Norstad and the “Grand Strategy” for the Cold War

  • Robert S. Jordan


By January 1950 Norstad expected to leave his assignment as Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, to replace Twining as Commander in Chief of the Alaska Command.2 But, as he said to Barton Leach: “I wouldn’t bet even money on it at this time.”3 Planning had been going rapidly forward as to how the US should confront the Soviet Union in Europe.4 It was becoming increasingly apparent that the loose structure created after the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in April 1949 did not provide enough political reassurance as well as military security.5


Atomic Weapon Atomic Bomb Grand Strategy Public Diplomacy Joint Chief 
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  1. 1.
    Douglas L. Bland, The Military Committee of the North Atlantic Alliance: A Study of Structure and Strategy (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1991), p. 186.Google Scholar
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    For a succinct description of the various efforts at pre-NATO and early NATO war planning, especially as concerns Germany, see Christian Greiner, “Strategic Concepts for the Defence of Western Europe, 1948–1950,” in Norbert Wiggershaus and Roland G. Foerster, eds., The Western Security Community, 1948–1950: Common Problems and Conflicting National Interests during the Foundation Phase of the North Atlantic Alliance (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 1993), pp. 313–341.Google Scholar
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    This is paraphrased from Jeffrey G. Barlow, Revolt of the Admirals: The Fight for Naval Aviation, 1945–1950 (Washington, D.C.: Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy, 1994), pp. 86ff.Google Scholar
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    For more about PINCHER and subsequent plans, see Steven T. Ross, American War Plans, 1945–1950 (New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1988). There was a subsequent edition printed in London by Frank Cass in 1996. See also Michael Sherry, Preparing for the Next War: American Plans for Postwar Defense, 1941–1945 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977).Google Scholar
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    Quoted by Barlow, Revolt, p. 91. For a readable account of American and British war planning during this period, see Sean M. Maloney, Securing Command of the Sea: NATO Naval Planning, 1948–1954 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995), Chs. 2 and 3.Google Scholar
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    For a brief but authoritative summary of the creation of Eisenhower’s new command, see the Introduction, “The Development of SHAPE: 1950–1953,” by Andrew J. Goodpaster, in Robert S. Jordan, ed. Generals in International Politics: NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1987), pp. 1–7. Norstad thought very highly of Goodpaster, having brought him to Eisenhower’s attention when Eisenhower was Army Chief of Staff, and Norstad had recommended Goodpaster to join a special unit for long-range plans. Goodpaster, like Norstad, made his reputation as a planner, albeit with a good World War II combat record. (See John Prados, Keepers of The Keys: A History of the National Security Council from Truman to Bush [New York: William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1991], pp. 66–67).Google Scholar
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    Paralleling SACEUR’s policy of delegating his day-to-day USCINCEUR responsibilities to the Deputy USCINCEUR, Norstad delegated his CINCUSAFE responsibilities to his deputy, Major General Truman H. Landon. Barney Oldfield, who was a public affairs/informationofficer/international affairs consultant both in the Air Force and in corporate life, recalls that he arranged to have Norstad activate his AAFCE command on April 2 rather than April 1, 1951 to avoid ridicule from the European Communist press. (Ltr, Oldfield-Jordan, dtd 6/26/89) Oldfield also established the “General Lauris Norstad Political and Military Science Scholarship” at the University of Nebraska. The Iron Gate Chapter of the Air Force Association endowed a General Lauris Norstad Falcon Foundation scholarship to give prep school assistance to aspirants for appointment to the Air Force Academy. (See Barney Oldfield, Never a Shot in Anger [Santa Barbara, CA: Capra Press, Inc., Battle of Normandy Museum Edition, 1989], note 19, p. xxxvii.)Google Scholar
  17. 43.
    See Lord Ismay, NATO The First Five Years 1949–1954 (Paris: NATO Information Services, 1954). Norstad had advocated planning for the use in Europe of tactical atomic weapons as early as August 1951 (See also Robert A. Wampler, NATO Strategic Planning and Nuclear Weapons, 1950–1957, Occasional Paper 6, Nuclear History Program, Center for International Security Studies, School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland, 1990, p. 53. Wampler cites a series of “red line” messages between Norstad and Vandenberg.)Google Scholar
  18. 47.
    Quoted by Bland, Military, p. 190. As Bland pointed out: “In these circumstances the Military Committee and the Standing Group, isolated in Washington, could not play any significant role.” See also Sir Peter Hill-Norton, No Soft Options: The Politico-Military Realities of NATO (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1978), pp. 88–89.Google Scholar
