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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Office of the Historian > Foreign Relations of the United States > Kennedy Administration > Volume XIV
Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, Volume XIV, Berlin Crisis, 1961-1962
Released by the Office of the Historian
Documents 171-204

October-November 1961:
The Crisis at the Friedrichstrasse Crossing

171. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State/1/

Paris, October 7, 1961, noon.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/10-761. Confidential. Repeated to London, Moscow, Bonn, and Berlin.

1885. Our current assessment is that we are heading into very heavy weather with France and de Gaulle on Berlin/Germany policy, and that there has been a deepening of differences, which is most acute on issue of negotiations, but which extends also to substantive aspects. In view recent trends we would not be surprised to see de Gaulle soon expressing publicly his disaccord with direction US policy, which he came close to doing in October 2 speech/2/ (reference to France's vocation to hold Allies firm) and which he reportedly did semi-privately September 25 to MRP delegation (reference to almost lost hope of maintaining Berlin status quo because of Allied, especially US position). There is a possibility that de Gaulle's position will lead him to a break with the US and UK on policy in Central Europe, particularly if he has the support of the Federal Republic.

/2/For text of this speech, see Major Addresses, Statements and Press Conferences of General Charles de Gaulle, pp. 151-153.

There are four major aspects to French discontent. 1) Negotiations. De Gaulle has been using almost every public opportunity to restate opposition to negotiations with Soviets on Berlin/Germany unless these preceded by détente, condition regarded here as most unlikely to be fulfilled. De Gaulle feels that under present circumstances negotiations mean in fact Western concessions.

One difference in viewpoint on negotiations concerns likelihood of war, which looms larger to US than to French and de Gaulle, who has suggested that "K" will finally back down. Consequently argument does not find resonance here that negotiations are necessary to show world everything was done prior to war to settle questions peacefully. Couve de Murville in speaking 5 October to Foreign Affairs Commission used de Gaulle reasoning of 5 September press conference/3/ that opening of negotiations largely irrelevant to question of whether there will be war.

/3/For a transcript of this press conference, see ibid., pp. 140-150.

Although French policy on Berlin not governed by policy on Algeria, Berlin tension fits in with de Gaulle efforts disengage from Algeria, and prospect of early negotiations or settlement would complicate his efforts to draw military and civilian attention away from Algeria to missions which France may have in Central Europe or Berlin.

French including de Gaulle have now indicated that they might not take part in negotiations even if these arranged. While we would not want to accept this as final word, we think it constitutes important warning signal.

2) Allied consultation. We have impression--admittedly speculative--that de Gaulle feels he is not privy to American thoughts on where we are going in respect to Berlin. This is not a case of being excluded from important meetings (although he may have the usual suspicions that the US and UK talk more frankly to each other than to French). Rather it concerns the failure to pierce to essence of top US political thinking about what is acceptable and unacceptable in Central Europe, especially with reference to East Germany and European security.

3) Berlin/Germany. French position basically has been to defend occupation status of Western powers. Lack of public appeal in a position based on World War II has meant less to de Gaulle regime than to US or UK and indeed the authority of General de Gaulle has allowed France to defy many segments of world opinion (Algeria, Bizerte). His well-known views on the UN emphasize this. De Gaulle has, however, been careful to add that perspectives of negotiation are still open once Soviet agitation and menaces cease.

French apprehensions about Berlin negotiations compounded of two principal factors, concern re their own position in Berlin, likely to be weakened in any newly-negotiated status, and concern over the effects of a deal on the Federal Republic. French attitude toward latter is crucial and boils down to firm support for West Germany as far as present territory is concerned. French have been cool to Federal Republic efforts to embrace West Berlin, they are lukewarm on German reunification, and they have no sympathy for German ideas of regaining "Eastern territories" lost to bloc. However, they oppose any steps in direction de facto recognition East Germany which they think would shake Federal Republic. They are nervous about possible new trends in West Germany if policies of postwar years do not pay off. In this sense de Gaulle is oriented toward German position and will probably continue support fully FRG position re Berlin/Germany problem. Although nature of possible deal on Berlin not yet clear (if possibility in fact exists), French will be unhappy if West gives up anything significant re Federal Republic in return for Soviet-GDR permission for Western powers to maintain rights which French think should never have been challenged. This position of course tied in with a less pessimistic estimate than ours concerning both danger of war and danger that a Western policy of no concessions and no negotiations would increase possibility war.

4) European security agreement. French get nervous whenever mention is made of agreement with Russians on European security, and have indicated unhappiness over allusions in President's speeches of 25 July and 25 Sept. Particularly since there is no real Western agreement on propositions to be put to Soviets, we expect further French negative reaction (see Embtel 1823)/4/ to Secretary's mention of possible arrangements in Central Europe. French do not think these should be introduced into Berlin talks and are hostile to such ideas. They recognize that US careful not to engage Allies, but they feel that Soviets will take ball and run to detriment especially of French and German positions Central Europe.

/4/Telegram 1823, October 4, reported French reaction to the Rusk-Gromyko talks. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/10-461)

In this situation we wonder what useful steps could be taken to avert a collision that could have profound consequences on Franco-American relations. We recognize that French have been cut in fully in Washington talks. Following additional steps might be considered:

1. We might try again delicate operation of convincing de Gaulle and other French leaders that one real prospect is that--despite best efforts West--war may come from Berlin crisis, not because Khrushchev has already decided to have or not have war (de Gaulle position) but because we may not be able to convince him that West will not yield. It is in this perspective that West needs not only to speed-up military preparations but also to arrange negotiations as demonstrating will of West to find peaceful solution if one with honor feasible. There is also ever present danger of incidents that may get out of hand.

2. We might try in bilateral conversations with French to suggest more fully the nature of our thinking as to possible solutions of the Berlin/German problem and as to our possible proposals re European security. Such conversations might alleviate French feelings that they are ignorant of US thinking, and might reduce their jumpiness re the nature of the solutions in Central Europe that we are prepared to accept.

3. As mechanism for above it seems indispensable to have another Foreign Ministers meeting of the US, UK, France and FRG in the near future. We think thought should be given also to a get-together of the Chiefs of State, to which the French have recently alluded. A top-level exchange of messages between President Kennedy and de Gaulle might also help to alleviate current strains.

Comment: The above was drafted prior to the receipt of the Dept's 1990 of Oct. 6./5/ but is being sent as Embassy considers above views merit consideration.

/5/In this personal telegram from Rusk, Gavin was informed that if France was somewhat withdrawn from the present discussions on Berlin it was by its own choice. The Secretary went on to speculate that de Gaulle might be distancing himself to avoid any responsibility for a failed solution of the crisis. (Ibid., 762.00/10-661)



172. Letter From President Kennedy to His Special Representative in Berlin (Clay)/1/

Washington, October 8, 1961.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Germany, Berlin, General Clay. Top Secret. The source text bears no drafting information.

Dear General Clay: I think it is important for us to be in close touch, and so I write to bring you up to date on recent developments here and to ask your comment on several important points.

The Berlin problem has two main tracks, military and political. I am determined that we shall be clear and energetic in both. I believe that our military resolution, as shown in preparatory steps during the summer, has much to do with the somewhat increased readiness of the Soviet Union to consider serious negotiations before proceeding with its so-called peace treaty. But the military build-up is not yet satisfactory, and in particular I find hesitation and delay on the part of some who talk as if they were firm and resolute. Moreover, we have not yet worked out a strong and clear allied agreement on military responses in the event of major harassment or blockade of ground access.

I would very much like to have your own informal comments on this issue. The central question is whether we should treat a blockade of ground access as requiring prompt resort to force on the scene, with possible rapid escalation toward general war, or whether we should proceed by stages, allowing the Soviets time to understand the consequences and risks of their action. I am much struck by the force of the observation which you have made in the more limited context of minor harassments in Berlin--that it is important to be prompt and energetic in response, to avoid misunderstanding, and to prevent the hardening of a new status quo. On the other hand, an almost instantaneous resort to force may not be easy to agree with our allies, and may in fact not be in our own interest. It is not clear that we should deliberately embark on a series of actions on the ground that would quickly fail if the Soviets chose to use their full conventional capability, thus facing us very quickly with the choice between defeat and escalation. It is central to our policy that we shall have to use nuclear weapons in the end, if all else fails, in order to save Berlin, and it is fundamental that the Russians should understand this fact. I think they are beginning to do so. But the specific course of military contingency planning remains open.

Closely associated with this problem is that of the amount of authority that we should delegate to General Norstad or to his subordinate commanders. I have read with great interest your own dispatches on these matters and I will count on you to keep us informed of points where you think increased discretionary authority is needed. I do not want to confuse formal lines of communication by commenting now on the specific issues of Steinstuecken and Friedrichstrasse, but I can assure you that your views are most carefully weighed here. I am sure you understand that any limitations which I may place upon commanders in the field reflect no distrust of them, but rather my own sense of personal accountability for actions which may have consequences far beyond the field of responsibility of the specific commander concerned. Our problem, therefore, is to combine flexibility and energy in appropriate responses with the avoidance of action which infringes on responsibilities I cannot delegate. Your experience and your alertness are invaluable to us in working out this issue in specific cases.

The political problem is no simpler. Mr. Rusk's exploratory conversations with Gromyko have been just that and nothing more. As you know from immediate experience, the Germans tend to be nervous about nearly any American statement of these matters, but in fact we are still merely circling each other to find out what the areas of eventual negotiation might be. The real problem is the one which was highlighted by German misunderstanding of your own informal remarks: how do we get the Germans to recognize that it is not a betrayal of them for all of us to face the fact that we cannot enforce reunification now. We should certainly sustain strongly the broad principle of support for reunification, but we are not going to get Soviet agreement on this point right now, and we must find ways and means of sustaining the courage and energy of our German allies in the face of the continued division of their country. If we can strengthen the position of West Berlin, and get a clearly recognized and less easily harassed system of access, I think we can endure a situation in which the uniforms of the junior personnel concerned with these matters are changed. What we will not budge on are the things which are essential to the people of West Berlin and it is on that point above all that your presence and your work can be so significant. Meanwhile, I shall count on your help in finding ways of sustaining a clear sense of common purpose with our friends in West Berlin and West Germany.

Finally, it becomes more and more plain that whatever the form of an eventual settlement, it will be necessary for the West to take energetic measures in further support of the life and meaning of the city of West Berlin. I count on you in this field too, and I look forward to hearing your views on the ways and means of meeting this challenge, as they develop. In my judgment, the basic responsibility and need for initiative here fall to the people of West Berlin themselves and to the citizens of the Federal Republic, but where American stimulus or energy can be helpful, we will not hesitate. The vitality of West Berlin and the confidence of Germany are together the prizes we must win from this crisis.

I am sure that your work in Berlin is hard and demanding, and I can well believe that it has some frustrations. This crisis is one which makes unusual demands on all of us. But I do want you to know that your presence there is a source of encouragement and strength to me as I am sure it is to Mayor Brandt and all the people of West Berlin.

John F. Kennedy


173. Minutes of Meeting/1/

Washington, October 10, 1961, 11 p.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, President's Office Files, Germany. Top Secret. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room of the White House. Lemnitzer's notes on this meeting are in the National Defense University, Lemnitzer Papers, Box 29. Another record of the meeting is in a debriefing memorandum to Legere, October 11, which indicates the confusion that existed both with regard to different drafts of the papers discussed and to what was concluded at the meeting. (Ibid., Taylor Papers, Box 35, 6B NATO) For Nitze's account of the meeting, see From Hiroshima to Glasnost, pp. 203-204. In preparation for the meeting Taylor had sent the President a memorandum, dated October 10, outlining the three subjects that would be discussed. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Germany, Berlin)

The President, Secretary Rusk, Secretary McNamara, General Lemnitzer, Secretary Gilpatric, Mr. Kohler, Mr. Nitze, Mr. Hillenbrand, General Taylor, Mr. Bundy

Berlin build-up and contingency planning

The meeting began without the President. The Secretary of State reported the results of the exploratory conversations with Gromyko. The results were positive in two respects: The Soviet Union now appears willing to consider an agreement, negotiated directly with the Western powers, which would govern access to Berlin and the status of the city in such a way as to avoid the necessity for separate agreement with the DDR. Mr. Gromyko has also said that there is no "fatal time limit" on the signing of the peace treaty if negotiations prove promising. Nevertheless, the Department of State continues to believe that the need for appropriate military preparations and planning has not changed.

The Secretary of Defense outlined the military deployments which he was recommending to the President./2/ These were subsequently approved by the President and are as follows:

/2/McNamara had submitted these recommendations in a 3-page memorandum to the President, October 10. (Ibid.)

1. Deploy to Europe, starting on 1 November, eleven Air National Guard squadrons and one Tactical Control group.

2. Return from Europe to the continental United States seven Air Force squadrons of the Tactical Air Command.

3. Preposition in Europe the equipment of one Armored Division and one Infantry Division.

4. Revise Operation Long Thrust to deploy battle groups from the 4th Infantry Division in place of the 101st Airborne Division, and through a series of such exercises to provide for the rotation among the five battle groups of the 4th Infantry Division so as to have in Europe for an indefinite period, after the initiation of Operation Long Thrust, at least two combat ready battle groups plus supporting elements.

5. Deploy to Europe the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment with attached Intelligence Detachment. The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment is now stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland. Following movement to Europe, it will be replaced by the 150th Armored Cavalry Regiment which is one of the National Guard units called to active duty on 15 October.

There followed some discussion of the problem of military equipment. The Secretary of Defense indicated that in his view the recommendation stated above was the most that could now be undertaken, and he outlined his plans for improving the equipment of the Defense establishment, especially through the military budget for FY-63. The problem is one of balance, and of sustained and high-level attention to all critical items.

At this point the President entered the meeting, and after further discussion of the problem of providing statistics on relative build-up of NATO and Soviet bloc forces, and a question about the attitude of French and German representatives in Ambassadorial meetings (reported as not affirmative by Mr. Kohler) the President quickly approved the deployment recommendations of the Secretary of Defense.

There followed an intensive discussion of contingency planning based on a paper submitted by the Department of Defense and attached to this minute./3/ Comments on this document were as follows: On Paragraph I, there was agreement and approval by the President, on the understanding that the platoon probe would be governed by the agreed tripartite language (attachment 2).

/3/No copy of the original draft of this paper has been found, but it is described by Nitze in From Hiroshima to Glasnost, pp. 203-204; for the paper as agreed by the President on October 23, see the enclosure to Document 185.

Both State and Defense Departments strongly recommended that Paragraph II be undertaken before Paragraph III. This is one of the major differences between the Washington position and that of General Norstad. The President concurred in this recommendation. It should be noted, however, that II B. permits movement to elements of Paragraph III at an early date, depending upon advance deployment and reinforcement. To put it another way, as we increase our ability to fight conventionally without an immediate recourse to nuclear weapons, we increase our ability to undertake such conventional action rapidly.

On III, it was agreed to reverse the order of subparagraphs A., B., and C. Under the original subparagraph C., there should be added this clause: "with recognition that such naval messages will quite possibly lead to a Soviet reaction in Germany itself."

In Paragraph IV, the first "selective" in subparagraph B. was replaced by "battle zone" on the President's direction, after General Taylor had argued strongly that the field commander would need freedom of action within his combat area, if his use of nuclear weapons for his own battle was to be successful.

The President asked whether in fact there was much likelihood that IV. A. and B. could be undertaken without leading to IV. C. The Secretary of Defense and Mr. Nitze presented opposite views on this point. The Secretary argued that the consequences of IV. C. were so very grave that IV A. and B. should be undertaken first even though they might indeed lead very quickly to IV C. Mr. Nitze, on the other hand, believed that since IV A. and B. would greatly increase the temptation to the Soviets to initiate a strategic strike of their own, it would be best for us, in moving toward the use of nuclear weapons, to consider most seriously the option of an initial strategic strike of our own. Mr. Nitze believed that with such a strike, we could in some real sense be victorious in the series of nuclear exchanges, while we might well lose if we allowed the Soviets to strike first in the strategic battle. Mr. McNamara felt that neither side could be sure of winning by striking first and that the consequences to both sides of a strategic exchange would be so devastating that both sides had a very high interest in avoiding such a result. On the whole of Paragraph IV, the Secretary of State pointed out that the first side to use nuclear weapons will carry a very grave responsibility and endure heavy consequences before the rest of the world.

No flat decision of preferences or priorities was made with respect to Paragraphs III and IV, and in particular the division of opinion over Paragraph IV was not flatly resolved. It was agreed that a new draft of instructions from the President to General Norstad will be prepared by the Department of Defense, with advice from the Department of State, and the President will review this new draft with the aim of providing for General Norstad a clear guidance as to the basic intentions of the United States with respect to military contingency decisions.

McGeorge Bundy/4/

/4/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.


174. Memorandum of Conversation Between Dean Acheson and the German Ambassador (Grewe)/1/

Washington, October 11, 1961.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.62A/10-1161. Confidential. Attached to a memorandum of transmittal from Acheson to Executive Secretary Lucius D. Battle.

This morning the German Ambassador called on me at his request and remained for an hour's talk. He was disturbed and depressed. I shall not attempt to give the whole conversation in detail, but merely its highlights.

He began by asking me what was going on in the making of United States policy toward Germany and where was our Government headed. I told him that I could not answer this question, except in the most general way; that I had prepared a memorandum on the subject at the end of July,/2/ which I had understood was favorably received by the President and the Secretary; but I had not been in the State Department for over a month. I knew from the press that the Ambassador was disturbed and hoped that in the course of our talk he would tell me why.

