but the Thais heard from, the State Department had enough support from allies to go ahead with nuclear modernization in South Korea. Nevertheless, support was not absolute, for example, the extent of British support at the U.N. depended on "convincing evidence of Communist violations." Moreover, the Australians, the Canadians, and the New Zealanders wanted "assurances" that the U.N. Command would "not increase its strength beyond that necessary to restore the balance." In addition, as noted, several governments wanted assurances that the South Koreans would not acquire dual-use weapons.
Memorandum of Discussion at the 326th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, June 13, 1957, Top Secret, Excised Copy
Source: Document 221, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Korea, Volume XXIII, Part 2 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1993)
The debate over the proposed deployments continued with Dulles raising doubts about the 280 mm artillery and Honest John rockets: "He could not understand why in the world it was essential that we be able to haul these great monsters around." Moreover, "sending such weapons to Korea would be resented throughout Asia." While Dulles’ comments and the subsequent discussion are heavily excised, he was talking about the identification in Asia of nuclear weapons with "the hated doctrine of white supremacy."  Not objecting to nuclear deployments that could be kept secret from the general public, Dulles hoped that the South Koreans could be persuaded to reduce their armed forces, helping Washington save on military assistance, on the grounds that the U.S. dual-use weapons and U.S. nuclear forces generally would strengthen deterrence against North Korean incursions.
The emphasis on savings was important in view of the thinking of top officials such as Treasury Secretary Humphrey who believed that U.S. nuclear deterrence made it possible to redeploy U.S. forces stationed overseas. Using language that is redolent of recent discussions, he said that "Our allies won’t like it, but they will … have to accept it." Otherwise, the U.S. "financial situation will become altogether hopeless."
During the discussion, Eisenhower, who had "very little confidence in immobile weapons," asked whether the 280 mm gun "really was so clumsy and so immobile a weapon," as had been portrayed. JCS Chairman Radford said that it was not "quite as bad as it had been depicted" and that the U.S. "had five or six such guns in Germany, and they were proving useful." In any event, he argued that the "Number One reason for wanting to introduce the Honest John rockets and the 280 mm. guns for our forces in South Korea, was to provide for the security of these U.S. forces in South Korea."
With final decisions on nuclear weapons systems yet to be made, Eisenhower and the Council directed U.S. officials to announce to the Military Armistice Commission U.S. plans to modernize U.S. forces in South Korea. In addition, U.S. officials were "to negotiate with President Rhee for a substantial reduction in active ROK forces, … in return for converting the three remaining ROK Air Force squadrons to jets and modernizing U.S. forces deployed in Korea." Given the doubts that Howard Parsons had raised in his memorandum (see Document 13), the proposed negotiations were likely to be difficult.
State Department circular telegram 983 to United States Embassy Sweden [et al.], 18 June 1957, Secret
Source: RG 59, Central Decimal Files 1955-1959, box 3993, 795.006-1857
A few days after the NSC meeting (Document 15), the State Department alerted embassies of the decision to announce plans to compensate for alleged Communist violations of section 13 (d) of the armistice agreement. In a message to be used for discussions with states participating in the United Nations Command and in the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission, the State Department spelled out the terms of the announcement and background on prior discussions with allies. With respect to nuclear weapons, the Department instructed embassy officials to tell only the "most trusted officials" that some of the weapons to be deployed were "weapons of dual conventional and nuclear capability but not including primarily nuclear purpose weapons," whatever that meant.
Hugh S. Cumming, Jr., Director, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, to the Under Secretary, "Intelligence Note: Initial Reaction to Weapons Modernization in South Korea," 21 June 1957, Official Use Only
Source: RG 59, Central Decimal Files 1955-1959, box 4012, 795B.56/6-2157
On 21 June 1957, U.S. representatives to the Armistice Commission declared that the United States no longer considered itself bound to observe the article 13 (d) provisions in the armistice to ban imports of new weapons.  According to this report, the announcement surprised North Korean representatives, who argued that UN forces "attempting to make South Korea an atomic base and prepare for a new war" and that"US allegations of Communist truce violations were made only to cover up Allied violations."
Memorandum of Discussion at the 334th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, August 8, 1957, Top Secret, Excised Copy
Source: Document 239, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Korea, Volume XXIII, Part 2 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1993)
As indicated by this discussion, by early August, U.S. officials had not persuaded Rhee to accept any reductions in South Korean active divisions. According to Dulles, "it was going to be very hard to get him to agree … in the best of circumstances." As far as Dulles was concerned, without such an agreement there would be no point in deploying nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, "a heavy jolt may be necessary because he is a master of evasion." Secretary of Defense Wilson argued that the "best way to provide a jolt …. would be to hold back funds." In the circumstances, the NSC agreed that Eisenhower should consult with Dulles and Wilson on the "timing" of the nuclear deployments, but "depending on Rhee’s willingness to reduce forces."
