DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER BEFORE THE
UNITED NATIONS - 1953
Atoms for Peace
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Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace Speech.
It follows the full text transcript of
Dwight D. Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace speech, delivered
before the U.N. General Assembly, New York - December 8,
[Mme. Vijaya Pandit, President of the United
Nations General Assembly]
Members of the General Assembly:
General Hammarskjold’s invitation to address
this General Assembly reached me in Bermuda, I
was just beginning a series of conferences with
the Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers of
Great Britain and of France. Our subject was
some of the problems that beset our world.
During the remainder of the Bermuda Conference,
I had constantly in mind that ahead of me lay a
great honor. That honor is mine today as I stand
here, Privileged to address the General Assembly
of the United Nations.
At the same time that I appreciate the
distinction of addressing you, I have a sense of
exhilaration as I look upon this Assembly.
Never before in history has so much hope for so
many people been gathered together in a single
organization. Your deliberations and decisions
during these somber years have already realized
part of those hopes.
But the great test and the great accomplishments
still lie ahead. And in the confident
expectation of those accomplishments, I would
use the office which, for the time being, I
hold, to assure you that the Government of the
United States will remain steadfast in its
support of this body. This we shall do in the
conviction that you will provide a great share
of the wisdom, the courage, and the faith which
can bring to this world lasting peace for all
nations, and happiness and well-being for all
Clearly, it would not be fitting for me to take
this occasion to present to you a unilateral
American report on Bermuda. Nevertheless, I
assure you that in our deliberations on that
lovely island we sought to invoke those same
great concepts of universal peace and human
dignity which are so clearly etched in your
Neither would it be a measure of this great
opportunity merely to recite, however hopefully,
I therefore decided that this occasion warranted
my saying to you some of the things that have
been on the minds and hearts of my legislative
and executive associates and on mine for a great
many months--thoughts I had originally planned
to say primarily to the American people.
I know that the American people share my deep
belief that if a danger exists in the world, it
is a danger shared by all--and equally, that if
hope exists in the mind of one nation, that hope
should be shared by all.
Finally, if there is to be advanced any proposal
designed to ease even by the smallest measure
the tensions of today’s world, what more
appropriate audience could there be than the
members of the General Assembly of the United
I feel impelled to speak today in a language
that in a sense is new--one which I, who have
spent so much of my life in the military
profession, would have preferred never to use.
That new language is the language of atomic
The atomic age has moved forward at such a pace
that every citizen of the world should have some
comprehension, at least in comparative terms, of
the extent of this development of the utmost
significance to every one of us. Clearly, if the
people of the world are to conduct an
intelligent search for peace, they must be armed
with the significant facts of today’s existence.
My recital of atomic danger and power is
necessarily stated in United States terms, for
these are the only in controvertible facts that
I know. I need hardly point out to this
Assembly, however, that this subject is global,
not merely national in character.
On July 16, 1945, the United States set off the
world’s first atomic explosion. Since that date
in 1945, the United States of America has
conducted 42 test explosions.
Atomic bombs today are more than 25 times as
powerful as the weapons with which the atomic
age dawned, while hydrogen weapons are in the
ranges of millions of tons of TNT equivalent.
Today, the United States’ stockpile of atomic
weapons, which, of course, increases daily,
exceeds by many times the explosive equivalent
of the total of all bombs and all shells that
came from every plane and every gun in every
theatre of war in all of the years of World War
A single air group, whether afloat or
land-based, can now deliver to any reachable
target a destructive cargo exceeding in power
all the bombs that fell on Britain in all of
World War II.
In size and variety, the development of atomic
weapons has been no less remarkable. The
development has been such that atomic weapons
have virtually achieved conventional status
within our armed services. In the United States,
the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the
Marine Corps are all capable of putting this
weapon to military use.
But the dread secret, and the fearful engines of
atomic might, are not ours alone.
In the first place, the secret is possessed by
our friends and allies, Great Britain and
Canada, whose scientific genius made a
tremendous contribution to our original
discoveries, and the designs of atomic bombs.
The secret is also known by the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union has informed us that, over
recent years, it has devoted extensive resources
to atomic weapons. During this period, the
Soviet Union has exploded a series of atomic
devices, including at least one involving
If at one time the United States possessed what
might have been called a monopoly of atomic
power, that monopoly ceased to exist several
years ago. Therefore, although our earlier start
has permitted us to accumulate what is today a
great quantitative advantage, the atomic
realities of today comprehend two facts of even
First, the knowledge now possessed by several
nations will eventually be shared by
others--possibly all others.