/2/Document 89.

I reminded him that in my book I had described a meeting with the Chancellor in 1951 in Paris,/3/ in which he had asked me whether he could rely upon the United States, or whether it was fattening West Germany to get a more advantageous price upon selling it to the Soviet Union. I had replied that there was no possibility of this as far as I could then see ahead, which was certainly through the administration which would follow Mr. Truman's; and I now wished to assure the Ambassador that he need have no such suspicion of the present one.

/3/Sketches From Life of Men I Have Known (New York, 1959), pp. 176-177.

I went over the general points of my recommendations on policy, in the course of which he interrupted to say that he would be wholly in favor of such a policy, but that in the past two weeks it was clear that the Administration had taken a new line in regard to several points. In the first place, the Germans had been told almost categorically that it was a waste of time even for negotiating purposes to talk about reunification of Germany. In the second place, they were being urged to form contacts with the East Germans quite apart from any program looking toward unification. Thirdly, the United States was moving toward something which was indistinguishable from de facto recognition of East Germany; and, fourthly we were talking about the desirability or possibility of recognizing, as of the present, the Oder-Neisse line as the boundary of Poland. He said that these points had been practically announced by the press as the official line and that never in his ten years of working with the U.S. Government had he felt so depressed about its policy or about his personal relations with his American colleagues.

I told him that I had gotten from the press the same idea regarding these points, but that I had no such impression from any of my friends in the Department. I would, of course, disagree with such a policy; although it would seem to me that, if a Russian acceptance of the status quo in Berlin (ante the division of the city) could be obtained, the recognition of the Oder-Neisse line would be a price worth paying--not that it was worth much, DeGaulle and others having already indicated their willingness to pay it. To this he replied that all that Germany could do, since every fifth person was a refugee from the east of that line, would be to say that force would never be used.

The rest of the conversation was taken up by my urging the Ambassador to urge the Government in Bonn (which he said was practically settled with the Chancellor continuing) to emerge from the trauma of the election and take a positive and vigorous position. My impression of the German official attitude, I said, was that it was negative, suspicious, and hysterical, seeing dangers in every suggestion, protesting, making no positive suggestions, and taking no action. I said that even a wrong attitude was better than none and that action of any sort would calm a nervous situation.

I urged the Ambassador to get the Government to do two things: One was to work out a practical negotiating position, which he was to present and fight for; secondly, to take steps so that the German Government would be able economically, politically, and militarily to play a vigorous and active part in carrying out the agreed policy.

The Ambassador said that he had made the suggestion that if worse came to worst we should blockade the Baltic and the Black Sea. I said that this did not impress me, first of all, because it was a suggestion by them of what someone else should do; secondly, because I had studied the same suggestion and had made it myself, but only upon the realization that such action was quite likely to produce immediate hostilities, for which we had all better be prepared.

The Ambassador asked what I would think of the proposal that Berlin should be made the eleventh Laender [Land]. I said that, as a proposal coming from the Germans, it made no sense to me. In the first place, it would be the height of provocative action by a government which was prepared to take no risk at all. Here again it was the suggestion that somebody else do something. From the point of view of the allies, it seemed to me to be based upon an acceptance of the division of Germany and the attempt to retain an enclave far within East Germany rather than our present position, which was that we held West Berlin as the symbol of reunification of Germany to which we were all pledged. The proposal would play into the hands of those people in England and elsewhere who talked about the folly of "fighting for Berlin."

I said that what I would like to see from the Germans was a responsible and vigorous attitude by a government which regarded itself as speaking for an important power.

I reminded the Ambassador that, while he was now criticizing what he said was U.S. policy as being too weak, Strauss had criticized my suggestions as being too strong, even to the point of recklessness. The Germans could not have it both ways, and it was time that they worked out a policy which they were prepared to propose and back up with power.

D. A.


175. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and European Regional Organizations/1/

Washington, October 12, 1961, 4:18 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/10-1261. Top Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Fessenden on October 11; cleared by Nitze, S, and S/S; and approved by Kohler.

Topol 531. For Finletter from the Secretary. Secretary McNamara and I are deeply concerned at slow progress in NAC consideration of instructions to NATO military authorities on Berlin contingency planning. Although we gather several meetings have been held, the reports we have on proceedings to date indicate a lack of any real sense of urgency. We consider it imperative that the Council be given a sense of real urgency in this vital matter and that the discussions be conducted with greater purposefulness. Council's ability to handle this subject, which is so central to our entire Berlin program, is a real test of its effectiveness.

As a first step, I request that above be discussed with Stikker to enlist his help. We are also giving serious consideration to sending Ros Gilpatric over to meet with the Council next week. It may also be necessary to undertake bilateral approaches in capitals if Council discussions continue to drag on.

I would also appreciate full telegraphic reporting on Council's discussions of this subject. We understand there have been some meetings since October 3 on which we have not received reports.

I would appreciate any further thoughts you may have on this matter./2/

/2/On October 13 Finletter replied that he thought the Department of State was doing the North Atlantic Council an injustice with regard to the time it took to deal with the Berlin problem. Finletter added that the personal discussions that often helped shape a favorable governmental position took time, and stressed that since the four Western Allies took a long time to arrive at their position, several NAC members felt they should have equal time. Finletter concluded that both he and Stikker believed sending Gilpatric at the present time would be a mistake. (Polto 482 from Paris; ibid., 762.0221/10-1361)



176. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Germany/1/

Washington, October 13, 1961, 1:28 p.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, President's Office Files, Germany. Secret; Priority.

1025. Eyes only for Charg[. Please deliver following letter from President to Chancellor Adenauer at earliest opportunity:/2/

/2/Another copy of telegram 1025 bears a notation stating that the letter was delivered on October 14. (Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204) A similar letter was sent to de Gaulle. (Telegram 2136 to Paris, October 13; ibid., Central Files, 762.00/10-1361) Extracts from the letter to Adenauer are also printed in Grewe, Rückblenden, pp. 506-507.

Begin text

Dear Mr. Chancellor: Thank you for your letter of October 4./3/

/3/A copy of this letter, which is summarized in this telegram, is in the Kennedy Library, President's Office Files, Germany.

I was especially gratified by your reaction to my speech at the United Nations, as I was also by Foreign Minister von Brentano's public expressions of appreciation.

It is a source of satisfaction to me that you have frankly expressed your views concerning European security. It is only through such candid exchanges that we can preserve the unity and resolution of the West, which, we both agree, is absolutely essential.

Before turning to the main subject of your letter, I should like to take this occasion to put before you certain general considerations relating to the present stage of the Berlin crisis. With the conclusion of the round of talks which Secretary of State Rusk and I have had with Foreign Minister Gromyko, the time has come to take counsel with one another. In cooperation with our British and French Allies, we need to assess the significance of certain statements made by Mr. Gromyko, to determine the best course of action for us to pursue, and then to move ahead decisively along lines calculated to achieve our common objectives with respect to Germany and Berlin.

You have been kept fully informed of our discussions with Gromyko through your Ambassador in Washington. As you know, these talks were purely exploratory on both sides. In a real sense they did not move beyond the stage of verbal sparring. As Secretary Rusk indicated to the Ambassadors, the following generalizations seem justified in the light of the Gromyko talks.

1. The Soviets have been warned and they appear to have taken cognizance of the warning that our present course is dangerous to them.

2. They are clear on the point that negotiations on Germany and Berlin must be between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers, not between the GDR and the Western Powers.

3. The time element has acquired a certain fluidity in terms of when the Soviets will proceed with unilateral action, but the West does not have unlimited time. The Soviets could, of course, proceed on a basis not disclosed by Mr. Gromyko.

4. Further contact of an exploratory nature with the Soviet Union is desirable not only to probe but to prevent unilateral acts by the Soviets which would change the facts of the situation.

I think it fair to say that, if the substance of a possible modus vivendi on Berlin has not emerged, at least the possible outlines of a procedural formula, of a framework, were suggested within which the West could reasonably explore further the possibilities of such a modus vivendi. I am referring here to the idea that a separate agreement between the United Kingdom, France, the United States and the Soviet Union might be achieved which the Soviets would undertake to superimpose upon their separate peace treaty in such form as to assure our vital interests, which include the freedom and viability of West Berlin.

I assume you would agree that it is not realistically within our power to prevent indefinitely the signing of a separate "peace treaty" between the Soviet Union and the East German regime. We have made it quite clear to the Soviets that we will not be parties to such a treaty, but this act has acquired such symbolic importance for them that at some point they will proceed to consummate it. The question for us is whether we should passively and fatalistically accept this inevitability or whether we should make a final effort to achieve by negotiation a better result than the de facto situation which we will in any event face after the conclusion of the separate "peace treaty". It must be made clear that we have no intention of withdrawing from Berlin nor do we intend to give our rights away in any negotiations. On the other hand, the logic of history and the needs of the Alliance demand that every effort, consistent with our vital interest, be made to solve this problem by peaceful and diplomatic methods before the ultimate confrontation.

I should not want to give you the impression that I am optimistic about the possible outcome of negotiations with the Soviets. Mr. Khrushchev is not interested in strengthening our position in Berlin, and he obviously has in mind using the leverage which the apparent advantages of geography give him to extract maximum concessions from the West. We cannot permit him to deprive us of any of our vital interests in Berlin, and it may well be that our application of this criterion will make any agreement impossible to attain. But we shall not find out beyond doubt until we have come to grips with the Soviets in a more substantively significant way than up to the present.

In the meantime, we must continue our military build-up and perfect our contingency planning in all its ramifications. This is a matter on which we expect to be in further communication with you.

My own view is that for the immediate future, through the period of the Soviet Congress, bilateral discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union should continue, conducted by the United States Ambassador in Moscow with Mr. Gromyko, or if necessary, Mr. Khrushchev. If these bilateral talks go sufficiently well, a Foreign Ministers' conference might be held at a later time, perhaps in mid-November. We would, of course, keep you fully informed on these discussions.

At some point we will have to decide whether to propose negotiations with the Soviets of a formal character. If we cannot make progress through the normal processes of diplomacy, then we shall be faced with even graver military decisions than those we have taken so far. Should the confrontation over Berlin move to the stage of great and dramatic crisis, we shall require not only all the resolution and clarity of purpose which we can muster but also assurances that the Alliance as a whole, and its principal members, are fully aware of and prepared for all the consequences in a military sense.

Coming now to the subject of European security, I agree with you that there is a great lack of clarity surrounding this concept as well as much public confusion.

Perhaps some of this will be eliminated by my stating unequivocally to you that we are in agreement on your main point that the imposition of a special military status for any country of Western Europe, especially the Federal Republic, would be an invitation for further Soviet incursions in Europe. This would, as you say, include great dangers for the United States, particularly for its security.

I should also clarify that so-called "disengagement" is not something we contemplate at all. This would create a vacuum of responsibility, and I do not believe we can escape our responsibilities.

As indicated in the disarmament proposals presented to the United Nations, the United States Government takes the problem of disarmament very seriously and is prepared to exhaust every effort to see what progress can be made in this field. We think it would be worthwhile to see how the confrontation in Central Europe might be reduced. It would certainly be to the great advantage of the West if the concentration of Soviet forces in the satellites could be lowered. Steps should be also studied that would assure both sides that no surprise attack is being prepared, or is about to be launched. All of this proceeds from our deep convictions that it is in the common interest of both sides that the peace be kept.

However, all these matters will require the most careful study and much time for their development. The United States regards this process as a search for areas of agreement. It is by no means something that could be agreed very quickly.

As far as the nuclear weapons component of European security is concerned, I need not remind you that it has been the long-established policy of the US Government not to relinquish control of nuclear warheads to any nation not owning them and not to transmit to any such nation information or material necessary for their manufacture. This policy is reaffirmed in the US Program for General and Complete Disarmament submitted recently in the United Nations./4/ It is my understanding that this concept is in fact entirely acceptable to you, and indeed in conformity with your own announced policies.

/4/For text of this proposal, September 25 (U.N. doc. A/4891), see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1961, pp. 1098-1105.

Let me assure you that none of this is considered under any illusion as to the nature and purposes of the Soviet regime, with your assessment of which I can wholly agree.

Let me also assure you that I have the security of the United States and the Federal Republic very much in mind and would do nothing that might endanger either, or that might lead to the undermining of NATO, on which the security of both our nations depends.

I trust, dear Mr. Chancellor, that we are in agreement and I would appreciate your sending me your thoughts on these matters to which we both attribute such great importance./5/

/5/On October 18 Dowling reported that the CDU press chief had asked him to call to tell him that Adenauer had discussed the President's letter with the CDU Executive Committee on October 16. As a result of the letter, the press chief said, the Chancellor's uneasiness over U.S. policy had disappeared. (Telegram 932 from Bonn; Department of State, Central Files, 711.11-KE/10-1861)

Sincerely, (signed) John F. Kennedy. End text.



177. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom/1/

Washington, October 13, 1961, 8:49 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/10-1361. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Cash, cleared by Hillenbrand, and approved by Kohler. Repeated to Bonn, Paris, Moscow, and Berlin.

1988. Paris pass USRO Stoessel, McGuire. French this afternoon came down flatly opposed to London meeting Senior Officers/2/ on basis of failure understand US position and not wishing give appearance Four-Power mandate to further exploratory talks with Soviets by Ambassador Thompson in Moscow. While they could not prevent such further explorations they felt them to be undesirable under current circumstances and did not wish to be associated with them. Requested additional explanation US conclusions to be drawn Gromyko talks.

/2/At the Ambassadorial Group meeting on October 12 it had been agreed, subject to French confirmation, that a senior officer level working group would meet in London for a week beginning October 19. (Memorandum from Kohler to Rusk, October 13; ibid.)

We pointed out that French Government assuming serious responsibility by this position; they have all information we have and we had hoped London meeting would provide quadripartite consensus on where we go from here.

Full memorandum being pouched./3/

/3/A copy of the memorandum of conversation is attached to a memorandum from Kohler to Rusk, October 14. (Ibid., 762.00/10-1461)



178. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Ball to President Kennedy/1/

Washington, October 14, 1961.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, NSAM 107. Secret. The source text bears no drafting information.

Action for Dealing with the Possible Closing of the Friedrichstrasse Entry Point into East Berlin

On September 14, 1961, Secretary Rusk discussed with you the question of our response to a Soviet/GDR decision to close the access point into East Berlin at Friedrichstrasse to Allied traffic. The decision you took at that time is reflected in the National Security Action Memorandum No. 94 of September 14, 1960./2/ (A copy is attached.)

/2/Document 148.

General Clay, however, has now asked that the Friedrichstrasse problem be re-examined in the light of additional recommendations he has just made./3/

/3/Clay made these recommendations in telegram 674 from Berlin, October 5. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/10-561)

In essence, the General suggests that if the Friedrichstrasse crossing point is closed, we should force the barrier even in the face of desultory fire, with a small number of tanks. These tanks would then take a defensive position in East Berlin immediately inside the entry point. Almost simultaneously, the United States Commandant would demand an immediate conference with his Soviet counterpart, with whom he would insist upon restoration of our entry rights. If, however, our tanks were attacked by East German forces or confronted by substantial Soviet forces, our tanks would withdraw to defensive positions in West Berlin.

General Clay believes such action would probably result in the entry point being kept open and he sees as additional advantages the fact that the Soviets would again be forced to participate in a Berlin problem; we, in turn, would have demonstrated our insistence upon our right of access to and circulation in East Berlin; Soviet intentions and determination might be more clearly revealed; and Berlin opinion would be less disillusioned than if a weaker course of action had been taken.

We see considerable merit in General Clay's proposed course.

1. It would demonstrate that we consider our right of access to and circulation in East Berlin still valid.

2. It would probably make the Soviets pause before taking further encroaching action as well as affect the nature of their subsequent actions.

3. Moreover, unlike other proposals for a military response to a Soviet/GDR closing action, General Clay's proposal does not involve a serious problem of disengaging our forces for General Clay apparently accepts the fact that the operation might be limited to running tanks a few yards into East Berlin without attempting to use the access thus gained.

On the other hand we question General Clay's assertion that such action on our part is likely to keep the access point open. In our view it is unlikely that such a gesture would cause the Soviets to leave the entrance open if they had once decided to close it. As for Soviet participation in Berlin problems, this would not seem to be any longer of major significance once the Communists decided finally to split the city. Soviet responsibility within the city would be of little practical importance once the boundary was closed. And the appearance of their forces to drive out our tanks, if they in fact appeared, would be the last gasp of Soviet responsibility.

Whether this action would be less damaging to Berlin morale than present plans is also moot. The sight of our tanks plunging through the barrier to remain in the East Sector might raise hopes that the wall at last was coming down or at the very least, indicate that we intended to keep the access point open. And then if our tanks simply stopped, and subsequently had to withdraw, the let-down following in the wake of our demonstrated inability to follow through might be greater than if we had implied no bold determination.

A final and major difficulty for us is this proposed course of action, even though it might reduce the problem of follow-up and disengaging forces, still is essentially open-ended, and does not clearly forestall an uncontrollable and unpredictable situation.

