In This Review

The Gaither Committee, Eisenhower, and the Cold War

The Gaither Committee, Eisenhower, and the Cold War
By David L. Snead
242 pp, Ohio State University Press, 1999

After the shock of Sputnik in 1957, Eisenhower received a top-secret report from the Gaither Committee, a group of outside experts. The group included Paul H. Nitze, a drafter of the earlier call to arms, nsc-68. Leaked to the press to spur U.S. preparedness against the Soviet threat, the Gaither report was seen as an example of post-Sputnik overreaction. Snead shows that Eisenhower commissioned the study before Sputnik, evaluated its conclusions with care, and adopted the sensible ones, such as the system of unified theater commands used today. But Eisenhower could not explain his sober reaction to an inflamed public, and Kennedy argued in his 1960 campaign that he would give the country a stronger defense. In this excellent study, full of personalities and domestic context, Snead also illustrates how the Gaither Committee actually reached the height of its influence as its ideas on a missile buildup and civil defense were taken up in the Kennedy administration.