December 8, 1953
Madame President, Members of the General Assembly:-When
Secretary 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 tests 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 of the courage and the faith which
can bring to this world lasting peace for all nations and
happiness and well-being for all men.
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 de- liberations
on that lovely island we sought to invoke those same great
concepts of universal peace and human dignity which are
so cleanly etched in your Charter. Neither would it be
a measure of this great opportunity merely to recite, however
hopefully, pious platitudes.
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 warfare.
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 peoples 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 incontrovertible
facts that I know. I need hardly point out to this assembly,
however, that this subject is global, not merely national
On July 16, 1945, the United States set off the world's
first atomic test explosion.
Since that date in 1945, the United States has conducted
forty-two test explosions.
Atomic bombs today are more than twenty five 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, increase 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 through all 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. This development has been
such that atomic weapons have virtually achieved conventional
status within our armed services. In the United States
services, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Marine
Corps are all capable of putting this weapon to military
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 thermonuclear
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 greater significance.
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 surprise aggression.
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 the citizens of any nation.
The awful arithmetic of the atomic bomb does not permit
of such an 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
Should such an atomic attack be launched against the United
States, our reaction 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 justice.
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
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 build.
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 agreements, 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 life.
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 everywhere, can move forward toward peace and happiness
and well-being. In this quest, I know that we must not
I know that in a world divided, such as ours today, salvation
cannot be attained by one dramatic act.
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 must 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 an Austrian peace treaty.
On the same record still stands the request of the United
Nations to negotiate the problems of Korea.
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 communiquÎ,
the United States, Great Britain and France have agreed
promptly to meet with the Soviet Union. 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
We never have, we never will, propose or suggest that
the Soviet Union surrender what is rightfully theirs.
We will never say that the peoples of Russia are an enemy
with whom we have no desire ever to deal or mingle in friendly
and fruitful relationship.
On the contrary, we hope that this coming conference may
initiate a relationship with the Soviet Union which will
eventually bring about a free intermingling of the peoples
of the East and of the West - the one sure, human way of
developing the understanding required for confident and
Instead of the discontent which is now setting upon Eastern
Germany, occupied Austria and the 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 lot.
These are not idle words of shallow vision. 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 intent.
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.
There 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 Nations.
In its resolution of
Nov. 18, 1953, this General Assembly suggested-and I
quote - "that the Disarmament Commission
study the desirability of establishing a subcommittee consisting
of representatives of the powers principally involved,
which should seek, in private, an acceptable solution -
and report such a solution to the General Assembly and
to the Security Council not later than 1 September, 1954."
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 overshadows 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 peace.
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
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 to earlier.
The United States is prepared to undertake 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 undertaken without irritations
and mutual suspicions incident to any attempt to set up
a completely acceptable system of world-wide inspection
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 whereby 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 whereby 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 peacetime uses of fissionable material; and with
the certainty that they had all the material needed for
the conduct of all experiments that were appropriate;
Second, begin to diminish the potential destructive power
of the world's atomic stockpiles;
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
States does not wish merely to present strength, but also
the desire and the hope for peace.
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 everywhere, be they
governed or governors, may they be the decisions which
will lead this world 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 life.
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.