However, in considering General Clay's proposals, it seems to us that the purposes of his recommendations might probably be achieved, and at the same time some of its apparent disadvantages avoided, through the following course of action:

If the Friedrichstrasse crossing point is closed either by unacceptable demands for documentation by the GDR or by the erection of a barrier, we might run two or three tanks up to the checkpoint to demolish whatever was barring our entry (even if only a customs-type gate), and then have them withdraw and stationed nearby inside the Western Sector. The Commandant in the Kommandatura chair for the month, or alternatively the US Commandant (Friedrichstrasse is in the US Sector), would then immediately call Karlshorst to protest the situation and demand an urgent meeting with the Soviet Commandant as well as assurances of safe conduct through the sector boundary for purposes of such meeting. He would immediately release a statement, explaining that the Allied forces had destroyed a barrier which the East Germans illegally erected to bar Allied passage, and that the matter was being protested to the Soviet Commandant. He also would make it clear that, following our initial action, this was a problem to be resolved with the Soviets, who continue to bear full responsibility for the situation. If, as is likely, access continued to be denied us, we would take the further position that the Soviets had violated existing agreements and that we would take appropriate countering measures.

The rationale in this course of action would be that we refused to accept exclusion at the hands of the East Germans; we destroyed their barrier; and we then took the case to the Soviets. It would be Soviet refusal to admit us that brought our exclusion, albeit still under protest. Some such line is desirable to explain our withdrawal without pressing the matter further.

It is to be noted that neither this proposal nor that of General Clay is really a plan for reopening access. Both must be considered on their merits as gestures demonstrating Western readiness to react in a forceful manner, and bring home to the Soviets the point that they must expect increasingly vigorous countermeasures to moves against us.

The advantage of this alternative to General Clay's proposal is that it would present no problem of disengaging our forces. It would be sufficiently abrupt so that it would not unduly raise the hopes of the Berliners. It also would be so limited so that the danger of escalation and the possibility of setting off uncontrolled popular demonstrations would be reduced to an absolute minimum. In essence it would have the desirable effects of General Clay's proposed course without leaving us in a vulnerable position, open to unpredictable and uncontrolled developments.

In his message on the Friedrichstrasse problem, General Clay says he believes no response is preferable to a weak response. Presumably the General means we should not even take the measures now proposed (attempt to drive through the crossing point, remove any barrier that can be removed by hand, protest, take retaliatory action against Soviet personnel in Berlin, take countermeasures outside Berlin, move additional forces to the sector boundary, expel Czech and Polish Mission personnel from West Berlin).

It might perhaps be argued that since we could not take measures adequate to restore access, lesser measures would simply demonstrate weakness.

In our view, however, the absence of any response on our part to a Soviet/GDR move at Friedrichstrasse would be unnecessarily supine. To take no action against Soviet personnel, for example, would hardly be understood. To take the obvious retaliatory measures might not regain much of our lost prestige, but not to take them would cost us further prestige.


The alternatives posed therefore are:

(a) The Clay proposals,

(b) The State Department's variant of those proposals,

(c) Adherence to the September 14, 1961 decision,

(d) A decision to take no action at all.

The Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have told us they prefer General Clay's proposals. However, if for any reason the General's proposals are not politically acceptable, they consider that the State Department's variant of those proposals represents an improvement over present plans.

General Norstad, in a message received today,/4/ generally supports General Clay's suggestions but recommends in addition that "with the removal of the barricades, jeeps or other vehicles should be sent through immediately". He specifies that "no arms would be used except as clearly necessary for defense or rescue purposes".

/4/Telegram 2017 from Paris, October 14. (Ibid., 762.00/10-1461)

As far as the State Department is concerned, we consider that earlier reservations concerning the consequences of forceful removal of barriers are in the main eliminated by limiting the action outlined in the State Department variant of the Clay proposals. The Clay proposals as they now stand are not sufficiently limited in this respect and therefore would not seem to be acceptable. The same is even true of the Norstad proposals. And insofar as General Clay's suggestion that no reaction is preferable to what he terms weak action, this seems to be the least desirable alternative.

The State Department further believes that adoption of any of the alternative proposals should be subject to the agreement of the British and French.

For your use, I am enclosing a photograph of the Friedrichstrasse crossing point, as well as a map showing the Friedrichstrasse area./5/

/5/Neither found.

George W. Ball


179. Letter From President Kennedy to Chairman Khrushchev/1/

Hyannis Port, October 16, 1961.

/1/Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 77 D 163. Top Secret. The source text bears no drafting information.

Dear Mr. Chairman: I regret that the press of events has made it impossible for me to reply earlier to your very important letter of last month./2/ I have brought your letter here with me to Cape Cod for a weekend in which I can devote all the time necessary to give it the answer it deserves.

/2/Document 162.

My family has had a home here overlooking the Atlantic for many years. My father and brothers own homes near my own, and my children always have a large group of cousins for company. So this is an ideal place for me to spend my weekends during the summer and fall, to relax, to think, to devote my time to major tasks instead of constant appointments, telephone calls and details. Thus, I know how you must feel about the spot on the Black Sea from which your letter was written, for I value my own opportunities to get a clearer and quieter perspective away from the din of Washington.

I am gratified by your letter and your decision to suggest this additional means of communication. Certainly you are correct in emphasizing that this correspondence must be kept wholly private, not to be hinted at in public statements, much less disclosed to the press. For my part the contents and even the existence of our letters will be known only to the Secretary of State and a few others of my closest associates in the government. I think it is very important that these letters provide us with an opportunity for a personal, informal but meaningful exchange of views. There are sufficient channels now existing between our two governments for the more formal and official communications and public statements of position. These letters should supplement those channels, and give us each a chance to address the other in frank, realistic and fundamental terms. Neither of us is going to convert the other to a new social, economic or political point of view. Neither of us will be induced by a letter to desert or subvert his own cause. So these letters can be free from the polemics of the "cold war" debate. That debate will, of course, proceed, but you and I can write messages which will be directed only to each other.

The importance of this additional attempt to explore each other's view is well-stated in your letter; and I believe it is identical to the motivation for our meeting in Vienna. Whether we wish it or not, and for better or worse, we are the leaders of the world's two greatest rival powers, each with the ability to inflict great destruction on the other and to do great damage to the rest of the world in the process. We therefore have a special responsibility--greater than that held by any of our predecessors in the pre-nuclear age--to exercise our power with the fullest possible understanding of the other's vital interests and commitments. As you say in your letter, the solutions to the world's most dangerous problems are not easily found--but you and I are unable to shift to anyone else the burden of finding them. You and I are not personally responsible for the events at the conclusion of World War II which led to the present situation in Berlin. But we will be held responsible if we cannot deal peacefully with problems related to this situation.

The basic conflict in our interests and approach will probably never disappear entirely, certainly not in our lifetime. But, as your letter so wisely points out, if you and I cannot restrain that conflict from leading to a vicious circle of bitter measures and countermeasures, then the war which neither of us or our citizens want--and I believe you when you say you are against war--will become a grim reality.

I like very much your analogy of Noah's Ark, with both the "clean" and the "unclean" determined that it stay afloat. Whatever our differences, our collaboration to keep the peace is as urgent--if not more urgent--than our collaboration to win the last world war. The possibilities of another war destroying everything your system and our system have built up over the years--if not the very systems themselves--are too great to permit our ideological differences to blind us to the deepening dangers of such a struggle.

I, too, have often thought of our meeting in Vienna and the subsequent events which worsened the relations between our two countries and heightened the possibilities of war. I have already indicated that I think it unfruitful to fill this private channel with the usual charges and counter-charges; but I would hope that, upon re-examination, you will find my television address of July 25th was more balanced than "belligerent," as it is termed by your letter, although there may have been statements of opinion with which you would naturally disagree. To be sure, I made it clear that we intended to defend our vital interests in Berlin, and I announced certain measures necessary to such a defense. On the other hand, my speech also made it clear that we would prefer and encourage a peaceful solution, one which settled these problems, in the words of your letter, "on a mutually acceptable basis." My attitude concerning Berlin and Germany now, as it was then, is one of reason, not belligerence. There is peace in that area now--and this government shall not initiate and shall oppose any action which upsets that peace.

You are right in stating that we should all realistically face the facts in the Berlin and German situations--and this naturally includes facts which are inconvenient for both sides to face as well as those which we like. And one of those facts is the peace which exists in Germany now. It is not the remains of World War II, but the threat of World War III that preoccupies us all. Of course, it is not "normal" for a nation to be divided by two different armies of occupation this long after the war; but the fact is that the area has been peaceful--it is not in itself the source of the present tension--and it could not be rendered more peaceful by your signing a peace treaty with the East Germans alone.

On the contrary, there is very grave danger that it might be rendered less peaceful, if such a treaty should convince the German people that their long-cherished hopes for unification were frustrated, and a spirit of nationalism and tension should sweep over all parts of the country. From my knowledge of West Germany today, I can assure you that this danger is far more realistic than the alleged existence there of any substantial number of Hitlerites or "revanchists." The real danger would arise from the kind of resentment I have described above; and I do not think that either of us, mindful of the lessons of history, is anxious to see this happen. Indeed, your letter makes clear that you are not interested in taking any step which would only be "exacerbating the situation." And I think this is a commendable basis on which both of us should proceed in the future.

The area would also be rendered less peaceful if the maintenance of the West's vital interests were to become dependent on the whims of the East German regime. Some of Mr. Ulbricht's statements on this subject have not been consistent with your reassurances or even his own--and I do not believe that either of us wants a constant state of doubt, tension and emergency in this area, which would require an even larger military build-up on both sides.

So, in this frank and informal exchange, let us talk about the peace which flows from actual conditions of peace, not merely treaties that bear that label. I am certain that we can create such conditions--that we can, as you indicate, reach an agreement which does not impair the vital interests or prestige of either side--and that we can transform the present crisis from a threat of world war into a turning-point in our relations in Europe.

What is the framework for such an agreement? Detailed proposals must be a matter of allied agreement on our side; and formal discussion must await further exploration of specific items. Your letter indicates, however, that you are concerned over how protracted formal diplomatic negotiations can become, with each side asking for the utmost at the outset, making more statements to the press and using extreme caution in feeling out the other side.

I agree with you that these letters should be able to supplement and thus facilitate such negotiations. We are both practical men and these are meant to be private, frank exchanges. I can tell you, for example, that I recognize how difficult it would be to secure your agreement on a plan to reunify Germany by self-determination in the near future (as desirable as I think that is), just as you recognize that we could not be a party to any agreement which legalized permanently the present abnormal division of Germany. That is one reason why we could not be a party to a peace treaty with the East Germans alone, even though, as I said at the UN, we do not view as a critical issue the mere signing by you of such a document. What is crucial, however, is the result which you have asserted that such a signing would have with respect to our basic rights and obligations.

I agree with the statement in your letter that our two governments must, in one framework or another, continue our "obligations to assist in the unification into one entity of both German states if the Germans so desire." While, as you point out, the method of achieving this goal is properly a subject for discussion among the Germans themselves, this does not excuse us from the responsibility we have assumed since the war to see the country peacefully unified--and this is the reason why we cannot attempt any final legalization as a formal international frontier of the present line of demarcation between the Western and Eastern zones. It also enjoins us against any action which would retard movement across this line--although, not being "blind," as you say, we cannot fail to recognize that this line does exist today as the Western limit of East German authority.

Whatever action you may take with East Germany, there is no difficulty, it seems to me, in your reserving your obligations and our rights with respect to Berlin until all of Germany is unified. But if you feel you must look anew at that situation, the real key to deciding the future status of West Berlin lies in your statement that the population of West Berlin must be able to "live under the social and political system of its own choosing." On this basis I must say that I do not see the need for a change in the situation of West Berlin, for today its people are free to choose their own way of life and their own guarantees of that freedom. If they are to continue to be free, if they are to be free to choose their own future as your letter indicates in the phrase quoted above, I take it this includes the freedom to choose which nations they wish to station forces there (limited in number but with unrestricted access) as well as the nature of their own ties with others (including, within appropriate limits, whatever ties they choose with West Germany). Inasmuch as you state very emphatically that you have no designs on West Berlin--and I am glad to have this assurance, for it makes the prospects of negotiation much brighter--I am sure you are not insisting on the location of Soviet troops in that portion of the city.

Thus, although there is much in your letter that makes me doubtful about the prospects in Germany, there are many passages which lead me to believe that an accommodation of our interests is possible. But in our view the situation should be peaceful now, and existing rights and obligations are already clear. What is not clear is how any change would be an improvement. Your letter and earlier aide-mémoire, and Mr. Gromyko in his conversations with Mr. Rusk and myself, have made clear what you would hope to gain by a change--a new status for the East German regime, a settlement of frontiers, and relief from what you regard as potential dangers in West Germany--but it is not clear how we in the West are to benefit by agreeing to such a change. It is not enough to say there will be a "free city" in a city that is already free--or that there will be guarantees of our access when the old guarantees are still binding--or that we can maintain token troops in a city when we have troops there now.

You are, as I said before, a practical man; and you can see that there is no way in which negotiations on that basis could conceivably be justified on our part. We would be "buying the same horse twice"--conceding objectives which you seek, merely to retain what we already possess. I hope you will give long and serious thought to this question--for the kind of "mutually acceptable" settlement you mention is possible only if it brings actual improvements, from the standpoints of both parties.

The alternative is so dire that we cannot give up our efforts to find such a settlement. In the weeks ahead, while we are consulting on these matters with our respective allies and you are meeting with your Party Congress, I hope these efforts can continue--both through this correspondence and through other contacts. Let us also both strive during this period to avoid any statement, incident, or other provocation in Berlin which make a proper negotiating climate impossible. For the present, I believe we can agree on Ambassador Thompson as a very acceptable means of continuing the conversation. He knows of this letter; he has my complete confidence, and I am glad that this channel is satisfactory to you. He is in Washington at present, and will return to Moscow after our inter-Allied talks are further under way.

As for another meeting between the two of us, I agree completely with your view that we had better postpone a decision on that until a preliminary understanding can be reached through quieter channels on positive decisions which might appropriately be formalized at such a meeting. This reminds me that your letter also very graciously stated your desire to have me visit your country. If we can reach a reasonable settlement of Berlin and if the international atmosphere improves, I would take great pleasure in such a visit. I visited the Soviet Union in 1939 very briefly, and would look forward to seeing the great changes that have occurred since then.

Let me make it clear that I do not intend to relegate the achievement of complete and general disarmament to a place of secondary importance. I share your conviction that nothing would do more to promote good will among nations and contribute to the peaceful solution of other major disputes. Our agreement on the statement of principles jointly submitted to the UN General Assembly, while barely a beginning on a matter where we remain far apart, at least holds out the hope that we may someday achieve the final stage of such disarmament, verified to remove the fears of any people that devastation may ever again be suddenly rained upon them.

At the same time, however, our attention is urgently needed on those current problems which keep the world poised on the brink of war. The situation in Laos is one example. Indeed I do not see how we can expect to reach a settlement on so bitter and complex an issue as Berlin, where both of us have vital interests at stake, if we cannot come to a final agreement on Laos, which we have previously agreed should be neutral and independent after the fashion of Burma and Cambodia. I do not say that the situation in Laos and the neighboring area must be settled before negotiations begin over Germany and Berlin; but certainly it would greatly improve the atmosphere.

[Here follow three paragraphs on Laos.]

My wife who is here with me reciprocates your good wishes, and we return the wish of good health to you and all your family. As I recall, I shall be seeing your son-in-law again in the not too distant future, and I look forward to talking with him.

I hope you will believe me, Mr. Chairman, when I say that it is my deepest hope that, through this exchange of letters and otherwise, we may improve relations between our nations, and make concrete progress in deeds as well as words toward the realization of a just and enduring peace. That is our greatest joint responsibility--and our greatest opportunity.


/3/Printed from an unsigned copy.


180. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission at Berlin/1/

Washington, October 18, 1961, 9:06 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/10-561. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Klein (SOV); cleared by the Department of Defense, the White House, Hillenbrand, and S/S; and approved by Kohler. Also sent to Bonn and repeated to Paris, London, Moscow, and USAREUR for POLAD.

553. Paris pass USRO, Stoessel, McGuire. Ref: Berlin's 674./2/ White House has approved new instructions, taking into consideration General Clay's recommendations, in connection with possible Communist action to close Friedrichstrasse entry point into East Berlin to Allied traffic. We intend raise matter today in Ambassadorial Group to seek British and French concurrence and would like USCOB discuss proposal with British and French Commandants to assure speedy tripartite approval./3/

/2/See footnote 2, Document 178.

/3/The following five paragraphs are a close summary of NSAM No. 107, October 18. (Department of State, NSAMs: Lot 72 D 316)

As approved by White House following course of action by USCOB authorized, in event Friedrichstrasse entry point closed either by unacceptable demands for documentation or erection physical barriers by GDR.

(1) Two or three tanks would be used to force barrier and demolish any obstacle barring entry;

(2) Tanks used for purpose would be withdrawn immediately after accomplishing mission and stationed nearby inside West Sector.

(3) Commandant in Chair for month or, alternatively, USCOB would then call Karlshorst immediately to protest GDR action and demand urgent meeting with Soviet Commandant, as well as assurance safe conduct through sector boundary for purposes this meeting.

(4) Press statement would be issued soonest in Berlin, explaining Allied forces had destroyed barrier illegally erected by East Germans; matter was being protested Soviet Commandant; Allies continued to hold Soviets responsible for assuring unrestricted Allied circulation in East Berlin.

In our view, among advantages this course of action:

(1) Would demonstrate our insistence on continued right of access to and circulation in East Berlin;

(2) Cause Soviet to pause before taking further encroaching action in Berlin and affect nature subsequent actions;

(3) By withdrawing tanks into West Sector, immediately after completion demolition action, we not only forestall problem of disengaging forces; we would also limit possibility of unduly raising hopes Berliners and consequently reduce possibility of uncontrolled popular demonstrations.

