Russell E. Hershey,
INTERVIEW WITH GENERAL RUSSELL E. DOUGHERTY - 31.8.1996
INTERVIEWER: General, can I ask you first of all a tricky question. Can we have your name and your title for the transcripts.
GENERAL RUSSELL E. DOUGHERTY: Well, I'm a retired officer now and my name is Russell Dougherty. Russell Eliot Dougherty retired General, United States Air Force. Been retired eighteen years and I'm now an attorney and I'm out here in Tyson's Corner in the suburbs of Washington practicing law.
INT: That's fine, thank you sir. Can I ask you.. the first question is: as the Eisenhower presidency came to an end and Kennedy.. and McNamara came in, what was the.. nuclear strategy of the early Sixties, particularly as far as SACs concerned?
GRED: Well, to the extent that that I can properly reflect the nuclear strategy of the transition period between the Eisenhower and the Kennedy years we were transitioning from a very precise basic national security policy written, understood interdepartmental in its context into what I call a more pragmatic policy, one that had the advantage of being timely and being applied to the circumstances but had the disadvantage of not being widely understood and sometimes not even widely accepted within the Administration. So we went from a period of set pieces to a period of turbulence. Now turbulence is not necessarily bad and the strategy that the nuclear forces employed during that period of time was driven in great measure by the technology of the times and by the weapon systems available. Often times we had desires that could not be fulfilled because technology was not competent and capable. But technology was really on a roll in the period of 1961, '62. Things were beginning to happen. Things in the propulsion area, things in the guidance area, things in the range and access area because jet engines were now good and reliable and air re-fuelling was becoming a matter of course for manned bombers. It was a very dynamic changing time in the strategic sense. The submarines were coming in and all of the advantages of submarines were becoming apparent to people in the strategic world.
INT: Am I right in saying that when the Eisenhower Administration had pursued a policy that was known as 'massive retaliation' and what would that have involved?
GRED: Well, as I understood massive retaliation during the period of the Eisenhower Administration it was to take that very small force that we had of almost inestimable strength and to use it in a coercive way to prevent something worse from happening. whether we actually would have responded massively to minor attacks is problematical and we didn't. But we could've and it could well have been the thing that prevented something worse from happening. But massive retaliation was inconceivable to a lot of people and then of course brought about the later discussions of flexible response but massive retaliation was an attempt to do with very little something that had very big effect. And I think it worked.
INT: Excellent answer. Could you tell me, in the early 1960s, how much of the American nuclear arsenal did the Air Force control?
GRED: It varied. the early period of 1960s, the nuclear arsenal was, I would say, 90 percent controlled by Air Force delivery units. That changed considerably as the Polaris submarine came on the scene and the Polaris missile began to use nuclear warheads. there was a shift, but there was a counteracting shift because many of the carriers that had nuclear weapons on board were getting rid of them. They were getting nuclear weapons off of the carriers and into the submarines. So I would say that the balance early on in the 1960s was probably ninety ten. later in the Sixties it was probably seventy thirty. and I don't know what it is today.
INT: Is that what became known as the Triad as it started to split up?
GRED: That's right. the Triad was to try to in short, keep from putting all of our eggs in one basket. Because if you had one failure in a single system, you were out of business. And if there was one thing that my seniors and I were determined not to have happen, is that our weapon systems would go down and be impotent. Because we always operated under the concept that if they really were incapable, that the Soviets would really know it. we liked to think that that the strength of our deterrent force during those years was because it was real and it was never down, and the Triad gave us three cuts at it. The old phrase 'don't put all your eggs in one basket' applied. never so vividly as you look around where we planted it American elm trees all over the United States and then had the Dutch elm disease that wiped us out. We now plant different kinds of trees.
INT: Interesting answer. How important was the B-MEWS, the early warning radar systems and I'm thinking specifically here, going back even to Pearl Harbor, was there a mentality in the Sixties that America was never going to let Pearl Harbor happen again?
GRED: I think that's.. may have been a widespread mentality. The Pearl Harbor, we must have notice, we must learn to react more rapidly. But it's always been there in the military. It's just a function of the technology of the times to make it capable. But the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System was very important to me as the combat commander for our particularly for our airborne force. I did not want to be caught on the ground. And if I could be caught on the ground and destroyed on.. and I could be destroyed on the ground, then I lacked capability and I lacked credibility. And so the warning system that we had in effect was vital to the bomber force. less important but still important to the missile force because a large-scale attack could conceivably disenable all your missiles. And very important to any force that had to get off the ground, get out of port, get to sea, get into the air. We considered it crucial, and when it was incapable, I was uncomfortable. Not that that ever happened, but I saw it.. could have happened once or twice through enemy action.
