Eisenhower’s Future Theater of War

Dominique Awis

12 January 2017

.pdf available here awis_eisenhower_future_theater_of_war_slides



  • “The management of society by technical experts.” McDougall (1985)
  •  A society which uses technology in purpose of state security.

Russia and the U.S. were technocratic societies given their work on satellites and ballistic missile technologies.



  • The Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, AL had long been working in ballistic missile technology in the 1950s.
  • Von Braun saw space and national defense linked.



  • News out of Moscow reached the U.S. in a press release, “The first satellite was successfully launched in the U.S.S.R. on Oct.4.  It is fitted with radio transmitters continuously emitting signals.” — New York Times (1957)

The World Reacted

  • News of the Sputnik had reached television.  When John Glenn was asked the same night of Sputnik’s news his reaction was, “Well, to say the least, George, they’re out of this world.”

John Glenn Audiovisual Collection

Ball in the Air

  • In 1955 Eisenhower originally approved of Project Vanguard as a scientific Department of Defense project to be separate from the military’s ballistic missile project.
  • Project Vanguard was set to be launched within the International Geophysical Year but was not finished by the time Sputnik launched and when news of Sputnik reached Eisenhower.

Space Race

  • Eisenhower repeatedly discussed the U.S. was not in a “space race” with the Soviet Union and that the Soviet achievement in space was not a military threat. (Logsdon, 1970)


Congressional Subcommittee

  • Johnson  began collecting information shortly from the Pentagon after Sputnik’s launch and assembled a list of witnesses to hear from to prepare a Congressional hearing on national defense and US science and technological security.
  •  “Our country is disturbed over the tremendous military and scientific achievement of Russia. Our people have believed that in the field of scientific weapons and in technology and science, that we were well ahead of Russia. ” — Johnson, 1957


Congressional Hearings

  • Congress met with various agents over this period, however during the years 1957-1960 met the most with national defense agents, military and government defense agency (DOD).




As Johnson Feared

  • The Soviets were ahead of the US in space, science, and technology and Johnson could not stand for that.
  • He thought of space as a potential battleground, a place the Soviets might try to assert their Communist dominance.  The US was lagged behind militarily, national defensively.
  • Johnson remembers asking von Braun, “Why do you want to go to the Moon?” To which von Braun replied, “Most certainly, when Columbus discovered America, he found very little here that was worth talking about and he could not possibly have possessed the imagination to predict all the things that developed on the continent he discovered. I think curiosity, and nothing else, should be the motivating power in exploration and research, and it is just curiosity why I would like to go to the moon.”



Eisenhower did not see the military significance of satellite and rocketry.  He assured the public and the press U.S. space would not be militaristic.  He saw human spaceflight as futuristic warfare and not present warfare.  He might have thought of humans on the Moon as science fiction rather than science possibility.


More than science fiction

To Johnson, space was more than science fiction.  To Johnson, space was a battleground to be fought against the Soviet Union.  Johnson was sure to lead for U.S. dominance in space under the rationale of national security and national prestige.



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