Berlin, Bonn and Paris will be advised as soon as British/French concurrences obtained. To expedite matter however suggest USCOB inform British and French Commandants Berlin soonest our intentions.

JCS will issue necessary instructions through military channels as soon as tripartite agreement reached.



181. Letter From the President's Special Representative in Berlin (Clay) to President Kennedy/1/

Berlin, October 18, 1961.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Germany, Berlin, General Clay. Top Secret. The source text bears no drafting information.

Dear Mr. President: I had not reported to you prior to receipt of your letter/2/ as I am only now beginning to have a real feel of the situation and no specific incident had occurred of sufficient import to bring to your personal attention.

/2/Document 172.

I realize all of the political and military implications involved in the Berlin problem, including the difficulties we face in reconciling our views with those of our Allies, including West Germany. At the same time we must retain the confidence of West Berlin. Otherwise, the flight of capital and responsible citizens could destroy our position here, and the indicated loss of confidence in us would spread throughout the world. Unfortunately the West Berliner is concerned only with what we do. The failure of the British or French to react promptly when incidents occur does not disturb the West Berliner; if we fail, he is dismayed.

Perhaps my greatest concern is that the trespassing on our rights which has taken place in the last several months has been by east German forces; mainly east German police, while Soviet forces have been far in the background. I do not believe that we should have gone to war to stop the creation of the wall, but I do believe that we should have taken sufficient action to force Soviet participation and that this would not have led to war. At minimum, we could have moved back and forth across selected places on the border with unarmed military trucks and this limited action might well have prevented the wall. I was amazed to find that no specific action to this end was recommended here. If there is doubt here as to what to do it could not be expected that a prompt solution would come from elsewhere. I am not critical of our representatives here as they are of high quality. The restraints under which they operate have discouraged imagination and initiative. After all, it takes only a few disapprovals to discourage independent thinking and positive recommendations.

I have respect for our military leadership in Europe and I know the limits of its authority. I am concerned that even as able a Commander as Norstad can report as the American Commander without being influenced by his NATO hat. Perhaps independent viewpoints would be more valuable.

As to relations with the Military Command, I have made no recommendations to the local Commander which are not within the purview of the European Command. However, I can not accept the recommendations I do make to be tossed lightly aside at higher headquarters in Europe. Of course, these recommendations apply only to minor incidents as I would immediately call Washington in a major or emergent matter. However, it is the sum total of many minor invasions of our rights, no one of which seemed important, that cumulatively has resulted in serious and continuing erosion.

I feel strongly that prompt reaction is essential when an incident occurs which threatens a right, and that even a delay of a few hours makes it impossible to take action without increasing the risk of war. If we are to react properly and promptly, the local Commander must have the authority in emergency to act immediately with my advice and consent within the full range of the authority you have delegated to our Military Command in Europe.

Of course, we can not solve the Berlin problem by using force in Berlin. We can lose Berlin if we are unwilling to take some risk in using force to bring about Soviet confrontation even if we withdraw immediately when confronted with superior force. We could easily be backed into war by failing to make it clearly evident on the ground that we have reached the danger point.

Without going into detail, I would like to refer briefly to several recent events. News that refugees were in Steinstucken had reached West Berlin on the morning of my trip and would soon have become public. A failure on our part to rescue these refugees would have seriously damaged our position here. Also, prompt action in sending highway patrols drew strong Soviet protest but stopped harassment of our licensed vehicles on the autobahn. Similar prompt action in pushing military vehicles through Friedrich Strasse on Sunday stopped harassment of our licensed vehicles at our one remaining crossing into east Berlin. I realize the danger of escalation but it works both ways. These few simple actions on our part have eased tension here and restored confidence in West Berlin. I must add that I feel strongly about protecting our right to cross at Friedrich Strasse as we have built it up in the minds of the West Berliners as an important right by pushing as many vehicles as possible through each day.

To me, the handling of these minor harassments is more difficult than the handling of a major harassment. If a major harassment does occur, we must move to break it up by force, withdrawing only if met by superior force. If this occurs we may be sure that a new blockade is inevitable. If we are stopped on the highway, we must probe quickly and, I would think, from Berlin with light military strength to find out the depth of the intent. If our probe is stopped by superior force and compelled to withdraw, we should resort to an immediate air lift concurrently and publicly applying economic sanctions and blockade in an attempt to force Soviet action. If these steps are taken concurrently there will be no panic in West Berlin and we will gain the time for you to make the ultimate decision with calm and objective judgment. If our probe results in the destruction and capture of the force involved, it is of course evident that the Soviet government wants war.

I find it much more difficult to know what to do if rail and water traffic is stopped as a military probe would be of no value in developing intent. I would think we would have to content ourselves with air and highway traffic while this was negotiated.

I am not seriously alarmed at the present time over the morale of West Berlin. However, underneath the outward signs of a normal, prosperous city there is a very real tension. It is not a personal fear of an immediate danger but rather a doubt as to the future of the city as a desirable place to live and to raise a family. There is little if any unemployment at present; people are prosperous and living well. Of course, some of the stores and almost all of the entertainment enterprises have lost their east Berlin customers who had West German currency. I do not regard this as catastrophic. The flight of capital which followed the 13th of August has been stopped and the net loss of people is surprisingly small.

Long range, the problem is real. The Senat recognizes this and is planning carefully for the future. However, until the present crisis is over there can be little reality to the planning. Since the problem is neither pressing nor immediate, I am confident in the development of a program which will sustain the cultural, educational and economic vigor of West Berlin.

I also realize the difficulty in finding a solution to the West Berlin problem which does not create an even more serious West German problem, and that intense nationalism is on the rise in West Germany. Still, I find little evidence in West Germany of the will to fight and I doubt if the West German people are as determined as we are to defend Berlin. Many of the political leaders would like to fix the responsibility on us for any so-called concession in dealing at any level with an east German government. However, some of them are beginning to face the facts. Recently, I have reported conversations with two political leaders which, if they correctly present the views of their respective parties, would seem to make it possible to develop a common position. Obviously, it is most important for the West German government to participate in and to accept this common position so that they share in the responsibility of explaining it to the German people. Otherwise, intense national feeling could lead West Germany into breaking with the West. I hope the new government will seek to share in this responsibility rather than to avoid it and I believe this can be brought about.

It is certain that the measures you have taken to increase our military capabilities have been noted by the Russians and I have a feeling that they are being much more careful here now than a few weeks ago. I find it difficult to understand why this has not been equally effective in convincing our Allies, particularly West Germany, of our determination and in encouraging them to like measures.

I realize, Mr. President, that this is much too long a report to submit to you and I shall be much more brief in any future reports. I am honored to serve as your personal representative. However, I realize that no one knows quite what this means. I can assure you that here in West Berlin any failure to act positively and determinedly with me here in this capacity will be assumed to have your direct approval. Moreover, each time we fail to act my value as a symbol of American determination will diminish and, in fact, will result in greater loss of confidence than otherwise.

I have no ambition except to be of service to you in a critical place and time. Neither frustrations nor work bother me in the least as long as I am of service. I do not believe that you sent me here to live in a vacuum and I know that I can be of no real service if it is deemed wise to be extremely cautious in Berlin. Please understand that I do not now or will I ever question any decision you have made. I must advise you when I feel that any value I may have here as your representative is lost.

I may add, too, that I did not come here to add to your problems and that I am gladly expendable. I do want you to know that I would never permit myself to be made into a controversial figure in these critical times and that if you decide, or I find that I must report to you, that I serve no useful purpose here, I would withdraw only in a manner which would meet with your approval and would not add to the problem here.

With high respect.

Faithfully yours,
Lucius D. Clay
General, Retired
U.S. Army


182. Telegram From the Embassy in Germany to the Department of State/1/

Bonn, October 19, 1961, 7 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.62A/10-1961. Secret; Priority.

952. Eyes only for the Secretary. When I talked with Chancellor this afternoon re Gilpatric visit,/2/ I referred also to my stay in Washington, and in accordance with my understanding of the President's parting instructions to me to "set the mood" for a possible exchange of views between you and Adenauer, mentioned the President's view re seriousness of Berlin issue, need for Western unity, and desire for harmony of German and American positions. Having heard nothing further, however, re possibility of your visiting Bonn, I was purposely vague as to framework of exchange of views.

/2/In a letter to Adenauer dated October 16 the President suggested that he send Gilpatric to Bonn to discuss a wide range of defense measures and to make sure that the actions the United States and Germany were taking were both adequate and coordinated. (Ibid., Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204)

Chancellor said he entirely agreed that we must get together, adding that President's letter of October 13/3/ and Grewe's reports (he is still here) had convinced him that we were not really very far apart. He went on to say that he was less interested in form of any negotiated settlement than in substance, and that latter had been admirably formulated by the President and you in definition of West's vital interests.

/3/See Document 176.

Chancellor said he was much concerned with French attitude, and was considering writing de Gaulle in this sense. It was difficult exercise, however, he remarked, since not only was de Gaulle sensitive in this regard, but faced so many dangerous problems at moment. He concluded by reiterating previous advice that we continue gently to woo de Gaulle to return to NATO fold.

I took liberty of conveying the President's and your greetings to Chancellor, for which he expressed warm appreciation, saying he was keenly aware of gravity of problems which faced the President, and indicating that he would not want in any way to add to this burden.



183. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Kingdom to the Department of State/1/

London, October 20, 1961, 4 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/10-2061. Secret; Niact.

1637. Eyes only for the President. From Bruce. In reply to your eyes only telegram 2045./2/

/2/In telegram 2045, October 17, the President asked Bruce for a summary of his current views on Berlin. (Ibid., 762.00/10-1761)

(1) The Western position in Berlin has always been minimal, since as result of disastrous terms of 1944 wartime agreement on German partition, possibility of Berlin enclave (ringed by hostile territory) preserving any real independence, depended on (a) determination of Western powers to preserve position there through military force, and (b) forbearance of Soviets.

Latter chance never existed. Also, successful closure of Berlin sector border on August 13, 1961, without Allied military reaction, has now made disadvantageous Western tenancy in Berlin still more vulnerable, and deterioration in West Berlin and West German morale is already significant.

We are left from a trading standpoint (if we maintain Allied garrisons in West Berlin) with no real assets coveted by the Soviets, in compensation for the continuance of our present status quo, excepting two principal ones involving wider issues: (a) de facto recognition of the so-called East German Republic, and (b) other concessions at expense of Federal Republic and our own security.

(2) For the Western occupants to give such de facto recognition would be to consent to their own dishonor. Britain and France might not be unduly squeamish in this respect, for they realize that the US will bear almost the entire onus of any concessions construed as representing repudiation of solemn engagements.

In the interminable arguments taking place over this affair, I am amazed by apparent forgetfulness of the stipulations of the 1954 Paris treaties.

The obligations undertaken by the Western governments thereunder are specific. The Allies contracted, amongst other pledges, to further German reunification by every diplomatic means, not to recognize the division of Germany, and to treat the Bonn regime as the only legitimate government in Germany.

It was largely in reliance upon such promises that FedRep refused the tricky but tempting Soviet offer on reunification in favor of alliance with the NATO countries.

Because the prospect of German reunification within a reasonable time is not realizable, does not absolve FedRep's partners from their professions to advocate it in principle. Nor is the statement that partition is already a reality sufficient to justify recognition of the actual division of Germany, for no government in Western Germany could survive the open acceptance by its Allies that what has at least until now been hope deferred is to be dismissed as forever hopeless.

I have never believed that driving the Allied occupants out of West Berlin was a primary objective of Soviet policy, except insofar as it would impair, even destroy Western solidarity and prestige, so as to facilitate the greater and ultimate Soviet objective of taking possession of West Germany with its immense resources.

They have pursued this latter end with unrelenting tenacity. One of their methods has been to encourage, under the specious guise of promoting peace through a European security arrangement, the neutralization of FedRep. I shall not burden you with my views as to how dangerous to our interest this idea is--I dealt with it at some length in Embtel 1454, October 9./3/

/3/In telegram 1454, Bruce stated that he was disturbed over the possibility of injecting discussions of European security or disengagement into the talks on Berlin. (Ibid., 762.00/10-961)

We are close, I suppose, to the moment of decision. We appear to have a choice between three courses of action: (a) to stand still and await developments from Soviet initiative; (b) to attempt to negotiate a continuance of the uneasy status quo, which would leave us subject to renewal of the same pressures heretofore exercised by the Soviets; they could do this whenever they wished, through their GDR puppet; (c) to seek an internationalization of the whole Berlin area.

I am inclined to think that the last course has never received adequate attention. The internationalization of access routes to Berlin under UN jurisdiction, coupled with a maintenance of our present occupation rights has been suggested. Another is Khrushchev's own comment about making West Berlin the UN capital. Others have proposed the removal there from Geneva of certain subsidiary UN organs.

None of these proposals would, in my estimation, be sufficient guaranties of the liberties of the West Berliners, or acceptable to them. The first is, nevertheless, worthy of further exploration, and the third has minor attractions.

However, amongst numerous variants, there is only one (to be held in reserve until the last moment) that I would advocate strictly as a last resort short of nuclear war, namely moving the UN capital to greater Berlin, internationalizing the whole enclave, including access routes, and retaining, for a period, Allied garrisons in Berlin.

I am aware of the many objections to such a drastic step. Yet I believe this move if accepted would preserve with honor our repeated promises to the West Berliners and to the West Germans, and would keep FedRep a loyal partner. I would certainly prefer it to war, and also to continuance of a status quo, or what is now left of it since August 13, which holds no promise for the future except danger of our losing West Berlin and later FedRep through attrition and disenchantment.

Meanwhile, I would consider it essential that we take, and make credible, decision to engage if necessary in nuclear war rather than lose West Berlin, and consequently, West Germany.



184. Memorandum of Meeting/1/

Washington, October 20, 1961, 10 a.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings with the President. Top Secret. Drafted by Bundy.

The President, Secretaries Rusk, McNamara, Gilpatric, Nitze, Kohler, The Attorney General, General Lemnitzer, Mr. Dean Acheson, Mr. Hillenbrand, Mr. Bundy

The meeting was devoted to an examination of State-Defense drafts of policy on military actions in the Berlin conflict and a letter to General Norstad which would accompany this statement of policy. Appended to this memorandum are copies of the drafts as they were before the meeting and as they were approved by the President after revision./2/

/2/For texts of the letter to Norstad and the policy paper as approved by the President, see Document 185. Drafts of the paper on military actions abound, and the specific one referred to here is not clear. Copies of these drafts, JCSM-728-61, October 13, which presented the JCS views on the question; a Secretary of Defense comment on JCSM-728-61, dated October 17; and Bundy's memorandum to the President, dated October 20, summarizing the different views on the subject, are in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Germany, Berlin.

The Secretary of State briefly reviewed the purpose of the documents and stated that in his judgment the fundamental issue was that of the speed of movement from interruption of access to direct large-scale military action.

There followed a brief discussion of the problem of build-up, in which General Lemnitzer explained a division in the JCS. General LeMay and Admiral Anderson share General Norstad's opinion that there need not be a large-scale build-up in the immediate future. General Lemnitzer and General Decker agree with the Secretary of Defense that such steps are desirable. The matter need not be decided now, since troops will not be ready for shipment until the middle of November. The Secretary of Defense said the issue will be re-examined and presented to the President at that time.

Secretary Gilpatric remarked on what he regarded as the inconsistency in General Norstad's position: he would defer the military build-up but he wants an immediate military response to interruption of access. The Secretary of State remarked that the apparent inconsistency is resolved in General Norstad's mind by his conviction that any military action will escalate rapidly to nuclear war, so that a large conventional build-up is not relevant. Mr. Bundy suggested that General Norstad also believed that such a build-up might degrade both the credibility and the capability of nuclear forces but the Secretary of Defense disagreed, holding that General Norstad has accepted the usefulness of substantial conventional reinforcement.

The President then asked Mr. Acheson for his views, and from that point on the meeting was dominated by Mr. Acheson's arguments./3/ Mr. Acheson's immediate criticism was directed at the lack of clarity in the draft letter to General Norstad. He suggested a replacement for the paragraph beginning "In the first place" at the bottom of page 1 and the top of page 2, arguing that the existing paragraph said nothing at all, and that the President should not be asked to give unclear instructions to General Norstad. Mr. Acheson's substitute was designed to make clear the President's distinct insistence upon non-military action before military action, and to emphasize that since the air battle is the most promising of the three non-nuclear forms of action, it should be given preference. Discussion both before and after the President left the meeting led to modest revisions in Mr. Acheson's draft language, which was then incorporated in the letter which the President signed.

/3/In describing the meeting to Legere, Bundy noted that "Mr. Acheson, as usual, was the belle of the ball." (National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Box 34, Items for Cables to Taylor)

Mr. Acheson's broader argument was that both in the military build-up and in the development of a negotiating position, the United States has been spending too much time seeking theoretical agreement with our allies. In Mr. Acheson's view, the momentum of American decision and action is what will make the difference. For this reason he believed that the United States should indeed begin to move divisions in November, and when the President asked why, Mr. Acheson responded that in his judgment any preparation for action will have great effect on what happens both diplomatically and politically. If we do not move until after there is some blockage, we lose the deterrent force of this action. Mr. Acheson did not believe that such a build-up would mislead Khrushchev into thinking that he had to deal only with possible small ground conventional actions. On the contrary, he thought that the serious military movement by the United States is "an ominous thing" which would clearly convey the serious purpose of the American government.

