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  Library Correspondence Dwight D. Eisenhower: Press Conference, March 31, 1954

Exerpts from Press Conference
Participants: Dwight D. Eisenhower, President, Lewis L. Strauss, Chairmanof the AEC, and various news correspondents
Date: March 31, 1954

The following questions by news correspondents and answers by Lewis L. Strauss, Chairman, AEC, came at the conclusion of his prepared statement, which is attached.

Q. Mr. Chairman, you said that this particular explosion was not out of control. But is it possible that in any series of tests that a hydrogen explosion or series of them could get out of control?

A. I am informed by the scientists that that is impossible.

Q. Admiral Strauss, yesterday, at his news conference, Secretary of Defense Wilson said the results of the March 1st test - is the one he was referring to - was unbelievable. Would you care to comment on that?

A. No, I don't think I should comment on that. The use of that adjective, I think, was played up beyond the point where the Secretary intended it. I don't know what is meant by "unbelievable" and I would rather not comment.

Q. Mr. Chairman, do you intend to imply by the last paragraph in this statement that the work on the weapon phase of the atom is reaching a completion; that we are approaching a point where pursuit of this will no longer yield very large profits, and that we will, therefore, turn our research power to the peaceful applications?

A. . . . I think the answer to that is this: The Military have certain requirements. The Commission is engaged in attempting to fill those requirements. The ability of the Commission to devote attention and fissionable material to peaceful requirements, peaceful needs, is always junior to the defense needs, by definition of the Act itself. The result of these tests has brought us very much nearer to the day of the satisfaction of military requirements, put us within sight of them, so that we can see the ability to proceed aggressively with the peacetime development of power to an extent that we were not able to before the tests.

Q. Admiral Strauss, can you go beyond this statement and describe the area of the blast, the effectiveness of the blast, and give a general description of what actually happened when the H-bomb went off?

A.  The area of the blast, would be about-
THE PRESIDENT: Why not depend on these pictures they are all going to see?
(Mr. Strauss) I understand you are going to see a film, a picture, of the 1952 shot. The area, if I were to describe it specifically, would be translatable into the number of megatons involved, which is a matter of military secrecy. The effects, you said the effectiveness - I don't know exactly what you meant by that, sir, so I don't know how to answer it.

Q. Well, I don't mean in the percentage of the effectiveness of or the efficiency of the blast itself. But many people in Congress, I think many elsewhere, have been reaching out and grasping for some information as to what happens when the H-bomb goes off, how big is the area of destruction in its various stages; and what I am asking you for now is some enlightenment on that subject.

A. Well, the nature of an H-bomb, Mr. Wilson, is that, in effect, it can be made to be as large as you wish, as large as the military requirement demands, that is to say, an H-bomb can be made as-large enough to take out a city. (A chorus of "What?")To take out a city, to destroy a city.

Q. How big a city?

A. Any city.

Q. Any city, New York?

A. The metropolitan area, yes.
(With reference to the foregoing, Mr. Strauss added later that he meant 11 put out of commission," not "to destroy.")

Q. Mr. Chairman, may I ask this specific question: If you were to make a comparison, duplicating the explosion that occurred at Eniwetok, with this building in which we are right now as the center, what would be left of this city of Washington?

A. Well I couldn't say, because the precise measurements of these two shots have not been completely calibrated. It may be as many as a month or two before I know the answer to it. It would be a very extensive.

Q.  Will you provide that answer at some time, sir?

A.  I won't make a definite commitment, but I would certainly like to.

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