Suggesting that he was reluctant to take any risks to the U.S. position, Eisenhower argued that even if South Korea had "no military importance" in general war, it was "psychologically and politically of such importance that to lose it would run the risk of the loss of our entire position in the Far East." That made it essential "to carry on in South Korea."
William Leonhart, Policy Planning Staff, to Mr. [Gerard C.] Smith, "Nuclear Storage in Korea," 17 October 1957, with Robert Cutler notes, 16 October 1957, attached, Top Secret
Source: RG 59, Policy Planning Staff Country Files, 1947-1952, box 30, Korea TS
The revealing notes by national security assistant Robert Cutler fill in some of the blanks of the June and August 1957 NSC discussions. According to Cutler, during the August meeting, Admiral Radford surprised Eisenhower when he noted the lack of official instructions for storing nuclear weapons in South Korea. Eisenhower believed the authorizing decision had been made in June. Cutler recalled (and Dulles agreed) that "at least by the Council meeting on August 8 it was understood by the President … that nuclear warheads might be stored in Korea as appropriate." It was Cutler’s interpretation that the President would have to specifically authorize such action by the Defense Department, although State Department officials informed Cutler that the Secretary of State would also have to approve. 
[Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for Atomic Energy Matters] Philip J. Farley to Mr. Murphy, "Deployment of Nuclear Weapons to U.S. Forces in Korea," 1 November 1957, enclosing letter from Murphy to Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Mansfield Sprague, 1 November 1957, Top Secret, with Cover Sheets
Source: RG 59, Policy Planning Staff Country Files, 1947-1952, box 30, Korea TS
While U.S. defense officials originally linked cuts in South Korean conventional forces (and saving in military aid) to U.S. nuclear deployments in the South, Rhee and his generals resisted cuts in their armed forces. Thus, the specific savings in military assistance sought by the Defense Department failed to materialize, but the plans for nuclear deployments moved forward State Department misgivings notwithstanding. 
The State Department expected to be consulted on any specific decisions to store nuclear weapons in South Korea, but senior Defense Department officials were assuming otherwise. To reaffirm the State Department’s role, Farley recommended to Murphy that he sign off on the attached letter to Mansfield Sprague. In that letter, Murphy reminded Sprague that for "specific implementation" of Eisenhower’s instructions, "we understand that further Presidential authorization is required … and that the Secretaries of State and Defense should support their appropriate recommendations to the President for that purpose."
Memorandum for Assistant Secretary of Defense (IS) drafted by H. J. Sandri, Far Eastern Desk, International Security Affairs, "Introduction of Honest John and 280 mm Gun BNS into Korea," 15 January 1958, with letter from Irwin to Robertson, 16 January 1958 attached, Top Secret, excised copy
Source: Document 570, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Volumes XVII/XVIII Indonesia; Japan; Korea Microfiche Supplement (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1994)
With State Department approval, in December 1957 the Defense Department authorized the Army to begin deploying Honest John and 280 mm artillery (see also Document 22). In response to a request from Assistant Secretary of State Robertson for information on the timing of the deployments. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs John Irwin informed him that the Honest John missiles and nuclear artillery would be deployed in South Korea by 31 January. A week later, Mansfield Sprague informed Robertson that plans to deploy Matador missiles in South Korea were underway.
White House, "Special Staff Note," From Defense, 16 January 1958, Top Secret, Excised Copy
Source: Document 573, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Volumes XVII/XVIII Indonesia; Japan; Korea Microfiche Supplement (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1994)
This White House document provides background on the final steps in the process of implementing authorizations to deploy nuclear weapons and dual-use systems in South Korea.
Mr., Parsons to Mr. Robertson, "British Request for Information Regarding Atomic-Capable Weapons in Korea," 16 May 1958, Secret
Source: RG 59, Central Decimal Files, 1955-1959, 795B.5611/5-1658
British diplomat Arthur de la Mare, who had been posted in Seoul during the 1930s, asked Parsons "whether atomic warheads are stored in Korea and whether atomic-capable weapons have been given to the Koreans." Parsons gave the standard "neither confirm nor deny" answer, but "provided a few clarifications" not specified in this memorandum.
State Department telegram 208589 to U.S. Embassy South Korea, "Press Reporting of Sensitive Information," 20 September 1974, Secret, Mandatory Declassification Review Release
Source: RG 59, Access to Archival Databases, State Department telegrams 1974
The "neither confirm nor deny" approach regarding the stationing of nuclear weapons in Korea continued for decades as exemplified by the State Department’s response to a 20 September 1974 Washington Post article by Don Oberdorfer. Using information from U.S. military sources in South Korea, the article, "U.S. Weighs Risk of Keeping A-Arms in Korea," covered such issues as security arrangements, storage of weapons, and the purposes of the deployment. Worried about Oberdorfer’s access to military sources, Assistant Secretary of State Philip Habib (the previous U.S. ambassador in Seoul) instructed Ambassador Richard Sneider to meet with the Commander U.S. Forces Korea (COMUSK) so that his "command is aware of highly damaging effect of lose talk" about nuclear deployments. In response to journalistic queries Habib recommended: "no comment," "we do not discus nuclear deployments," and "neither confirm nor deny."
Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Atomic Energy), History of the Custody and Deployment of Nuclear Weapons July 1945 Through September 1977, February 1978, Top Secret, Excised copy, Excerpts
Source: Freedom of Information Act request
An excised table in a Department of Defense history provides the starting years for U.S. nuclear deployments in South Korea. The names of the countries are excised, but in the alphabetical order of the list of non-NATO countries and territories that provided nuclear deployment sites, South Korea or the Republic of Korea would have followed Puerto Rico. Moreover, the deployments of Honest John rockets and 240 mm guns in early 1959 match the South Korean situation.
This report, released by the Defense Department in excised form in 1999, provided the first detailed information about the scope of overseas U.S. nuclear weapons deployments during the Cold War. William Arkin, Robert S. Norris, and this writer used the details to fill in the excised blanks and identify each country where nuclear weapons were deployed. An article in the November-December 1999 issue of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, " Where They Were" and a follow-up, " How Much Did Japan Know" in the January-February 2000 issue, reported on the findings.
Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson receiving a medal from President Eisenhower. Wilson and his deputies along with JCS Chairman Arthur Radford were determined supporters of nuclear deployments in South Korea. (Photo courtesy of Office of the Secretary of Defense Historical Office).
Walter Spencer Robertson, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 1953-1959, raised doubts about the proposed deployments of nuclear weapons to South Korea. (National Archives Still Picture Division, Record Group 59-SO)
Robert W. Bowie, director of the State Department Policy Planning Staff, 1953-1957, wrote a dissenting memorandum on the proposed nuclear deployments. (National Archives Still Picture Division, Record Group 59-SO)
To give a sense of the scale of the 280 mm. nuclear-capable cannon, this shows one being set up for firing by the 39th Field Artillery Battalion at the Grafenwohr Training Area, West Germany, 28 September 1958. (National Archives Still Picture Division, Record Group 111-CS, box 31)
Members of the Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Artillery, 2nd Infantry Division hoisting the warhead section into place on an Honest John Rocket at the bivouac area near the Imjin River, 110 kilometers northeast of Seoul, during three days of practice training for firing the Honest John. (National Archives Still Picture Division, Record Group 111-CS, box 33)
The U.S. Army deployed nuclear-capable Honest John missiles in Turkey from 1959 until the early 1990s. This photo shows members of the 1st Battalion, 20th Field Artillery Regiment, preparing to fire a missile at Yakima Washington Firing Center during 1967. (Still Picture Division, National Archives, RG 111-CCS, box 69).
 . Roger Dingman, “Atomic Diplomacy During the Korean War,” International Security 13 (Winter 1988/89) 50-91; Nina Tannenwald, The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons Since 1945 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 115-155.
. Robert J. Watson, History of the Office of Secretary of Defense, Into the Missile Age, Volume IV, 1956-1960 (Washington, D.C.:Historical Office: Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1997), 625-626.
 . Richard Immerman, John Foster Dulles: Piety, Pragmatism, and Power in U.S. Foreign Policy (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1999), 49.
 . See Dulles’ comments during Annual Department of Defense Secretaries’ Conference, the next day, at Quantico, Virginia, where he said, among other remarks, that the mass of people in Asia identify “atomic weapon with this white supremacy and its having been used first by the United States against members of the so-called yellow race.” See Document 122, Editorial Note, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955–1957, National Security Policy, Volume XIX, (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1990). See also Mathew Jones’s discussion of Dulles’ remarks in in After Hiroshima: The United States, Race, and Nuclear Weapons in Asia, 1945-1965 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010),347-348.
. According to the Defense Department’s announcement of the meeting, “since the signing of the armistice, the Communist side has not reported the introduction of a single combat aircraft into Korea, and yet it is clear beyond dispute that the Communist side now has hundreds of the most modern jet types of combat aircraft based in North Korea.” While not mentioning specific details, Defense argued the information on modern jets as “supported by all types of intelligence information including the evidence of radar trackings, the testimony of defectors, as well as long-range photographs.” See “U.N. Command in Korea Announces Intention to Replace Old Weapons, Department of State Bulletin XXXVII (8 July 1957), 58.
 See Jones, After Hiroshima at page 347, which cites this and other related documents in the Policy Planning Staff collection at NARA.
 . Watson, Into the Missile Age, 627-628.