Terms of Reference (1952)


A declassified document formerly classified as Top Secret, security information, Restricted Data under the Atomic Energy Act of 1946, is a redacted draft (psychological operations) policy document titled  “Terms of Reference for Ad Hoc Panel L (Psychological Implications of Projected Thermonuclear Bomb Tests),” dated July 23, 1952.  The document explores three options in dealing with public communication of information regarding the Operation Ivy-Mike thermonuclear test.  Using the “Teller-Ulam principles of staged radiation implosion,” the test was conducted in early November, 1952 at Eniwetok Proving Grounds.

The draft guidance is a fascinating discussion of “three possible methods of dealing with the forthcoming series of tests” at Eniwetok (p.4):

  1. Make no announcement of the tests.
  2. Exploit the tests fully, leaving the impression that the United States has weapons in being.
  3. Make a factual but general public announcement.

The draft guidance explores Option 1 as most compelling, in that the Soviet Union might announce or “leak” the details of Mike is an attempt to discredit the U.S., or announce they had conducted a similar test, placing the U.S. in “an untenable situation” (p.5). Not releasing information to the public, the document states, would “place the United States in the position of withholding vital information from its own people. It would make it almost impossible to control (affect) the inevitable speculation that would arise in the press” (p.5).

The policy document ultimately recommends making a “factual but general” announcement that would allow for a “diminished opportunity for the Soviet Union to make propaganda headway”; in addition, a public announcement would communicate “that the concept of atomic weapons now being accepted by the public will have added to it an additional member” (p. 9).

Read Terms of Reference.