740.00119 Control (Germany)/6–549: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary of State, at Paris

top secret

Telac 60. Eyes Only for the Secretary. Preliminary reply urActel 41.1 UrActel 312 indicating that you would send later your general views as regards action to be taken in event of reimposition of the blockade arrived just prior to NSC consideration of problem on Thursday. The following paper had been prepared jointly by State and Army for consideration by the NSC.

[Here follows the five paragraph text of the Report of the Acting Secretary of Defense to the National Security Council, June 1, as amended by the Council at its forty-first meeting, June 2, page 820.]

While the above NSC paper represents our views here Webb explained to NSC that he desired to withhold formal approval pending receipt of your comments. The paper was therefore approved subject to such reconsideration as we might desire after receipt of your views.

You will note that above NSC action indicates desirability of warning to Soviets of seriousness with which we would view any reimposition of the blockade, which seems to correspond to thinking urActel 41. It was the intention of the NSC to allow you flexibility as to method, timing, and textual content of warning to Soviets.

In NSC discussion of this paper concern was expressed as to the security aspects of disclosing its contents to the Brit and French at Paris. While we leave this matter to your discretion, it was consensus that it would be preferable not to indicate that a US governmental decision had been made that resort to the airlift was the only practical means of meeting a reimposition of the blockade.3

Your message indicates that the JCS should reconsider (1) whether we should break the blockade even at risk of war and (2) the question of probing tactics.

As to (1), we consider JCS has presented us with their considered views as to practicability of breaking blockade by forceful means.4 [Page 829] Beyond that point we seriously doubt that JCS is proper body to recommend whether US should undertake course that might lead to war. This issue seems to us to be one for the NSC and the President, and we believe that this issue, now in the NSC, should not be referred again to a subordinate body.

In regard to point (2) above, interpretation of your description of probing tactics as contained Actel 41 is same as that considered by the JCS in furnishing their previous comments. Consider therefore that this issue as well is now properly in NSC and that we can expect no change in further JCS consideration unless we inject new elements.

You will note that while the NSC paper rules out a probe by armored column or other show of US force, it does not imply that we should submit voluntarily to a gradual reimposition of the blockade by simple orders on the part of Soviet, or Soviet controlled German authorities. It is Department view that we should not do this, any more than we have allowed ourselves to be deterred in operation in the air corridors by Soviet notices of maneuvers, etc. We feel the same principle should be applied to ground operations and that if attempts are made to reimpose the blockade piecemeal, we should not accede just to written notices or dicta of subordinate officials but should continue normal movements of land traffic until confronted either with armed opposition or with real and effective physical barriers. We think there is always the possibility, as has proved to be the case in the air corridors, that there might be an area of divergence between Russian readiness to issue warnings or orders and Russian readiness to oppose us by physical force at the risk of loss of life and serious complications.

Subject to further JCS consideration and concurrence, Dept would favor regarding thrown switch on the railroads or a closed lock on canals as an effective physical barrier; but not a mere order of a German station master or lock keeper, and on highways, any firing on vehicles, blowing [up] of bridges or erection of real physical ob-stables as admissible deterrents, but not the symbolic pole and flag barrier and certainly not a note from a Soviet official saying that we should no longer use the highway. In all of this, it should be thoroughly understood that if confronted with effective physical or military barriers, our people would then make it plain that they were yielding to force, on their particular level, and reporting to their higher authority. They would not conduct themselves provocatively or persist in further attempts to movement of traffic.

If you concur with the above thinking and consider it desirable to do so, we can request the NSC to make appropriate revision and expansion [Page 830] to present para 3d. It is assumed the NSC would desire to check this revision with the JCS.

Weighing all the facts, which would of course have to be reconsidered in the light of circumstances at the time, we are inclined to believe the present NSC paper, with the possible exception of suggested amplification of para 3d, recommends the only courses of action that can be definitely determined at this time. It is assumed, of course, that reimposition of blockade would be taken up immediately in SC for maximum effort mobilization US and world public opinion.

Will withhold final approval of NSC paper quoted above pending further word from you after consideration of its text in light of these comments.5

  1. Supra.
  2. Not printed, but see footnote 1 to Actel 41, supra.
  3. In Telac 62, June 7, to Paris, not printed, Webb amplified the problem of security in handling the United States position in the event of a reimposition of the blockade, stating that the military expressed the fear that should the United States position become known it might influence the Soviet willingness to re-impose the blockade. Both the NSC and the JCS felt that in exploring any counter action it was preferable not to indicate that the United States had taken any decision on its course of action. (740.00119 Control (Germany)/6–749)
  4. Under reference here is Appendix A of NSC 24/2, June 1, p. 821, in which the JCS considered the possible United States courses of action in the event that the Soviet Union reimposed the Berlin blockade.
  5. In Telac 67, June 8, to Paris, not printed, the Department of State indicated that it had nothing to add to these preliminary views. (740.00119 Control (Germany)/6–549)