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    New York Herald-Tribune, dtd 10/31/56, as quoted in Robert S. Jordan, Political Leadership in NATO: A Study in Multinational Diplomacy (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1979), p. 46.Google Scholar
  20. 51.
    For a description of the so-called Annual Review process by which the military requirements were reconciled with the economic capacities of the member-states, see Robert S. Jordan, The NATO International Staff/Secretariat, 1952–1957: A Study in International Administration (London: Oxford University Press, 1967).Google Scholar
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    For an excellent discussion of the evolution of nuclear policy vis-á-vis NATO, see Marc Trachtenberg, History and Strategy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), pp. 107ff.Google Scholar
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    Some of this access came when he was working closely with James Forrestal, the first Secretary of Defense. Forrestal had excellent Washington connections. (See Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley, Driven Patriot: The Life and Times of James Forrestal (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992); also C.L. Sulzberger’s memoirs, A Long Row of Candles, and An Age of Mediocrity (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1969 and 1973, respectively).Google Scholar
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    See Chapter 2, and also Daniel R. Mortensen, A Pattern for Joint Operations: World War II Close Air Support North Africa (Washington, D.C.: Office of Air Force History and U.S. Army Center of Military History, Historical Analysis Series, 1987).Google Scholar
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    Quoted in David N. Schwartz, NATO’s Nuclear Dilemmas (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1983), p. 24. Norstad’s career, starting with his service with the Twentieth Air Force in World War II was, of course, virtually built around the development and use of atomic and nuclear weapons.Google Scholar
  25. 82.
    Taken from NSC 162/2, in Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), 1952–1954, II. 577–597. See Wampler, Planning, pp. 13–14. In NSC/68, the Truman Administration’s policy rationale for the buildup, the expectation was that a rapid military buildup was needed to meet a period of “maximum danger” which was posited as being 1952–54. See Ernest R. May, ed., American Cold War Strategy (New York: Bedford Books, St Martin’s Press, 1993), p. 14; also Paul H. Nitze, From Hiroshima to Glasnost: At the Center of Decision, A Memoir (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1989), pp. 93–100; Richard H. Immerman, ed. John Foster Dulles and the Diplomacy of the Cold War (Princeton: Princeton U.P., 1990), p. 32.Google Scholar
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    Ltr Eisenhower-Gruenther, dtd 10/27/53. Eisenhower used the term “Roman wall” frequently in protesting that the commitment militarily of the U.S. to Europe could be permanent in the sense of being a garrison. (See also Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower the President, Vol. Two [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984], p. 143.) For more on the Ridgway-Gruenther-Eisenhower relationship in NATO, see Jordan, Generals, Chs. 2, 3.Google Scholar
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    Ibid. For a general discussion of the place of atomic weapons in the Alliance, see Francis A. Beer, Integration and Disintegration in NATO (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1969), Ch. 2.Google Scholar
  29. 88.
    NATO Final Communiques, 1949–1974 (Brussels: NATO Information Service, 1974), p. 16. The language was: “The Council expressed the firm determination of all member governments to see the Atlantic forces equipped with the most modern weapons” (p. 96).Google Scholar
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    Marc Trachtenberg, A Constructed Peace: The Making of the European Settlement 1945–1963 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), p. 177.Google Scholar
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    NATO Final Communiques, p. 113–114. This is also cited in Lawrence S. Kaplan, NATO and the United States: The Enduring Alliance (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988), p. 62. At the December 1956 NAC Ministerial Meeting, the Defense Ministers of Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Turkey, had requested that tactical nuclear warheads under the control of the U.S. be made available to NATO Europe — other than the FRG. (See also Kinnard, Strategy, p. 40.)Google Scholar
  32. 115.
    To get an idea of just how turbulent it was, see Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1969), and Hoopes and Brinkley, Driven.Google Scholar
  33. 116.
    Ltr w/encl., Wilkinson-Jordan, dtd 11/23/88. See Burke Wilkinson, Night of the Short Knives (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1964). Wilkinson was Public Affairs Adviser to Norstad from 1958 to 1962.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robert S. Jordan 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert S. Jordan
    • 1
  1. 1.University of New OrleansNew OrleansUSA

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