INT: How important were the bombers to the (inaudible) policy? I'm curious here because Khrushchev by that time had decided that bombers were too vulnerable and they could be shot down too easily and concentrated on missiles. But America maintained quite a strong policy, particularly with B-52s. Why was that?
GRED: (slight overlap) We did. The bomber was an essential part of the Triad -- still is. Its capability transcends many of the other thing.. its flexibility transcends. The bomber is vulnerable, but can be made less vulnerable through protective measures which we constantly upgraded through electronic shielding which we constantly.... and through dispersal and through mechanisms that enabled us to detect the possibility of an attack or the effect of an attack and get the bombers airborne. Once airborne, they were fairly protected once they could get out of a blast environment. We never felt that our bomber force was incapable. We never felt that it probably more effective than any other force when it came to delivery and it was controllable. And we used some very exotic techniques to keep it strong. I felt confident and comfortable with the bomber force. Also it was an instrumentality that was flexible that I could do something with to an extent that I couldn't with missiles. Missiles got better as the guidance system became more flexible, as computers and electronics made it possible to change targets, made it possible to rapidly shift from one weight of effort to another weight of effort. So technology was helping all the time, make bombers more credible and capable, make missiles more flexible and accurate.
INT: Excellent answer.
INT: General, can I ask you then, as the new Administrations came in the Sixties, McNamara started to change a lot of the plans that had been (inaudible). What was the Air Force's feeling of McNamara anhis whiz kids?
GRED: Well, it was a hate-love relationship I suppose. McNamara is a creature of the Air Force. Now his first assignment in the military came when he worked as an analyst for General LeMay and for other senior Air Force generals and analyzing effect of bombardment. he was very brilliant. we didn't like the way in which he rejected contrary opinions to those that he had formed. so, you know, Mr. McNamara did some very wonderful things but one of the things that we were concerned about was his inability to listen or his almost rejection of military advice in many instances. I thought General LeMay was a brilliant man with magnificent military acumen. He was rejected out of hand often times. He's not an easy man to take. He's not personable and he's not a jokester. Neither was Mr. McNamara. So they had a very tough relationship. On the other hand Mr. McNamara came in with some ideas of how he was gonna change a lot of things, many of which he abandoned early on when he came face to face with the cost. the cost of flexible response, as it was articulated by Maxwell Taylor and had been picked up by the Kennedy Administration, you know, became astronomical. And like all other Secretaries of Defense and Ministers of Defense, you must deal with the realities of fiscal policy and a lot of the things he wanted to do he couldn't do and it cost too much. It cost too much in manpower, it cost too much in money and the economy of nuclear forces, you know, really gets to a decision-maker. It got to NATO. When they found the cost of trying to mount conventional defense against the huge hordes of the Soviet Army and they grasped nuclear deterrents as an economic measure, and it was economical, awesome in its potential, but economic in its impact on fiscal things. So McNamara really began to recognize that and he began to put attention and money into the vitality of the nuclear force. He did a lot of good insofar as bringing along missiles, bringing along the Polaris submarine, bringing along improvements in accuracy. he was surrounded by an analyst who pooh-poohed many of the things that were done, and he listened to him too much in my judgement. Some of my friends in the.. systems analysis would say 'we looked at that, it was not economical, we cancelled that. We looked at this, it was not viable, we cancelled that.' And they did that with almost knee-jerk uh wisdom. that irritated the military. But on the other hand that was the way that the world was going. Things were gravitating to the Secretary of Defense to an amazing degree and the military resented that because there was a fierce battle constantly going on and he was constantly resolving the turf battle adverse to what had been the conventional military wisdom. So it was a difficult time and the history of the times is still misunderstood from the perspective of many of us. Mr. McNamara wrote a book the other day that it was widespread but to me there is a thing in that book that indicates the problem is still there. You know, he said in that book several different times that he and the President sought the advice of the military but that advice came every time with a caveat, that this posed problems and it could conceivably cause the Soviets or the Chinese to intervene, and that he and the President had already decided that's a risk they were not going to take. They made that decision insofar as the United States is concerned, but then the United States turned around and sent fifty five thousand men over there, many involuntarily, that risked everything and lost it. And a nation that is unwilling to take risks cannot long require its young men and now its young women to take total risks. Therein is the fallacy. You can't play in that game without taking some risk and you must take some risk as a nation if you're asking your people to take some risk. And that's what we did for too long. You might get away with that for a while, but you can't get away with