The Documents To Be Read
The Plan: An Alternative to SIOP-62, Dated 9-5-61
Summary: Prepared for General Maxwell Taylor, Dated 9-7-61
JFK’s Questions Prepared by Taylor for Lemnitzer, Dated 9-19-61, about Any Flexibility in SIOP-62 and the Feasibility of a Surprise Attack
JFK Continues His Questions about a Surprise Attack on Russia, 9-21-61
At this meeting, attended by JCS Chairman Lemnitzer, General Maxwell Taylor, and others, President Kennedy ignored General Power’s rants about Soviet launch sites that had not yet been found and asked the other Administration officials and military staff present how much warning would the Soviet Union need before launching ICBMs and intercontinental bombers.
Meeting in the Cabinet Room, 10-10-61
At this meeting on October 10, 1961, the cabinet considered a document called “Preferred Sequence of Military Actions in a Berlin Conflict.” If conventional methods failed, the document called for selective nuclear attacks followed by limited tactical employment of nuclear weapons on the battlefield, followed finally by general nuclear war. Kennedy expressed doubt that a limited nuclear war could be fought without leading to strategic nuclear war. Paul Nitze agreed and stated that it would be best for us in moving toward the use of nuclear weapons to consider most seriously the option of an initial strategic strike of our own. McGeorge Bundy’s notes on the meeting indicated that Nitze felt we could in some real sense be victorious in the series of nuclear exchanges but we might well lose if we allowed the Soviets to strike first.
Draft Presidential Memorandum (DPM), October 28, 1961, Consequences of Thermonuclear War under Various Conditions of Outbreak
It is worth noting that the original Kaysen plan was modified by this date to involve the original penetration of the Soviet Union’s airspace by only ten B-52s that would be followed up by missiles and other aircraft. The modified plan, as laid out in the DPM (pages 2–4) was a follows:
How Would the Rowen-Kaysen Plan Have Been Executed?
The modified plan called for ten B-52s to utilize Terrain Avoidance Radar (TAR) and strike Designated Ground Zeroes (DGZs) in the Soviet Union. Some of the Designated Ground Zeroes were merely staging bases for Soviet planes that would have refueled there before taking off for the United States from those forward bases. Those forward bases could be hit by the second wave.
The Terrain Avoidance Radar utilized by the B52s would allow them to fly at 500 feet, well below the 900 feet necessary for the Soviet P-15 low-altitude radar to detect them. The B-52s, in addition to the gravity bombs, were armed with two Hound Dog missiles that would have a range of at least 250 miles at 500 feet of altitude and a range of more than twice that at 55,000 feet. The Hound Dog missiles carried warheads ranging from 1–3 megatons in yield.
Although there haven't been any specific routes designated by Fred Kaplan (The Wizards of Armageddon), the routes can be extrapolated from the Chrome Dome Routes utilized by the SAC during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It is most likely that the planes would have come from several different areas because of the targets that would have been involved. Below are the main Soviet bases that Kaysen would have had in his plan. It is unlikely that the Soviets would have sounded a full alert even if central command received a report of a low flying B-52 incursion without more evidence of a substantial attack. Moreover, at no time during the Berlin ’61 crisis did the Soviets raise their alert level, which was extremely low by SAC standards. Fred Kaplan in his 1983 book The Wizards of Armageddon (page 295) states:
The intelligence analysis disclosed that the Soviet strategic forces were in awful shape. The ICBMs and IRBMs were not loaded with warheads, and it would take at least six hours to get them loaded. None of their bombers were on any sort of alert. Almost all of their nuclear missile submarines were in port, and those at sea had to surface before launching. Moreover, the Soviet early warning network was riddled with gaps that would make it very difficult to detect a less than massive US bomber attack, especially if the bombers flew in at low altitudes.
Kaplan notes the secrecy and detail of the operational plan (page 299):
Only five names appeared on the memorandum: Kennedy, McNamara, Maxwell Taylor, McGeorge Bundy, and Carl Kaysen. It was highly detailed, down to specifying the altitudes and general flight tactics of the attacking bombers. It concluded that a counterforce first strike was indeed very feasible, that we could pull it off with high confidence.
Kaplan followed up his 1981 book with an article in The Atlantic in 2001 and in that article reiterated, “It [Kaysen plan] spelled out what flight paths the US bomber should take, at what altitudes they should fly, and which targets they should hit with how many of what kinds of nuclear bombs. And it concluded that the mission was feasible-that there was a fair probability of success”
Despite efforts by many public agencies, the details specified by Kaplan have never been found in any documents produced by the government. However, I believe that through an examination of the Soviet bases that should have been targeted at that time, and through the various routes flown by B-52s during alert operations we can determine approximate time and routes to targets. Keep in mind that B-47s and A-4D aircraft were also able to fly under the radar. This means that B-47 bases in Spain and aircraft from carriers in the 2nd and 6th fleet would also be available, as well as A-1 and A-2 missiles from Polaris subs.
Soviet Bases 156 Total Targets
End Part III