I have no specifc source saying explicitly that there wasn’t a plan to use nuclear weopons in response to a tactical nuclear weopon. However, I do know what the decsion making stucture for the use of nuclear weopons was. In a case where there hadn’t been a decapiting strike on civillian administrators, the Presidnet was presented with plans from the SIOP (US nuclear plan) which were exclusively plans based around a statagy of descrution of the Communist bloc. The SIOP was the US nuclear plan but triggers for nuclear war weren’t in it anywhere. When induvidual soliders had tactical nuclear weopons their instructions weren’t fixed—they could be instructed explictly not to use tactical nukes, in general though the structure of the US armed forces was to let the commanding officer decide the most approate course of action in a given sitaution.
Second thing to note—tactical nukes were viewed as battlefeild weopons by both sides. Niether viewed them as anything special becaue they were nuclear in the sense that they should engender an all out attack.
So maybe I should clarify that by saying that there was no plan that required the use of tactical nuclear weopons in response a Soviet use of them.
Probably the best single text of US nuclear war plans is The Bomb by Fred Kaplan.
Probably best source on how tactical nukes were used is Command and Control by Eric Schollsser
On the second one, I have a post here that serves to give the wider statagic context:
But it’s not clear to me how Berlin is relvent. It’s relvent insofar as it’s an important factor in why the crisis happened but it’s not clear to me why Berlin increased the chance of escaltion into nuclear war beyond the fact that the Soviet response to a US invasion of Cuba could be to attempt to take Berlin.
Why does the China-India war matter here post Sino-Soviet split?
Thanks for the detailed response and for linking to that other post. I’ve been dealing with chickenpox in the house so this is probably later and briefer than the analysis deserves.
+1 to ‘Command and Control’ and ‘Nuclear Folly’ as well worth reading—between them, enough to dispel any illusions that the destructive power of nuclear weapons was matched with processes to avoid going wrong, whether by accident or human folly. I’ll check out ‘The Bomb’.
The worrying aspect for me is the combination of leeway for particular commanding officers combined with environmental factors that reduce the ability of those officers to know what’s going on, and/or to exercise rational judgement. The sub is the most obvious example of this.
beyond the fact that the Soviet response to a US invasion of Cuba could be to attempt to take Berlin
That’s a pretty strong argument in favour of escalation to nuclear exchange! I think it’s also other situations taking up the bandwidth of intelligence and politicians, introducing uncertainty, increasing the number of locations where normal accidents or individuals doing something stupid could increase tensions. For China, it came to nothing but one more thing taking up attention and not ideal if you’re dealing with one nuclear-armed Communist country to have another one with an unpredictable leader invading another country...