Second, even a vast superiority in numbers of
weapons, and a consequent capability of
devastating retaliation, is no preventive, of
itself, against the fearful material damage and
toll of human lives that would be inflicted by
The free world, at least dimly aware of these
facts, has naturally embarked on a large program
of warning and defense systems. That program
will be accelerated and expanded.
But let no one think that the expenditure of
vast sums for weapons and systems of defense can
guarantee absolute safety for the cities and
citizens of any nation. The awful arithmetic of
the atomic bomb does not permit any such easy
solution. Even against the most powerful
defense, an aggressor in possession of the
effective minimum number of atomic bombs for a
surprise attack could probably place a
sufficient number of his bombs on the chosen
targets to cause hideous damage.
Should such an atomic attack be launched against
the United States, our reactions would be swift
and resolute. But for me to say that the defense
capabilities of the United States are such that
they could inflict terrible losses upon an
aggressor--for me to say that the retaliation
capabilities of the United States are so great
that such an aggressor’s land would be laid
waste--all this, while fact, is not the true
expression of the purpose and the hope of the
To pause there would be to confirm the hopeless
finality of a belief that two atomic colossi are
doomed malevolently to eye each other
indefinitely across a trembling world. To stop
there would be to accept helplessly the
probability of civilization destroyed--the
annihilation of the irreplaceable heritage of
mankind handed down to us generation from
generation--and the condemnation of mankind to
begin all over again the age-old struggle upward
from savagery toward decency, and right, and
Surely no sane member of the human race could
discover victory in such desolation. Could
anyone wish his name to be coupled by history
with such human degradation and destruction.
Occasional pages of history do record the faces
of the ”Great Destroyers” but the whole book of
history reveals mankind’s never-ending quest for
peace, and mankind’s God-given capacity to
It is with the book of history, and not with
isolated pages, that the United States will ever
wish to be identified. My country wants to be
constructive, not destructive. It wants
agreement, not wars, among nations. It wants
itself to live in freedom, and in the confidence
that the people of every other nation enjoy
equally the right of choosing their own way of
So my country’s purpose is to help us move out
of the dark chamber of horrors into the light,
to find a way by which the minds of men, the
hopes of men, the souls of men every where, can
move forward toward peace and happiness and well
In this quest, I know that we must not lack
I know that in a world divided, such as our
today, salvation cannot be attained by one
I know that many steps will have to be taken
over many months before the world can look at
itself one day and truly realize that a new
climate of mutually peaceful confidence is
abroad in the world.
But I know, above all else, that we much start
to take these steps--now.
The United States and its allies, Great Britain
and France, have over the past months tried to
take some of these steps. Let no one say that we
shun the conference table.
On the record has long stood the request of the
United States, Great Britain, and France to
negotiate with the Soviet Union the problems of
a divided Germany.
On that record has long stood the request of the
same three nations to negotiate the problems of
Most recently, we have received from the Soviet
Union what is in effect an expression of
willingness to hold a Four Power meeting. Along
with our allies, Great Britain and France, we
were pleased to see that this note did not
contain the unacceptable preconditions
previously put forward.
As you already know from our joint Bermuda
communique, the United States, Great Britain,
and France have agreed promptly to meet with the
The Government of the United States approaches
this conference with hopeful sincerity. We will
bend every effort of our minds to the single
purpose of emerging from that conference with
tangible results toward peace--the only true way
of lessening international tension.
We never have, we never will, propose or suggest
that the Soviet Union surrender what is
We will never say that the people of Russia are
an enemy with whom we have no desire ever to
deal or mingle in friendly and fruitful
On the contrary, we hope that this coming
Conference may initiate a relationship with the
Soviet Union which will eventually bring about a
free inter mingling of the peoples of the east
and of the west--the one sure, human way of
developing the understanding required for
confident and peaceful relations.
Instead of the discontent which is now settling
upon Eastern Germany, occupied Austria, and
countries of Eastern Europe, we seek a
harmonious family of free European nations, with
none a threat to the other, and least of all a
threat to the peoples of Russia.
Beyond the turmoil and strife and misery of
Asia, we seek peaceful opportunity for these
peoples to develop their natural resources and
to elevate their lives.
These are not idle works or shallow visions.
Behind them lies a story of nations lately come
to independence, not as a result of war, but
through free grant or peaceful negotiation.
There is a record, already written, of
assistance gladly given by nations of the west
to needy peoples, and to those suffering the
temporary effects of famine, drought, and
These are deeds of peace. They speak more loudly
than promises or protestations of peaceful
But I do not wish to rest either upon the
reiteration of past proposals or the restatement
of past deeds. The gravity of the time is such
that every new avenue of peace, no matter how
dimly discernible, should be explored.