The President remarked that the gold drain implied in such a movement had given him serious concern, and Secretary McNamara and Secretary Gilpatric both responded with comments indicating that this problem might be rendered manageable by further negotiations with our allies.

Mr. Acheson emphasized further that action would help in our difficulties with the Germans. He reported the tenor of his conversations with Ambassador Grewe/4/ in which he had tried to press the Germans to come up with actions and proposals of their own, but his own conclusion was that there have now been enough exploratory conversations and discussions and that it is time to act for a while.

/4/See Document 174.

At this point the President asked Mr. Kohler how our present relations with the Germans and the French are. Mr. Kohler remarked that he thought the Germans might be moving a little, and that the delay in Ambassador Grewe might indicate serious study in Bonn. He could make no such optimistic judgment on the French, and when the President asked Mr. Acheson for his advice on dealing with de Gaulle, he remarked that this was a problem which he was happy to leave to the Department of State.

Emphasizing his belief that U.S. leadership was the fundamental necessity in negotiations as well as military preparations, Mr. Acheson argued that there is not now any need to press upon the Russians our desire for negotiations. Neither do we need to coordinate with our allies. We need to tell them. In his belief there has been too much conferring with Ambassadors. This was a waste of time, not in the conventional sense but in the sense that it used up days and weeks which might be better spent. Mr. Acheson had recently been brought up to date on the negotiating position being worked out by the Department of State. He thought the Department had some pretty sensible ideas and that it was time to put these firmly before our allies. Mr. Acheson suggested that our Ambassadors should go to the governments concerned and say that this is our position.

Mr. Acheson evidently believed that the center of the matter is the opinion of the Germans; that Chancellor Adenauer is the key to that. While the Chancellor frequently listened to wild and unfounded rumors, he could always be straightened out by men whom he trusted. There had been many statements, innocent in themselves, which could and did create uneasiness when no firm position had been taken and expressed clearly to the Chancellor.

At this point the President had to leave the meeting and asked those remaining behind to attempt an agreed revision of the letter, in the light of the discussion. The President made clear his own general agreement with Mr. Acheson's position on the letter to Norstad, subject to modifying advice from the Secretary of Defense. The revised draft as completed and approved by the President reflects this new consensus.

McGeorge Bundy/5/

/5/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.


185. Letter From President Kennedy to the Supreme Commander, Allied Powers Europe (Norstad)/1/

Washington, October 20, 1961.

/1/Source: Eisenhower Library, Norstad Papers, Subject File, Kennedy, John F. Top Secret. Regarding the drafting of this letter, see Document 184.

Dear General Norstad: Since your visit here/2/ I have given further thought to the two principal subjects of our discussion in relation to the Berlin situation, namely, contingency planning and the preparatory build-up in NATO military strength.

/2/See Document 166.

As you have been informed, all the measures you recommended for immediate action have been authorized and put in motion, except for the replacement of the 3rd battle group now in Berlin which will take place when additional such units move to Europe as part of the Long Thrust exercise.

My present thinking on the preferred sequence of types of actions that we should take in the event of any abrogation of Western rights in Berlin is reflected in the sequence of four courses of action designated by Roman numerals in the enclosed outline. The import of this sequence should be clear to you, and I desire that it serve as the guidance for your discussions with our Allies and for your planning of detailed military operations.

In the course of that planning I ask that you spell out for me with particularity your operational concepts for the command and control procedures within your command to be used in the "selective nuclear attacks" and "limited tactical employment of nuclear weapons" referred to in Contingencies IV A and B of the enclosure.

Two aspects of my present thinking about Berlin planning and preparation deserve especial emphasis.

First: What I want is a sequence of graduated responses to Soviet/GDR actions in denial of our rights of access. The purpose is to maintain our rights and preserve our alliance. The responses after Phase I should begin with the non-military and move to the military. We cannot plan in advance the exact time each response should be initiated; for one reason, because we cannot now predict the date of Soviet/GDR action, for another because we cannot foresee the duration or the consequences of each response. But there are some principles applicable to this matter of timing. The earlier responses should be thoroughly prepared in advance and the purpose should be to initiate them and keep them going long enough so that the next response may, if necessary, come in when needed. This requires vigor in preparation, readiness for action, and caution against going off half-cocked. The military sequence indicated begins with the air action outlined in III A 1. Since it seems likely that any form of Soviet blockade will include interference with air access, every effort in preparation should be made to increase the chance of success in air operations. The rewards of success would be great indeed. The other indicated steps are those outlined in III A 2 and III B. These courses will require the timely addition of considerable forces to your command, and appropriate dispositions on your central front. Should it appear that Soviet forces sufficient to defeat these actions are being brought into play, the response, on which you would receive specific directives, will be one or more of those contained in paragraph IV.

Second: At this juncture I place as much importance on developing our capacity and readiness to fight with significant non-nuclear forces as on measures designed primarily to make our nuclear deterrent more credible. In saying this I am not in any sense depreciating the need for realization by the U.S.S.R. of the tremendous power of our nuclear forces and our will to use them, if necessary, in support of our objectives. Indeed, I think the two aspects are interrelated. It seems evident to me that our nuclear deterrent will not be credible to the Soviets unless they are convinced of NATO's readiness to become engaged on a lesser level of violence and are thereby made to realize the great risks of escalation to nuclear war. I will be interested to hear of any suggestion from you as to how we might intensify that realization.

When contingency plans have been completed and received through established channels, the Joint Chiefs of Staff will review them with me and my other advisors.

John F. Kennedy



/3/Top Secret. On October 23 Bundy transmitted this paper to Secretaries Rusk and McNamara as NSAM No. 109.

Washington, October 20, 1961.


In the event military force is applied in the Berlin situation, it is United States policy that the nature and sequence of such use should preferably be:

I If Soviet/GDR administrative or other action interferes with Berlin access by ground or air but is short of definitive blockage, then the tripartite powers should execute Berlin contingency plans, to include tripartitely agreed probes of Soviet intentions by a platoon or smaller force on the ground and by fighter escort in the air; they should continue to use fully any unblocked mode of access.

(Comment: Through this point, risks of major war, unless Soviets wish to start one, are not materially raised by any tripartite action, and therefore, decision on execution is tripartite rather than NATO responsibility.)

II If, despite the above tripartite actions, Soviet/GDR action indicates a determination to maintain significant blockage of our access to Berlin, then the NATO Allies should undertake such non-combatant activity as economic embargo, maritime harassment, and UN action. Simultaneously, they should mobilize and reinforce rapidly to improve capability for taking actions listed below. Meanwhile, they should use fully any unblocked access to Berlin. (If, however, the situation has so developed that NATO forces have been substantially reinforced, after appropriate non-combatant measures undertake without delay one or more of the courses of military action shown below.)

(Comment: Since the Alliance proposes to exploit other means before initiating major military operations, non-combatant efforts to restore ground access will precede the military efforts shown below in any case. A separate issue is the choice between delay while reinforcing in Europe, and prompt action. Without a build-up by the Allies, the range of options for early military action by us is limited. Undue delay could weaken nuclear credibility, threaten the viability of West Berlin, and erode Alliance resolve, but these potential disadvantages may be out-weighed by the higher risk of nuclear escalation if early non-nuclear action were taken with no more than the currently available forces. To the extent that Alliance forces in Europe are raised above present levels, the delays in initiating military action can be reduced or the military action can be tailored to the existing force levels.)

III If, despite the above Allied actions, our Berlin access is not restored, the Allies should take appropriate further action to clarify whether the Soviets/GDR intend to maintain blockage of air or ground access, or both, while making clear our intention to obtain re-opened access. Then embark on one or more of the following expanded military courses of action:

A. European Theatre

1. Expanding non-nuclear air action, against a background of expanded ground defensive strength, to gain local air superiority. Extend size and scope as necessary.

(Comment: Opposing strengths probably will be roughly comparable. Military success locally is not impossible. As a political operation, this shows the Soviets visibly higher risks of nuclear war. The pace and volatility of extended air operations raise risks of rapid escalation.)

2. Expanding non-nuclear ground operations into GDR territory in division and greater strength, with strong air support.

(Comment: This is a politically oriented military operation aiming to display to the Soviets the approaching danger of possibly irreversible escalation. Military overpowering of determined Soviet resistance is not feasible. The risks rise, as do the military pressures on the Soviets.)

B. World Wide

Maritime control, naval blockade, or other world-wide measures, both for reprisal and to add to general pressure on the Soviets.

(Comment: This action, by itself, is not apt to be effective and might lead to Soviet initiation of action on the European central front in any case. It lacks direct relation to Berlin and may entail political liabilities. It exploits pronounced Allied naval superiority. It would have a delayed impact on nuclear risks. It is the view of the JCS and the principal unified commanders that a naval blockade should be accompanied by other military action in Central Europe.

IV If, despite Allied use of substantial non-nuclear forces, the Soviets continue to encroach upon our vital interests, then the Allies should use nuclear weapons, starting with one of the following courses of action but continuing through C below if necessary:

A. Selective nuclear attacks for the primary purpose of demonstrating the will to use nuclear weapons.

B. Limited tactical employment of nuclear weapons to achieve in addition significant tactical advantage such as preservation of the integrity of Allied forces committed, or to extend pressure toward the objective.

C. General Nuclear war.

(Comment: The Allies only partially control the timing and scale of nuclear weapons use. Such use might be initiated by the Soviets, at any time after the opening of small-scale hostilities. Allied initiation of limited nuclear action may elicit a reply in kind; it may also prompt unrestrained pre-emptive attack.)


186. Telegram From the Mission at Berlin to the Department of State/1/

Berlin, October 23, 1961, 2 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 123-Lightner, Edwin Allan. Confidential; Priority. Also sent to Bonn and repeated to London, Paris, Moscow, and POLAD USAREUR.

801. Paris for Embassy, USRO, Stoessel and McGuire. When entering Sov Sector at Friedrichstrasse on evening October 22 at 7:15 pm in my own car with my wife to join other Mission members at theater, Vopos stopped me and requested identification. (Other members of theater party who had proceeded us by a few minutes entered Sov Sector without hindrance.) I refused show ID and demanded right enter. When this was denied I requested Sov officer. After wait of three-quarters of an hour I informed Vopos I was proceeding as was my right and did so. I got through "maze" and was held up by second line of Vopos; they demanded identification; I refused and demanded Sov officer and waited nearly an hour until arrival Berlin Command Provost Marshal and two MP vehicles. Vopos insisted no civilians permitted enter without showing identification; indicated I could return or proceed with military driver. At this point my wife left car and walked back to check point. I then proceeded with military escort. We proceeded slowly, passed third Vopo check point and into sector about two blocks and returned to West Sector without incident.

We immediately repeated performance with same escort, reentered sector, turned around and returned.

On return I was informed Sov officer was en route to scene. When he arrived at eastern side Friedrichstrasse check point around 10 pm Provost Marshal went over to protest Vopo interference. Sov officer (POLAD Lazarev) admitted action was mistake and would be corrected. On receipt of this information I entered the check point followed by another member of Mission in his privately-owned vehicle. Both cars entered sector, made brief tour and returned without hindrance. Subsequently, another Mission car and French car similarly entered and returned. In meantime U.S. POLAD arrived and also went over to protest to Sov POLAD who apologized for his delay in providing Vopos with facsimiles of U.S. licenses which he said had just been done today. In his turn he protested military escort as armed incursion into their territory.

During course of incident which lasted nearly four hours numerous members press assembled Friedrichstrasse and observed much of what happened including movement of tanks nearby./2/

/2/At 3 p.m. on October 23 the Mission delivered a letter from General Watson to his Soviet counterpart, Colonel Solovyev, protesting the treatment of Lightner and the Soviet failure to ensure the free movement of U.S. personnel within the four sectors of Berlin. (Telegram 805 from Berlin, October 23; ibid.)



187. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State/1/

Paris, October 23, 1961, 8 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/10-2361. Secret; Priority. Repeated to London, Bonn, and Berlin.

2196. I called on General de Gaulle this afternoon to discuss the Berlin situation with him. He began by asking me if I had seen his reply to the letter from President Kennedy and when I told him I had not he sent for a copy of it which I read at once./2/ I told him the sentence in which he agreed to the continuing of the present discussions on the Ambassadorial level in Washington and the discussion leading up to that sentence were most significant.

/2/Regarding Kennedy's letter to de Gaulle, see footnote 1, Document 176. In his October 21 reply de Gaulle refused to join in any Western approach to the Soviet Union concerning Berlin, adducing many of the arguments made to Gavin in this telegram. De Gaulle also stated that he would not object to U.S. feelers to the Soviet Union and welcomed the U.S. measures to strengthen its military posture. (Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204)

De Gaulle said, to begin with, he does not think we should give the impression of organizing a high level meeting to provide guidance, on a 4-power basis, to Amb Thompson in Moscow. He is not doing anything to prevent us, meaning the USG, from having such a meeting but if we do, it will be on our own. It was for this reason that he could not agree with the President's suggestion of having a 4-power meeting in mid-November.

I then asked de Gaulle what he envisioned would occur if no negotiations were to take place with the Soviets--would not hostilities begin with us having lost an opportunity to make clear our intent to engage in hostilities if they pursued their present course? In answering, he said if the Soviets are thinking of using force against us, this is all the more reason we should not negotiate. It would be negotiating under worst conditions possible.

If they are not, then there is no reason for us to hurry to negotiate. (De Gaulle said in French that in America one gets the impression we are hurrying to try to negotiate. This was not translated by translator.) For the time being, it all depends on the Soviets: wishing to talk at any cost, or giving them that impression, one makes a big mistake. Either they do not want to wage a general war--and de Gaulle says he believes that is the case--then there is no reason to hurry; or they want to go to war and in such case we should not negotiate because it would be negotiating under direct threat. We would suffer a setback in any case, because one cannot make working arrangements with people threatening them.

The fact that we have accepted negotiations has been detrimental. Because of that, Adenauer has lost votes in the last election. That not only affects Germany but other countries as well. What one ought to say to the Soviets, under the circumstances, when they have threatened us with the atomic bomb, built the wall in Berlin, threatened to sign a treaty with East Germany with no promise to guarantee access to Berlin, and indulged in saber-rattling in general--we cannot talk when they apply force in this manner. If they apply force, we will do the same and see what happens. Any other stand would be very costly for not only Germany but all alike.



188. Memorandum of Conversation/1/

Washington, October 24, 1961, 9:35 a.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762A.00/10-2561. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Kohler and approved by the White House on October 27.

Delivery of Letter to the President from Chancellor Adenauer


United States
The President
McGeorge Bundy, The White House
Foy D. Kohler, Assistant Secretary

Ambassador Wilhelm Grewe

The President opened the conversation by inquiring about the Chancellor. Ambassador Grewe replied that the Chancellor was busily engaged in political activities, constructing his Government following the elections. In this connection he said that there was in Bonn, however, basic agreement on the lines of foreign and defense policy and on the steps to be taken to increase the German military effort. He said he had just received a new instruction from Bonn this morning, the essence of which he would like to communicate to the President. The Federal Republic intended, he said, to fulfill all the commitments in the military field which had been discussed with and given by Defense Minister Strauss with respect to manpower build-up and increases in the military budget. He said he would omit the details. However, in general terms the Federal Republic reaffirmed the memorandum which had been delivered to the US Government in May following the Chancellor's visit with the President./2/ The Federal Government realizes that the present situation involves a risk of war; it is prepared to face this risk and indeed to go to war to defend the freedom of Berlin. The Federal Government considers that it is important to reach a common understanding on our military and strategic concepts. Differences had existed on this in the past. However, the Federal Government would not insist on the adoption of maritime measures as an alternative to larger ground and air operations on the continent. However, it considered that such operations would only be convincing if we were prepared to follow them with a preemptive nuclear strike if that became necessary. If such operations were not followed up the Federal Government saw considerable dangers in large scale conventional operations with the possibility that Soviet forces could cross the border and occupy considerable areas of Federal Republic territory, thus leaving the West at a considerable disadvantage. The decision to use nuclear weapons must be made clear to the Soviets as well as the fact that the Soviet Union itself would be a target.

/2/Regarding the Chancellor's visit to Washington April 12-13, see Documents 16-17; the memorandum under reference has not been further identified.

The President inquired whether this meant any change in the German approach to the consultations taking place in the Ambassadorial group. The Ambassador replied that it did not, but it meant simply that the German representatives were prepared fully to participate in the development of military planning. However the Federal Government wanted further discussion of the military and strategic concepts in order to ensure a common position. In this connection Mr. Kohler cited the statement he had made yesterday to the Ambassadorial group to the effect that the United States Government had been considering its own concept of the preferred sequence of military courses of action and that it expected to be discussing these with its allies in the near future./3/

/3/A report on the Ambassadorial Group meeting on October 23 is attached to a memorandum from Kohler to Rusk of the same date. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/10-2361)

Ambassador Grewe then handed to the President the Chancellor's letter together with an English translation (attached) prepared with the assistance of the State Department./4/ After reading the communication, the President asked what the Ambassador's views were as to when a meeting might take place between the Chancellor and himself. The Ambassador replied that because of the political situation, probably not until after the first week in November. After some discussion of possible dates which indicated that Indian Prime Minister Nehru would be here November 6, 7 and 8, the President indicated that the best time would probably be the week following that visit, or tentatively around November 11, 12 or 13. The President commented that he thought it was important that he have a chance to meet with the Chancellor. It appeared that there were differences between the positions of the Federal Republic and the French and those of the British and ourselves. He personally thought we must see whether there were ways in which the situation with respect to West Berlin could be improved. Perhaps this would not be possible but he felt that we should explore all avenues. If negotiations with the Russians should break off then we would be faced with a very dangerous situation. The President considered it essential we at least be able to say before reaching that point that we had done everything possible to try for a peaceful solution. He felt it was important to probe Mr. Khrushchev further on his statements about the freedom of West Berlin and of access. He personally would feel much better if we did this before we got to the nuclear stage. The President deplored the press speculation and exaggerations about differences. In fact he said we were not really discussing substance, on which there were no essential differences, but rather differences as respects tactics and procedures.

