21 Minute from Booker1 to Tange

Canberra, 6 August 1956

Top Secret Guard

Thermo-Nuclear Isolationism

The Current Argument

Admiral Radford,2 the Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff,3 has been credited with the belief that the United States should rely to a greater extent on nuclear weapons and less on conventional weapons.

[matter omitted]

  1. It has been revealed that the Chief of the Air Staff, General Twining,4 told Congress in June last that American defence policy would in future centre on nuclear weapons. The full implications of this statement are not yet clear, but Twining is the only Chief of Staff reported to favour Radford's view.

[matter omitted]

What About Australia?

  1. From the foregoing it would appear that in the long term Australia cannot rely on the United States being able to protect us with either conventional or thermo-nuclear weapons. (Much less, of course, can we rely on the United Kingdom.) If this is true the consequences for Australia will clearly be grave in the extreme. We would ourselves be powerless to prevent the expansion of the Communists in Asia, or check another southward drive by (a possibly Communist) Japan. Nor would we be able, on any scale of defence so far contemplated, to protect the mainland of Australia.
  2. These dangers may not be imminent, but the future trend of military developments throughout the world is now to some extent discernible-and the prospects are not reassuring for countries in the position of Australia. The time has come for us to review fundamentally and realistically the question whether we can in the longer term rely on our alliances for our protection, or whether we must provide for it ourselves; and if the latter whether we will be driven:
    1. to build up conventional forces (including atomic weapons) on a larger scale than at present contemplated; or
    2. to develop our own thermo-nuclear capacity.

[NAA: A1838, TS852/10/4/2]