These is at least one new avenue of peace which
has not yet been well explored--an avenue now
laid out by the General Assembly of the United
In its resolution of November 18th, 1953 this
General Assembly suggested--and I quote--”that
the Disarmament Commission study the
desirability of establishing a sub-committee
consisting of representatives of the Powers
principally involved, which should seek in
private an acceptable solution . . . and report
on such a solution to the General Assembly and
to the Security Council not later than 1
The United States, heeding the suggestion of the
General Assembly of the United Nations, is
instantly prepared to meet privately with such
other countries as may be ”principally
involved,” to seek ”an acceptable solution” to
the atomic armaments race which over shadows not
only the peace, but the very life, of the world.
We shall carry into these private or diplomatic
talks a new conception.
The United States would seek more than the mere
reduction or elimination of atomic materials for
It is not enough to take this weapon out of the
hands of the soldiers. It must be put into the
hands of those who will know how to strip its
military casing and adapt it to the arts of
The United States knows that if the fearful
trend of atomic military build up can be
reversed, this greatest of destructive forces
can be developed into a great boon, for the
benefit of all mankind.
The United States knows that peaceful power from
atomic energy is no dream of the future. That
capability, already proved, is here--now--today.
Who can doubt, if the entire body of the world’s
scientists and engineers had adequate amounts of
fissionable material with which to test and
develop their ideas, that this capability would
rapidly be transformed into universal,
efficient, and economic usage.
To hasten the day when fear of the atom will
begin to disappear from the minds of people, and
the governments of the East and West, there are
certain steps that can be taken now.
I therefore make the following proposals:
The Governments principally involved, to the
extent permitted by elementary prudence, to
begin now and continue to make joint
contributions from their stockpiles of normal
uranium and fissionable materials to an
international Atomic Energy Agency. We would
expect that such an agency would be set up under
the aegis of the United Nations.
The ratios of contributions, the procedures and
other details would properly be within the scope
of the ” private conversations” I have referred
The United States is prepared to under take
these explorations in good faith. Any partner of
the United States acting in the same good faith
will find the United States a not unreasonable
or ungenerous associate.
Undoubtedly initial and early contributions to
this plan would be small in quantity. However,
the proposal has the great virtue that it can be
under taken without the irritations and mutual
suspicions incident to any attempt to set up a
completely acceptable system of world-wide
inspection and control.
The Atomic Energy Agency could be made
responsible for the impounding, storage, and
protection of the contributed fissionable and
other materials. The ingenuity of our scientists
will provide special safe conditions under which
such a bank of fissionable material can be made
essentially immune to surprise seizure.
The more important responsibility of this Atomic
Energy Agency would be to devise methods where
by this fissionable material would be allocated
to serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind.
Experts would be mobilized to apply atomic
energy to the needs of agriculture, medicine,
and other peaceful activities. A special purpose
would be to provide abundant electrical energy
in the power-starved areas of the world. Thus
the contributing powers would be dedicating some
of their strength to serve the needs rather than
the fears of mankind.
The United States would be more than willing--it
would be proud to take up with others
”principally involved: the development of plans
where by such peaceful use of atomic energy
would be expedited.
Of those ”principally involved” the Soviet Union
must, of course, be one.
I would be prepared to submit to the Congress of
the United States, and with every expectation of
approval, any such plan that would:
First--encourage world-wide investigation into
the most effective peace time uses of
fissionable material, and with the certainty
that they had all the material needed for the
conduct of all experiments that were
Second--begin to diminish the potential
destructive power of the world’s atomic
Third--allow all peoples of all nations to see
that, in this enlightened age, the great powers
of the earth, both of the East and of the West,
are interested in human aspirations first,
rather than in building up the armaments of war;
Fourth--open up a new channel for peaceful
discussion, and initiate at least a new approach
to the many difficult problems that must be
solved in both private and public conversations,
if the world is to shake off the inertia imposed
by fear, and is to make positive progress toward
Against the dark background of the atomic bomb,
the United Stats does not wish merely to present
strength, but also the desire and the hope for
The coming months will be fraught with fateful
decisions. In this Assembly; in the capitals and
military headquarters of the world; in the
hearts of men every where, be they governors, or
governed, may they be decisions which will lead
this work out of fear and into peace.
To the making of these fateful decisions, the
United States pledges before you--and therefore
before the world--its determination to help
solve the fearful atomic dilemma--to devote its
entire heart and mind to find the way by which
the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be
dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his
I again thank the delegates for the great honor
they have done me, in inviting me to appear
before them, and in listening to me so
courteously. Thank you.