/4/Not printed. Dated October 21, the letter stated that the time had come for consultations on whether a basis for negotiations with the Soviets existed, and after reviewing the question of nuclear weapons, the Chancellor suggested that he discuss the issues personally with the President. (Ibid., Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204) Grewe had shown this letter to Rusk at a meeting on October 22 and discussed German policy along the lines of his conversation with the President. A memorandum of that conversation is ibid., Central Files, 762.00/10-2261. For Grewe's account of these conversations, the drafting of the letter, and extracts from it, see Ruckblenden, pp. 507-511.

Ambassador Grewe replied that the Federal Government had never opposed negotiations--indeed he was frequently annoyed by reports which equated the German and French positions--nor had it any objection to exploratory talks. The Germans were even prepared to work on the French to get them to participate. At this point the President remarked that he had had a letter from General de Gaulle who apparently felt that every move toward the Soviets was a manifestation of weakness./5/ Ambassador Grewe resumed, saying, however, that the Federal Government had not been very well satisfied with some of the talks between us. They felt that there had been some change in US policy regarding Germany in recent weeks. He would cite particularly the question of reunification. The United States seemed now to be following another approach on this subject and were urging an increase in contacts between the Federal Republic and the East Germans in connection with reunification instead of supporting the reunification by free elections. Of course the Germans had realized all during the past ten years that there was little prospect of achieving reunification. However it was essential not to abandon this policy. In this connection he cited the restraint that the Federal Government had shown with respect to discouraging East German refugees. This was only possible so long as the hope of free reunification were held out. Thus there seemed to be a divergence between us regarding the question of increased political contacts between the Federal Government and the GDR. The Federal Republic does not think that such contacts would tend to bring the two parts of Germany together, but rather that it would involve dangers like those involved in the Chinese situation in 1947. Moreover the Federal Republic considered that it would be prejudicial to future political settlement if it were left more or less alone as regards this question. Mr. Bundy said that he knew of nothing in US policy which could lead to the conclusions being stated by the Ambassador and asked what specifically the Ambassador was referring to. The Ambassador somewhat embarrassedly cited discussions he had had with the Secretary and Mr. Kohler along these lines. Mr. Bundy observed that these seemed to be related to questions like the proposed technical commissions.

/5/See footnote 2, Document 187.

The President then said he thought we should be looking for new approaches. He hoped there could be some formula found to improve the status of West Berlin without changing West Berlin's ties with the Federal Republic or with the United States. He saw no real prospect of achieving reunification in the foreseeable future. He then asked what the Ambassador's second difference was. The Ambassador replied that the second difference he saw was in the matter of European security. He said that the explanations in the President's letter to Chancellor Adenauer/6/ had been helpful but still had not been sufficient to quell all the German uneasiness. He cited particularly US references to US-Soviet confrontation in Europe. The Germans regarded the confrontation of Soviet and American forces as a desirable situation rather than as a bad one. Some discussion ensued in which it was pointed out to the Ambassador that these references did not contemplate any disengagement but rather a reduction in the mass of the confrontation.

/6/See Document 176.

Returning to the subject of Berlin, the President commented that he would argue with General de Gaulle's assumption that the present situation in West Berlin was a satisfactory one on which we should just stand pat. He himself considered it unsatisfactory in many respects and wanted to examine whether there were not some way in which it could be improved. Ambassador Grewe said he would agree with this in principle, but that he saw no prospect of being able to achieve any improvement. Rather he thought that we were faced with a situation in which the Soviets sought concessions from the West in return for a status quo minus in Berlin. He then cited the great impact of the events of August 13 in Berlin. He had visited Berlin during his trip to Germany and Mayor Brandt had told him that instead of a daily average of 500,000 border crossings before August 13 these were now reduced to about 500. The results of the building of the wall had been reflected in the results of the September 17 elections in Germany. All political analysts agreed that the Chancellor's party had lost votes as a result of the Chancellor's reserved and moderate position on this question.

The President then said he was sure that the German Government realizes that if negotiations on this subject fail there is a real prospect of a military engagement with the Soviets. Consequently he agreed that he and the Chancellor ought to meet and try to develop a uniform position. In this connection he cited an editorial in a German paper on his address at the UN which had read all kinds of non-existent "iffy" conclusions into his statements. The United States was not going to give Berlin away. However he wanted to be sure that when we come to the end of the road there will be no illusion and no basis for charges that a satisfactory arrangement could have been worked out if the West had tried negotiations instead of resorting to force.

Ambassador Grewe commented that he felt there was no misunderstanding in Germany about the US position. All Germans were satisfied as regards American determination with respect to what we define as the three vital interests. However he would point out that this is a narrow definition which does not include a range of interests which the Germans consider vital to them. He thought Khrushchev had been sufficiently warned and would be very careful not to take actions which would impinge on these three vital interests, but would rather seek to make inroads on German interests short of these.

The President commented that if the Chancellor saw dangers in the various proposals which were being discussed he would like to see the Federal Government put up proposals of its own which it would regard as acceptable. Perhaps we could then say what we considered to be wrong with those instead of just seeing our own ideas shot down. The Ambassador replied that the Germans did see possibilities but for the most part did not consider them realizable. In this connection he cited the statement he had made to the Ambassadorial group yesterday with regard to free access, Soviet recognition of West Berlin's ties with the Federal Republic and the possibilities of an international autobahn. Mr. Bundy inquired about the German views on an all-Berlin proposal. The Ambassador replied that the Germans did not consider that these were realistically attainable, but felt that an all-Berlin proposal would be a useful opening in any negotiation and embarrassing for the Soviets to deal with. The President asked whether the Ambassador did not think that even if there were not good prospects for their realization, the West should put forward Western proposals which Khrushchev might reject. He felt that this might help to improve our position with our NATO allies. The Ambassador agreed that this could be true. However he said that he wanted to cite the record on the Western side which had been good. He had recently re-read the debates in the Bundestag in 1951-52 when the Soviet proposals for German reunification and neutralization were under consideration. He referred particularly to the speeches of Bundestag Deputy Fleiderer about the need for imaginative proposals. As a matter of fact in the ensuing years the West had put forward every proposal which had been conceived at that time which were wide ranging and imaginative. However he would agree that they had not been well publicized, perhaps because in the very nature of things Western proposals had become more complex.

The President then returned to the subject of his disagreement with the position of General de Gaulle. He cited the views which had been put forward by our NATO allies, mentioning in particular Norway, Belgium, Italy and the UK as expecting an effort at peaceful settlement. He understood, however, that the Federal Government favored a continuance of this effort with the Soviets. The Ambassador replied in the affirmative, but said the Federal Government hoped that common ground could be found among the four and limits of our position fixed. He then asked how Ambassador Thompson would proceed in Moscow in view of the French position. The President replied that he thought there would not be much profit in further discussions with the Russians until after he had met with the Chancellor. Ambassador Thompson could perhaps have one or two exploratory conversations, but he thought it important that he have a talk and reach agreement with the Chancellor.

As the meeting broke up Ambassador Grewe said he wanted to cite a small situation in Berlin which illustrated the problem of morale there. He then told the story of an installation in the center of West Berlin belonging to the East controlled railway which had been painted red and decorated with the GDR insignia and which was very upsetting to the West Berliners. He said the Western commandants had not yet decided what could be done about this. The President indicated that this would be looked into by the State Department.


189. Telegram From the Mission at Berlin to the Department of State/1/

Berlin, October 24, 1961, 1 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/10-2461. Top Secret; Eyes Only; Niact. Received at 11:05 a.m. Also sent to Bonn.

813. Bonn for Dowling only. From Clay for Rusk only. Re ourtel 812 Dept, 715 Bonn./2/ While I have never regarded the showing of identification papers except by those in official cars as of major import and thus recommended to the Mission soon after my arrival that we obtain a tripartite agreement to define certain conditions under which we would show identification, I do not believe that we can accept this requirement under pressure. We have not had sufficient time without pressure since my arrival to put an identification procedure into effect.

/2/Telegram 812 from Berlin, October 23, quoted an East German News Agency (ADN) announcement that required persons in civilian clothes crossing the sector border to show identification cards. (Ibid., 862.181/10-2361)

I am convinced that GDR will require identification at Friedrichstrasse for all US licensed cars not driven by soldiers in uniform as a first step in requiring identification for all Allied personnel. This would of course eliminate any special Allied rights in East Berlin as all foreigners have these rights. Obviously as long as GDR does not close Friedrichstrasse to official vehicles we are not in a position to force entrance or if we would keep the entrance open by force we still would be unable to circulate in East Berlin. Nevertheless, I believe it would be a serious mistake to accept the GDR dictate which has just been announced (reftel) if it is placed in effect. I have always believed that the elimination of Allied rights in East Berlin is of great importance to GDR and that every effort will be made to accomplish this objective before any negotiations take place. Moreover, I do not believe that we can afford to have any remaining right taken away from us prior to and without negotiation as we would then enter into negotiations with only those rights left which we are committed to maintain by force if necessary.

It seems clear to me at this time that the Western Allies have little to gain from negotiation and nothing to gain unless Khrushchev really wants to negotiate in good faith. The FRG position is opposed to any changes in present status in principle although willing to accept certain concessions provided none of the responsibility for such acceptance is placed on FRG. I have serious doubts that Khrushchev really wants to leave to the GDR the full responsibility for control over access to Berlin with the risks of war which this involves and that he will be much more ready to negotiate on a reasonable basis if we are more resistant to negotiations under the present atmosphere.

In any event, I do not believe that we should even be willing to talk with the Russians on the subject of possible negotiation in an atmosphere approaching duress.

Thus, I believe that we should give serious and immediate consideration to calling off such talks until and unless Russia is prepared to guarantee full maintenance of the present status quo until they are either discontinued or lead to negotiations.

I would urgently recommend that you be ready to send for the Russian Ambassador as soon as we advise you that the dictate is being put into effect, advising him that the requirement that Allied personnel in properly licensed cars must submit identification papers to East German police at Friedrichstrasse represents the unilateral assumption of a Soviet right and a unilateral change in the procedure followed for years which we cannot accept in the period in which we are trying earnestly to find a basis to negotiate the Berlin problem. Further, even though the United States and its Allies are earnestly seeking a way to peace we cannot hope to find a basis for negotiation if the rights which we now hold are being subject to attack as we search for this basis. If the Soviet Government is unable to restore the normal procedures now in effect in Berlin and to maintain these procedures during the progress of the talks, there is no further purpose to be served by continuing the talks. I would urge that the Russian Ambassador also be asked to give a reply immediately as otherwise it will be necessary to announce that in the present atmosphere further talks are useless and will not be pursued.

In point of fact, I am inclined to believe that at the moment this would put us in a stronger position than we now occupy. It would certainly enable us to determine the seriousness of both the French and German viewpoints which as they are now recorded are not overly enthusiastic to any negotiations, and indeed would force Khrushchev to show his hand as to whether or not he really desires negotiation.

We will avoid test at Friedrichstrasse today awaiting your consideration of this recommendation. We must probe not later than tomorrow. If unarmed probe fails we will then proceed under our instructions to protest here and if unable to reach Soviet Commandant or protest fails, to try again with armed escort. Under these circumstances, I doubt if armed escort will suffice. Therefore, in event unarmed probe fails, we believe that calling in Soviet Ambassador is preferable alternative to trying armed escort./3/

/3/At 6 p.m. on October 24 Ambassador Dowling sent his concurrence with Clay's views, adding that the acceptance of further restrictions on U.S. rights in Berlin would be "most detrimental" to the U.S. position in the Federal Republic. (Telegram 987 from Bonn, received at 3:17 p.m.; ibid., 762.0221/10-2461)



190. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Kohler) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, October 24, 1961.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/10-2461. Secret. Drafted and initialed by Kohler. The source text bears Kohler's handwritten notation: "Handed to & read by Sec 10/24-7 pm."

I telephoned Lightner at 3 p.m. EDT (8 o'clock Berlin time) about his telegram 813/2/ transmitting Clay's message to you linking negotiations with the Friedrichstrasse crossing question. The conversation was almost entirely in doubletalk. However I made it clear to him that we had been very surprised at their action in suspending border crossings by personnel in civilian dress today and considered it a serious tactical mistake. I told him that judging by their own reports we had thought that local intervention with the Soviets had more or less settled this problem. Furthermore as we understood it from their own reporting the GDR Ministry of Interior statement was not a new edict at all but simply a new warning based on the regulations which they have had in effect but not enforced for some time.

/2/Document 189.

Lightner indicated that he agreed with me but that he had been overruled by higher authority. He then inquired about our reaction to the suggestion of high level representations to the Russians linking the question of negotiations. I told him this was a matter which we would have to consider further. I pointed out that there were a lot of other factors possibly of greater importance connected with the negotiating question.

Lightner wanted to assure me that his involvement in the border crossing incident Sunday night was entirely unexpected and rather embarrassing. I told him not to worry about our reaction but that his name was today a household word in the US.

I asked Lightner to convey the import of the foregoing to General Clay and tell him that a reply would be forthcoming in due course./3/ I added that he might stress our reaction to the suspension.

/2/The reply, which was sent in telegram 586 to Berlin, October 24 at 9:03 p.m., reiterated what Kohler had told Lightner, and added that if a protest at Berlin were unsuccessful in restoring the U.S. rights, then both armed and unarmed escorts of U.S. vehicles trying to enter the Soviet sector should be tried. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/10-2461)


191. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission at Berlin/1/

Washington, October 25, 1961, 7:28 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/10-2561. Top Secret; Priority. Drafted by Hillenbrand, cleared by Kohler, and initialed and approved by Rusk. Repeated to Bonn.

596. Bonn eyes only for Ambassador. Berlin eyes only for Clay. Re Berlin's 824 to Department./2/ We have instructed Ambassador Thompson who has just returned to Moscow to see Gromyko in order to protest harassments at Friedrichstrasse crossing./3/ (Ambassador Menshikov presently in Moscow attending Party Congress and consensus here is that calling in Soviet Chargé would be considerably less effective than approach in Moscow.)


/2/Telegram 824, October 25, received at 12:34 p.m., again recommended calling in the Soviet Ambassador and, if that failed to produce results, closing the crossing point to U.S. vehicles. (Ibid.)

/3/The instructions were transmitted to Thompson in telegram 1131 to Moscow, October 25, 7:27 p.m. (Ibid.) On October 26 Clay responded that the protest in Moscow probably would not serve any purpose and might force a hardening of the Soviet position. He favored further harassing tactics in Berlin until the United States made discontinuance of Friedrichstrasse activities the price for negotiations on Berlin. (Telegram 834 from Berlin; ibid., 762.0221/10-2661)

I fear that you overestimate retaliatory effect of "cutting off talks" which have been in suspense for some weeks and for resumption of which there is no scheduled meeting. Feel termination of diplomatic contacts on subject of Berlin as form of reprisal against Soviets is questionable concept. As matter of fact, such contacts may provide useful channel for transmission of our protests and demands for maintenance of status quo. I have not regarded talks with Gromyko as a search for negotiations but rather as effort determine whether any basis for negotiations exists. It still remains in our national interest to ascertain this especially since we shall, within near future, be faced with number of important decisions on our further military build-up which can only be made in light more knowledge than we now have regarding effect on Soviet position our build-up to date as well as other current factors influencing Soviet policy.



192. Telegram From the Mission at Berlin to the Department of State/1/

Berlin, October 25, 1961, 9 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 862.181/10-2561. Confidential; Niact. Received at 7:55 p.m. Also sent to Bonn and repeated to London, Moscow, Paris, and POLAD USAREUR.

833. Paris for Embassy, USRO, Stoessel and McGuire. US Commandant General Watson accompanied by US POLAD and Mission officer called on Sov Commandant Colonel Solovyev 3 pm today at former's request./2/ Watson opened discussion by stating that Sovs had permitted potentially explosive situation develop at Friedrichstrasse, where East Berlin police were illegally attempting control passage U.S. forces personnel into SovSector. Watson then briefly reviewed background on developments and discussions on this subject since his call on Solovyev Aug 26 (Berlin's 333 Dept, 296 Bonn)/3/ including US POLAD's call on Sov Colonel Lazarev Oct 17 (Berlin's 762 Dept, 677 Bonn),/4/ incident evening of Oct 22 (Berlin's 801 Dept, 709 Bonn),/5/ and subsequent Vopo interference (Berlin's 822 and 825 Dept, 725 and 728 Bonn)./6/ He pointed out that Sovs had on several occasions implied they prepared take steps remedy situation.

/2/In telegram 825 from Berlin, October 25, 5 p.m., Lightner reported that another U.S. vehicle had been denied access to East Berlin. Following a lengthy discussion with the Soviet Political Adviser, who denied Soviet responsibility, the vehicle was given an armed escort into the Soviet Zone, and Lightner informed Solovyev that General Watson wanted to meet with him to prevent a difficult situation from arising. Lightner also reported that two platoons of tanks had been moved up to the crossing point and that Berlin Command had been placed on alert. (Ibid.)

/3/Dated August 26. (Ibid., 762.0221/8-2661)

/4/Dated October 17. (Ibid., 762.0221/10-1761)

/5/Document 186.

/6/Telegram 822, October 24, is not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 862.181/10-2461) Regarding telegram 825, see footnote 2 above.

Watson continued that US side considered Sovs bound by four-power agreements whether or not Sovs willing to admit this. He pointed out that US does not recognize East German regime and does not accept regime's pretensions to control US personnel. Watson reminded Solovyev that during previous interview on October 13 (Berlin's 752 Dept, 667 Bonn)/7/ Solovyev referred to importance of avoiding disturbing actions at time when government level discussions were being held. Watson concluded by demanding that Sov authorities fulfill their commitment and responsibility to assure unimpeded circulation US vehicles and personnel; he suggested Solovyev might start by obtaining release of two army buses Watson had observed halted on East German side of Friedrichstrasse crossing point en route Karlshorst.

/7/Dated October 13. (Department of State, Central Files, 662A.62B/10-1361)

Solovyev began reply by referring to Oct 22 incident. He said vehicle had had to be controlled by East Berlin police under regulations of GDR. He then objected to US action sending armed guard to escort vehicle into East Berlin. Solovyev claimed there no precedent for entry into one sector Berlin of armed personnel from another sector. Said US action had been violation of GDR's order rules. Solovyev then alleged that Sov personnel in civilian clothes who enter West Berlin in military vehicles are controlled by West Berlin police and always show ID cards, which they consider normal practice.

Referring to escort of US vehicle through crossing point this morning by armed soldiers in jeeps, Solovyev called this "open provocation." He said placing of US garrison in state of combat readiness and stationing of tanks at sector boundary was "sabre-rattling." He continued, "I am authorized to state that it is necessary to avoid actions of this kind. Such actions can provoke corresponding actions from our side. We have tanks too. We hate the idea of carrying out such actions, and are sure that you will re-examine your course."

Solovyev then passed on to crossing point procedures. He said our military personnel in uniform never encountered impediments. Difficulties arose only with personnel in civilian clothes, since it was impossible to tell their nationality. Inspection of the documents of such persons was proper under laws of GDR, which Solovyev could not change.

Watson pointed out that he and Solovyev previously had complete exchange of views re responsibilities in Berlin, which it not necessary review. Present difficulties were most serious, and Solovyev would realize how deeply serious we were in matter of free passage. Important principle was involved. Because matter was so serious, Watson was reporting it to his government and assumed that Solovyev would do the same. In meantime, we would continue exercise important principle and take most serious measures to do so. Watson also mentioned earlier suggestion of US POLAD that Sov officer might be stationed at Friedrichstrasse temporarily to deal with Allied personnel until current difficulties resolved. Watson emphasized that all persons authorized use of the various types of license plates described to Karlshorst were under his command and equally entitled uncontrolled passage.

Remainder of interview, which lasted one and one-half hours, was largely repetition, with Solovyev repeatedly asserting GDR regulations were valid and it was normal expect persons not in uniform identify selves. He said all that was wanted was for them to show piece of paper to identify them as US personnel. It not even necessary hand over such document, which could be shown through window. He contended this was not control. Solovyev several times proposed that he called solution to difficulty: Americans in uniform need show no identification while those in civilian clothes should show. Watson firmly asserted license plates were sufficient identification. This was whole purpose of supplying descriptions and photographs in accordance with Sov request. Watson pointed out that East German harassments based on alleged distinction between uniformed and non-uniformed personnel were recent phenomenon. Solovyev asserted new rules had been in effect since August 15. Watson countered by pointing out that since incident involving army buses August 26, there had been no difficulties in army bus movements until today.

Mission comment: Mission considers following were main points emerging from interview:

1. Sovs fully backing GDR in attempt compel US personnel in civilian clothes display ID.

2. Sovs did not categorically reject idea of stationing Sov officer at Friedrichstrasse, but certainly showed no interest.

3. Sovs extremely sensitive to US armed penetration East Berlin. It interesting note that Solovyev displayed no hesitation using term "Soviet Sector" or citing four-power practice when discussing this point though practically in same breath he able disclaim responsibility for GDR actions East Berlin.



193. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission at Berlin/1/

Washington, October 26, 1961, 8:11 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/10-2661. Secret. Drafted by Kohler. Repeated to Bonn. The source text bears Kohler's handwritten notation: "Approved by Secy after consideration with President."

607. Eyes only for Clay. Eyes only for Ambassador. Many thanks your 834 and 835./2/ I would certainly agree that the chances of success in representations in Moscow are not too bright. However it is essential that we test Soviet intentions in a much broader context than the question of entry procedures to East Berlin. In the nature of things we had long since decided that entry into East Berlin is not a vital interest which would warrant determined recourse to force to protect and sustain. Having for this reason acquiesced in the building of the wall we must recognize frankly among ourselves that we thus went a long way in accepting the fact that the Soviets could, in the case of East Berlin, as they have done previously in other areas under their effective physical control, isolate their unwilling subjects. An important consideration is the fact that our Allies would clearly be unwilling to support us in stronger measures, especially on issue of showing credentials where British practice differs from ours. We are having some difficulty in making them face up to the real prospect of armed conflict to protect our basic vital interests as regards West Berlin and access thereto. Consequently while we have favored every reasonable effort to demonstrate the illegality of the Soviet/GDR actions on August 13 and subsequently, and to manifest an intent to maintain our rights by every method short of force, we have not wished this to go so far as to constitute simply a demonstration of impotence, to focus world-wide public attention on the wrong issue and to arouse hopes and expectations on the part of the West Berliners and the West Germans who in the end could only be disillusioned. Thus we have wished to keep "harassing tactics" within these limits. Frankly within the context of these considerations I am unable to see what national purpose would be accomplished by the proposed raid in force. I had not realized that this was a proposal on your part in 824/3/ which accounts for the lack of comment in my reply to that message. In fact the British have already indicated strong opposition to the lesser demonstrative course of action described in Deptel 553/4/ to be undertaken in the event of a closing of Friedrichstrasse. This is being discussed further this afternoon/5/ but in view of the importance of keeping the three principal Allies together it seems quite possible that we cannot get agreement on even this much.

/2/Regarding telegram 834, see footnote 2, Document 191. In telegram 835, October 26, 1 p.m., Clay asked for Rusk's reaction to a raid in force into the Eastern sector which would tear down parts of the wall on its return. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/10-2661)

/3/See footnote 1, Document 191.

/4/Document 180.

/5/A 4-line summary of the Ambassadorial Group discussion of the events at Friedrichstrasse was transmitted in telegram 609 to Berlin, October 26, 8:50 p.m. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/10-2361)

If Moscow's reaction to Thompson's démarche is in fact negative, then we will of course have to review the whole question of where we go from there. In this case, would certainly be obliged to make it clear that any chances for genuine negotiations on the over-all problem would be seriously prejudiced by this unilateral action which places us under duress.

As for making negotiations directly dependent upon restoration status quo in regard showing credentials, we have not embarked upon negotiations because no adequate basis for them exists with respect to most fundamental issues. We could not be in position of saying to Soviets that satisfaction regarding entry into East Berlin would open way for negotiations. Clearly Friedrichstrasse issue is one of many involved in such possibilities.

Please be assured our deep awareness difficulties situation West Berlin and great appreciation your help and counsel. We face here dual necessity of maintaining allied unity on basic issues in face grave Soviet threat while at same time building up pressures on Soviets against further unilateral action. You can be sure that your views and recommendations are given the fullest possible attention.



194. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State/1/

Moscow, October 27, 1961, 5 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/10-2761. Secret; Niact. Received at 1:42 p.m. Repeated to London, Bonn, Paris, and Berlin.

1378. Re Deptel 1131./2/ Shortly before my 3 pm appointment I was informed Gromyko would see me after all. When I made points set forth Deptel Gromyko replied by reading me statement, text of which follows in separate tel, containing Soviet protest same incidents./3/

/2/See footnote 3, Document 192.

/3/Transmitted in telegram 1379 from Moscow, October 27. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/10-2761)

I observed his statement alleged we had acted in violation established procedure. I pointed out contrary was case and East German police had changed practice which had existed for 16 years. He merely said we had made lots of changes on our side. He referred to his talks with Secretary and understanding that both sides would avoid steps which would lead to complications. He said action US military in Berlin contradicted this understanding and it followed that evidently American side had changed its mind. If so Sov Govt would be compelled to draw appropriate conclusions. I again pointed out it was their side that had initiated action and I could not understand this at time when we were preparing negotiate settlement problems with Sov Union. Gromyko said sovereign rights of GDR could not be subject of negotiation. US should take account of this in its actions. I asked him if they had already signed separate treaty with GDR. He said when treaty was signed many other things would be implemented and he had discussed these in detail with Secretary Rusk. He said all information available to Sov Govt made it clear there was no basis for statement I had made to him and that our side had sole responsibility for incidents on border. All police were trying to do was establish who people were in these vehicles. If US sincerely desired détente it should not complicate situation. He referred to use of tanks and jeeps. I said I thought it possible to settle this problem and that we would be prepared to discuss it either here or in Berlin but he showed no interest in pursuing subject. At end conversation I asked if he thought it would be useful to instruct our people in Berlin to attempt find solution. He replied Soviet representative would not take part in check point procedure and would not be sent to check points. I remarked this was not only possible solution but he said he was aware that General Watson had discussed this problem with Soviet authorities and that position he had taken was not correct. He said Soviet officials had also made representations to ours in Berlin.

At one point Gromyko said no one had right infringe on sovereignty of GDR. I pointed out that logic of his position was that East Germany would also stop our military personnel in uniform particularly as he had remarked that uniform itself was not proof of identity. He replied I could draw any conclusion I liked.

In view Gromyko's unyielding position I did not put forward suggestions contained Deptel 1146./4/ I pointed out we did not recognize sovereignty of GDR and that they were apparently trying force us recognize it in East Berlin prior to negotiations. I pointed out this resulted in extremely serious and dangerous situation.

/4/Telegram 1146 to Moscow, October 26, transmitted various administrative solutions to the problem of identity documents which might be proposed if the Soviet Union reacted "in any way positively" to Thompson's initial proposals. (Ibid., 762.0221/10-2661)

Gromyko said he agreed with this. I concluded by saying I would inform my govt of his remarks.

My preliminary conclusion is that Soviets consider they have good issue and will be prepared use force./5/

/5/In a subsequent telegram Thompson suggested that, in view of Gromyko's position, the United States had four possible alternatives: 1) use force to ensure entry, 2) tell the Soviet Union there would be no negotiations until the situation was restored, 3) prohibit Americans in civilian clothing from traveling in military vehicles, and 4) agree to show identity cards to the East Germans, but state that this did not imply recognition of the German Democratic Republic. (Telegram 1386 from Moscow, October 27, 7 p.m.; ibid., 762.0221/10-2761)



195. Telegram From the Mission at Berlin to the Department of State/1/

Berlin, October 27, 1961, 8 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/10-2761. Top Secret; Niact; Eyes Only. Received at 5:23 p.m. and repeated to Bonn.

856. Bonn for Ambassador Dowling. From Clay to Rusk. While situation is tense it looks to me as if it could continue this way for a good may days without any significant change as our confrontation today was [with] Soviet tanks manned by Soviet troops. In view of present circumstances, in telephone conversation with the White House,/2/ we are to refrain from further probes until Monday reporting back prior to probing and during the same period will send only uniformed Americans into East Berlin. Our troops are on a partial alert although all of us are confident that we are just in a new phase of the war of nerves, and ours are in good shape.

/2/At 11:55 a.m. (Washington time) Clay had called the President to discuss the situation at Friedrichstrasse. No record of this telephone conversation has been found, but in an Emergency telegram to Norstad an hour later, Watson stated that Clay had told the President that he would allow no more Americans in civilian clothing to enter East Berlin until he had reported back and that he would make no probes before October 30. (Telegram 97455; Eisenhower Library, Norstad Papers, Policy File, Berlin-Live Oak, 1961)



196. Editorial Note

Late in the afternoon of October 27, 1961, 10 Soviet tanks advanced up the Friedrichstrasse to take up positions in the Soviet Zone opposite the U.S. tanks behind Checkpoint Charlie. Shortly thereafter General Clay held a press conference at Berlin Command to announce that their appearance clearly indicated who was responsible for harassment of U.S. officials attempting to enter East Berlin. According to Cates (The Ides of August, pages 485-486) President Kennedy called Clay that evening to review the situation; no other record of this conversation has been found. By midnight the number of Soviet tanks had grown to 30, but at 10:30 a.m. (Berlin time), October 28, the Soviet tanks began withdrawing from the checkpoint.

In one account of the crisis, Chairman Khrushchev ordered the Soviet tanks to pull back to save American face (Khrushchev Remembers: The Last Testament, pages 459-460), but Attorney General Kennedy stated that the President asked him to get in touch with Bolshakov for the purpose of using this channel to remove the Soviet tanks. Bolshakov agreed to do this. (Peter Wyden, Wall, page 266) No documentation has been found at the Kennedy Library or the Department of State to support or refute either account.


197. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission at Berlin/1/

Washington, October 27, 1961, 10:03 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 862.181/10-2761. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Hillenbrand, cleared in substance by Rusk, and approved and initialed by Kohler. Repeated to Moscow, Bonn, London, and Paris.

620. Paris pass USRO, Stoessel, McGuire. Berlin for Clay. JCS communicating with Norstad along following lines re Friedrichstrasse situation:/2/

/2/The decisions were transmitted to Norstad in JCS 2026 at 9:25 p.m. on October 27. They had been taken at a meeting at the White House at 5 p.m. attended by the President, Secretaries Rusk and McNamara, Bundy, Kohler, Hillenbrand, Attorney General Kennedy, Nitze, and Lemnitzer. Lemnitzer's 2 pages of notes on this meeting are in the National Defense University, Lemnitzer Papers, Box 29. Following the meeting at the White House Kohler briefed Grewe, Alphand, and Hood. Memoranda of these conversations are in Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/10-2761.

a. Probes to date have accomplished their purpose.

b. Further probes by U.S. personnel wearing civilian clothes and riding in official U.S. vehicles or privately owned vehicles bearing plates of U.S. Armed Forces and using armed guards or military escort will be deferred.

c. U.S. civilian officials will for the time being refrain from going into East Berlin except that one civilian official will attempt daily to enter East Berlin in a privately owned vehicle without armed escort.

d. All U.S. military personnel entering East Berlin will wear uniform.

Publicly we are taking position that armed probes by US personnel at Friedrichstrasse crossing point into East Berlin have now demonstrated a) direct Soviet responsibility for unilateral action taken by Communists and b) our unwillingness recognize East German authorities with respect to US official civilian personnel. For time being nothing further can be done on spot since matter has now moved to highest governmental levels. Instructions have been issued to defer any further civilian probes with armed escorts into East Berlin. Normal flow of uniformed military traffic into East Berlin will of course continue.

FYI. Propose send communication soonest from Secretary to Gromyko raising question serious effect Soviet and GDR unilateral action on whole basis for negotiation.



198. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union/1/

Washington, October 28, 1961, 5:30 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/10-2861. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Hillenbrand, cleared in draft by Rusk, and approved and initialed by Kohler. Repeated to London, Paris, Bonn, and Berlin.

1165. Eyes only for Ambassadors--Paris for Finletter and Stoessel--eyes only. You should request appointment with Gromyko at earliest possible opportunity. At meeting you should convey orally personal message to him from me along lines indicated below, at conclusion handing him Aide-Mémoire (text in separate telegram)/2/ which designed for publication in event Soviets release text memorandum handed to you by Gromyko on October 27.

/2/Telegram 1166, October 28. (Ibid.)

1. It is a source of surprise and chagrin to me that recent developments in Berlin at the Friedrichstrasse crossing point between West Berlin and East Berlin have created highly dangerous situation.

2. I find it incomprehensible in light of our talks with him in the US that Soviet Government has permitted unilateral actions to be taken upsetting 16 years of practice followed by civilian officials of the US Occupation in Berlin in entering East Berlin.

3. I find it impossible to reconcile what has happened in Berlin with his statement to the Moscow Party Congress on October 25/3/ in which he expressed hope for improvement of relations with Western Powers, particularly US, and that those relations would return to basis of Roosevelt period.

/3/For text of Gromyko's speech, see Pravda, October 26, 1961.

4. It appears to me that this action must have been designed to create maximum difficulties for US in our expressed hope that exploratory talks could lead to a basis for a peaceful solution to the Berlin question.

5. Not only does such unilateral action make continuance of fruitful talks between us difficult but it seems designed to embarrass the US for having adopted public responsibility in the thought that talks could be fruitful in the first place.

6. Foreign Minister Gromyko will recall that, in our talks, we agreed both sides should do all they could to refrain from unilateral action changing existing procedures which would exacerbate an already serious situation. Yet actions by police authorities of the East German regime changing procedures which have existed for many years were permitted to take place without any prior discussion with us on your part.

7. It should have been clear from our talks that we could not accept any extension of activities by GDR officials except to extent worked out in agreement between us. The attempt at this time to make Berlin sector boundary a definitive frontier is something I cannot understand, particularly since Gromyko must appreciate the sensitivity of boundary question.

8. Before situation which is already serious becomes more grave I would hope you and your Government would consider effects which unilateral action taken by representatives of the East German regime must have, if permitted to continue, on relations between our two countries.

9. In order to provide for a cooling-off period the US Government has instructed that any further entry into East Berlin by Allied official civilians accompanied by military escort be deferred. I would hope that during this period representatives of the Soviet Union and the US would be able to work out some agreed procedure which would permit resumption of normal movement into East Berlin.

10. Mr. Gromyko must surely understand that serious discussions about Germany and Berlin cannot take place under conditions of duress and increased tension. It is obvious that unless a satisfactory solution to this immediate problem can be found it would make impossible profitable discussion of those broader questions to which we should be addressing ourselves.

If Gromyko response is any way positive you should in your discretion make points in numbered paragraphs one and two and in immediately following paragraph of Deptel 1146 to Moscow./4/

/4/Paragraph 1 of telegram 1146, October 26, stated that Americans in civilian dress would show identity documents if the Soviets reopened all 12 access points; paragraph 2 stated they would show them if the Soviets opened entry points between the Soviet Zone and each of the three Western sectors. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/10-2661)



199. Telegram From the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (Norstad) to Secretary of Defense McNamara/1/

Paris, October 28, 1961, 4 p.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Germany, Berlin, Cables. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Also sent to Lemnitzer and repeated to Rusk and Dowling.

PRS 2741. 1. Having seen Berlin message 855, Bonn 1021, Moscow 1386, and having talked with Dowling on the phone, I wish to express my views on the serious situation now existing in Berlin./2/

/2/Regarding telegram 1386, see footnote 4, Document 194. In telegram 1021, October 21, Dowling commented on the proposals made in telegram 1386 and suggested that Soviet access to West Berlin be restricted to those individuals involved in quadripartite activities. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/10-2761) Telegram 855, also October 27, transmitted the substance of a U.S. paper on countermeasures, which had been submitted to a Western Political Advisers' meeting on that day. (Ibid., 862.181/10-2761) A transcript of Norstad's telephone conversation with Dowling on October 28 is in the Eisenhower Library, Norstad Papers, Subject File, Dowling)

2. We are in a position from which we can move forward, backward, perhaps sideways, but we cannot stand still. In order that the actions we may be required to take over the next few days may lead to something other than an inevitable clash of arms, we must have a clear decision now. I suggest the following course of action be considered.

A. That we exploit to the maximum by every possible propaganda means, and get our Allies to do the same, the note struck yesterday afternoon to the effect that the responsibility of the Russians in East Germany and East Berlin, and the sovereignty in fact in that area, have now been clearly established by the presence of Soviet tanks and troops near the Friedrichstrasse check point.

B. That we restrict Russian entrance and exit to and from West Berlin to one gate, preferably other than Friedrichstrasse. Since the Soviets have done this to us, they must put up with a little pushing around on this point from us.

C. That the rules governing Soviet entrance into the Western sectors and the entrance of tripartite personnel into the Soviet Sector be placed on a completely reciprocal basis, emphasizing the fact that the Soviet personnel will show identification to West Berlin police where identification is required under the reciprocal arrangements. This is substantially the proposal made by Thompson in 1386 to the Dept of State. In this connection, we should emphasize the fact that we will show identification to the police at the check point, since the presence of Russian forces has established the fact that whether the police are German or Russian, they are still symbols of Russian authority.

D. That the President, thru Dowling, demand that German personalities who will play important roles in the new government accept and support this position. If in Dowling's judgment I could be of help, I will of course respond to any request from him. I am confident, further, that Stikker, who carries great weight with the Germans, would be pleased to assist if called upon.

E. That agreement to support the above be obtained from the British and the French. If the French procrastinate, move ahead without agreement from them.

3. Unless accomplished speedily, the proposals made in this message would run the risk of being a step backward. I think therefore that we have no more than 24 hours in which to take action.

4. I know that the suggestion I have made herein is at best a step sideways. I firmly believe, however, it is the course of wisdom.


200. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State/1/

Paris, October 30, 1961, 5 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/10-3061. Secret.

2326. Eyes only for President and Secretary. Upon returning to my office this morning, after my trip to the United States, I asked for an appointment to see General de Gaulle and was given one for 3:30 this afternoon. I called at that time. I told him that President Kennedy was deeply disturbed about the attitude of France in the current discussions about the Berlin situation and he asked me to transmit his views to General de Gaulle.

The reaction of the United States, and of the people of the United States, to cancellation of London meeting, and to general trend of Berlin situation, is one of disappointment and disillusionment.

To begin with, in a democracy such as ours it is important that we show our people that we have offered to discuss any differences of view with another nation before entering into a shooting war. It is important that we do this because we are calling upon our people to make many sacrifices now and war will demand many more of them. In United States we are taking extraordinary measures to prepare country for whatever may come of Berlin situation. Thousands of members of reserves have been called to active duty as well as numerous units of both reserves and our National Guard. This, of course, has had wide-spread impact throughout entire US. We are doing this at a time when we are quite concerned about our present export-import dollar imbalance and it is very costly undertaking for us. We are adding more strength to military forces of NATO than all of our NATO Allies together. We believe this is necessary since we believe we must arm to parley. Our role is a difficult one and one which our people must have made clear to them and one which must have their support. With these reasons therefore, the refusal of France to participate in London conference, and widespread comment in press implying a lack of firmness in US position, is very harmful not only to US position at home but to overall position of Western Powers. We believe in US that we are doing all that we should do in order to deal from a position of strength and we sense a reluctance on part of our Allies to do anywhere near as well. This is disappointing to American people who anticipate greater support in these critical times.

I paused at some length after making foregoing statement and there was no response from General de Gaulle other than acknowledgment that he had understood it. I charged into the brief but pregnant silence that followed saying that while I was aware of fact that he might not want to make a response, I nevertheless wanted to be sure he understood what I had said. He nodded assent.

I then told General de Gaulle that the President was aware of his meeting next month with Prime Minister Macmillan and that the head of the German Government would be visiting Washington in the near future. I told him that the President believes that it would be well for the heads of the four nations to meet after these individual meetings, probably in early December. He believes Bermuda might be most suitable, all things considered, and would hope that it would be a working meeting. He believes that such a meeting should be held for purpose of exchanging views on situation now existing in Berlin in order that this exchange of views might strengthen overall Western position. However, if after such a meeting we were unable to continue on a common course together, and this became a matter of public knowledge such as occurred at time of London meeting cancellation, then it would be best not to have meeting. President believes that it is of utmost importance we work together and present strong united front and that any division which exists among us only serves to weaken our position in Soviet view, despite individual or collective strength we may have.

This concluded what I had to say to General de Gaulle and he then merely commented, "Thank you, Mr. Ambassador for this information, and through you I would like to thank your President. I have taken notes on it and will consider it."

I should add that this report is an exact statement of what was presented to General de Gaulle since it was based upon a paper prepared before the meeting with him./2/

/2/In his next telegram Gavin reported that, other than being unresponsive, de Gaulle's "attitude was friendly and warm although perhaps somewhat less upon my departure than when I arrived." (Telegram 2327, October 30; ibid.)



201. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Germany/1/

Washington, October 30, 1961, 9:01 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/10-3061. Top Secret; Niact. Drafted by Hillenbrand, cleared in substance by the President and Nitze, and approved and initialed by Kohler. Also sent to Berlin, Paris, and CINCPAC as Tosec 2.

1238. Exclusive for POLAD, pass eyes only Secretary Rusk./2/ Eyes only for Dowling and Clay from Acting Secretary. Paris eyes only for Stoessel for Norstad. President feels we have achieved favorable result in provoking Soviet intervention in Friedrichstrasse situation. Their clear admission of responsibility provides rationale for proceeding along lines suggested by Norstad's Msg to Secretaries State, Defense, Lemnitzer and Ambassador Dowling which Dept repeating separately to Clay./3/ President therefore feels it would be best solution to move ahead at this time on basis of real reciprocity including limitation of Soviets to one access point. As reported separate telegram,/4/ we raised possibility today in Ambassadorial Group. With German qualification re use of West Berlin police, all seemed to feel this would be acceptable and could be supported to public opinion because of reciprocity aspect. They urgently seeking positions their Governments.

/2/Secretary Rusk was in Tokyo for a meeting of the U.S.-Japan Joint Committee on Trade and Economic Affairs.

/3/Document 199.

/4/Telegram 1240 to Bonn, October 30, 10:45 p.m. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/10-3061)

Would appreciate receiving your views on urgent basis./4/

/4/On October 31 Clay replied that reciprocity in showing identity cards would no longer serve a useful purpose. (Telegram 896 from Berlin; ibid.) Dowling supported the plan. (Telegram 1036 from Bonn, October 31; ibid.)



202. Telegram From the Mission at Berlin to the Department of State/1/

Berlin, November 2, 1961, 4 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/10-261. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Also sent to Bonn and repeated to London, Paris, and Moscow.

920. Paris for Embassy, USRO, Stoessel and McGuire. From Clay. Re Deptel 653 Berlin, 1268 Bonn, 2412 London, 2516 Paris, 1192 Moscow, CINCEUR unn./2/

/2/Dated November 1, this telegram reported a discussion with British and French officials about Allied reaction to any East German demand that uniformed military show identification on entering East Berlin. (Ibid., 862.181/11-161)

In my view we have nothing to gain now by having either our military or civilian personnel show identification to East German police at Friedrichstrasse. To do so would imply acceptance of East Berlin being a part of East Germany. Entry into East Berlin is not of sufficient importance to be obtained at this price. Thus, if the demand is made for military personnel to show identification, I would recommend we deny ourselves entry and concurrently close entry to all Soviet personnel except air safety and Spandau personnel if this not already in effect (see ourtel 919 Dept, 812 Bonn)./3/ Concurrently, I would recommend that we state publicly we cannot accept this illegal assumption of authority by Vopos which constitutes duress and makes negotiation impossible. We should do nothing else here but remain in defensive posture while Soviet makes whatever move it intends to formally recognize East German Government.

/3/Telegram 919, November 2, summarized a discussion of the Western Political Advisers on that day in which various countermeasures against Soviet personnel were discussed. (Ibid., 862.181/11-261)

I realize that if this happens and East German police replace Soviet personnel on the Autobahn it is not a cause for war. However, I think it would be far better to await this development than to yield now at Friedrichstrasse./4/

/4/In telegram 1068 from Bonn, November 3, Dowling supported Clay's views and added that since the range of countermeasures in Berlin was limited the United States might consider expelling Soviet and East German trade representatives in proportion to the number of personnel denied entrance to East Berlin. (Ibid., 762.0221/11-361)



203. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission at Berlin/1/

Washington, November 3, 1961, 10:38 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 862A.181/10-2761. Top Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Kohler and Hillenbrand, cleared by the President, and approved and initialed by Kohler. Repeated to Bonn, London, Tokyo for the Secretary, Paris, and Moscow.

676. Berlin for Clay. Paris pass USRO Stoessel, McGuire. For Ambassadors and Norstad. In light of your comments and continuing French and German opposition, President agrees/2/ that official civilians in vehicles should continue for time being to refrain from showing identification at Friedrichstrasse crossing. On other hand he does not believe that steps should be taken at this time to implement Para 3 of tripartite recommendations contained Berlin's telegram 855./3/ Apart from fact that quadripartite agreement on this unlikely in light governmental views expressed in Ambassadorial Group discussions here, action proposed does not seem appropriate under current circumstances.

/2/This decision was taken at a meeting at the White House at 9:30 a.m. on November 3. For a further report on this meeting, see Document 204.

/3/Paragraph 3 of telegram 855, October 27, recommended that if Thompson's talks with Gromyko failed to produce satisfactory results, all Soviet and East German vehicles with civilian occupants, except those on quadripartite business, should be denied access to West Berlin. (Department of State, Central Files, 862.181/10-2761)

While armed probes of last week were useful in provoking public demonstration of Soviet responsibility, in another sense they simply confirmed Soviet/GDR forces indeed have effective physical control of East Berlin. This is a fact of life which the Western Allies accepted on August 13, and to a considerable degree as long ago as 1948, when the Soviets walked out of the Kommandatura. The identification issue is a particularly weak one, in view of the divergencies of practice with our own pedestrian officials, with the British and with our own contingency planning for ground access. But there are other slices of salami which the Soviets will try to take to establish the wall as a "state frontier" of the GDR. It will be important in dealing with all these not to undertake actions which can only demonstrate impotence, or focus attention on non-vital issues or arouse hopes and expectations which in the end could only be disillusioned. Essential as are a strong posture (and Allied unity) in West Berlin and sustained morale, the big issues can clearly only be solved by coming to grips with the Soviets in a broader context, either by finding a basis for a negotiated modus vivendi, or if this proves impossible, by large-scale preparations for a showdown.

Larger problem has been raised in Moscow and we will of course have to review situation if and when Gromyko gives his reply to most recent Thompson approach.



204. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Kohler) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, November 5, 1961.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/11-561. Secret. Initialed by Kohler. Prepared to brief Secretary Rusk on his return from Japan and Korea.

Problems of Berlin and Germany in the Last Week


An inordinate amount of time and energy has been expended by Allied officials in the last week in trying to reach some kind of mutually acceptable arrangements at Friedrichstrasse-- the exercise has not been a happy one for Allied unity. Some progress was made at the Ambassadorial Group level in getting ready an outline of Western negotiating positions, but the basis for further immediate probes by our Ambassador at Moscow does not appear to exist as long as the East Berlin access question continues as it is. In the larger sense, General de Gaulle has not changed his position and the new German government has not been formed although this seems likely within a few days. Intimations and evidences of other Soviet and GDR harassments have been seen in BASC, on the autobahn and in the air corridors. To these must be added the Soviet harassment in the name of the German problem of Finland.


You will have seen the Department's telegram 676 to Berlin of November 3 (Tab A)/2/ instructing Berlin not to have official civilians provide identification at the Friedrichstrasse crossing and at the same time not to impose further restrictions on the movement of Soviet civilian officials into West Berlin. The dispatch of this telegram was preceded by a meeting with the President, attended by Mr. Bundy, Mr. Hillenbrand, and myself. We had prepared a draft instruction authorizing the showing of identification by civilian officials and providing the rationale for this action. However, upon consideration, the President felt that, in the absence of French and German concurrence, and given the strong recommendations of General Clay (since supported by Ambassador Dowling), we should continue to impose self-denial upon American official civilians.

/2/Document 203.

We will, of course, want to review the situation when the Soviets have further responded to Ambassador Thompson's meeting with Kuznetsov,/3/ as indicated in the telegram. Meanwhile, we are giving urgent thought quadripartitely as to how best to deal with the probable next attempt to slice the salami--GDR demands upon our military to produce identification. It would be only fair to point out that, given the British intention to revert back to authorizing their military to produce identification upon demand, we would again be faced with the fact of differing Allied practices. The President was prepared to accept this in the case of civilian officials. He did indicate, however, that he thought our military should be authorized to produce identification from the outset. He believed that this might be carried off despite the inconsistency of doing this in the face of refusal to permit civilians to identify themselves. I believe this inconsistency to be a matter which would not be obliterated by the mere passage of a few weeks, and it therefore seems likely that our eventual recommendation on military access to East Berlin would have to be consistent with the procedures applied to civilian officials.

/3/In telegram 1398, October 29, Thompson reported his unproductive discussion of Berlin with Deputy Foreign Minister Kuznetzov, who had shown no interest in the West's proposals. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Germany, Berlin, Cables)

Other Harassments

In the BASC we have received a protest from the Soviet controller against local Allied flights over the East Sector in the Berlin Flight Zone./4/ This protest was aimed at helicopter flights on the grounds that such planes are not included in the term "aircraft" whose flights would be authorized. We believe the protest was triggered by the hovering of US helicopters over the Soviet tanks at Friedrichstrasse, although the flights to Steinstucken (approximately twice a week) may have also been in the Soviets' minds. We have rejected the protest.

/4/The protest was transmitted in telegram 921 from Berlin, November 2. (Department of State, Central Files, 962.72/11-261)

In East Berlin US military patrols have been harassed by Vopos and we are protesting this to the Soviets. We propose to retaliate against Soviet patrols in our sector and, possibly to institute tripartite patrols of East Berlin to prevent the Soviets from splitting the Allies on this issue (the British and French have not been so harassed as yet).

On the autobahn, our assistance vehicles have been refused passage by the Soviets. Other US military cars have been stopped on suspicion of being assistance vehicles. Although regular military formations have moved in and out of Berlin along the autobahn without incident, we are protesting the stopping of the assistance cars on the grounds that the Soviets can not pick and choose which military vehicle uses the road.

Western Negotiating Positions

There have been some impediments to a true marriage of the German Ambassador's paper and the paper on Western substantive positions which had been previously developed in the Ambassadorial Group. These impediments are now being worked on in a sub-group. The melded paper, which does not as yet reflect the discussion of November 3 in the Ambassadorial Group, is Tab B./5/ One point on which we continue to have difficulty with the Germans is the matter of contacts between the Federal Republic and the GDR. It may be that Grewe's instructions are not current, but he has thus far seemed less than realistic in facing up to the necessity for making practical arrangements with someone from the other side.

/5/Not printed.

Ambassador Thompson has expressed doubts concerning the wisdom of continuing the Moscow probe of the Soviet position on the Berlin and German questions. (Tab C)/6/

/6/A copy of telegram 1424, November 2, which was not attached to the source text, is in Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/11-261.


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