Executive Secretariat Files

Report to the National Security Council by the Secretary of Defense (Johnson)1

top secret

NSC 24/4

Subject: Phase-Out of the Berlin Airlift

You will recall that NSC 24/3,2 approved by the President on 15 June 1949, recommended as interim measures, while the Council of Foreign Ministers was in session and also thereafter, unless a clear written agreement were reached providing definitive arrangements for adequate rail, road and water access to Berlin, that:

  • a. All efforts, including the airlift, be made to increase the reserve stocks of supplies in Berlin.
  • b. The airlift system be kept in a state of readiness for full operation.”

As you know, no definitive agreement confirming Western Allied transportation rights to Berlin was achieved at the recent session of the Council of Foreign Ministers. In recent messages to the Department of the Army, the United States and British Military Governors have estimated that the Berlin stockpile of 1,100,000 metric tons of supplies, a reserve of four to five months for the western sectors of Berlin, will be achieved approximately by 17 August 1949. This is regarded by them as a maximum stockpile that is practicable both from the point of view of storage and finance. When the stockpile is completed, there will still be a surplus of intake capacity by rail and barge of some 6,000 tons daily above requirements.

[Page 840]

The Military Governors therefore consider that immediate steps are necessary to reduce the airlift by phases beginning 1 August 1949. The fastest and safest practicable rate of phase out will, in their opinion, require three months to complete. With respect to the possibilities of a reimposition of the Berlin blockade, the Military Governors have recommended:

That two troop carrier groups, U.S. Air Force, and two heavy transport squadrons, Royal Air Force, remain in Germany.
That their governments make appropriate arrangements to insure that the airlift can be built up again so as to attain full scale within a period of ninety days.
That each Air Force in Germany shall insure that installations within its control are maintained sufficiently to insure that the airlift can be built up again at the rate given in b above.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff feel, and I concur, that adequate provisions have been made to insure the establishment of the Berlin stockpile, and that adequate provisions can be made to insure resumption of the airlift if such resumption becomes necessary. However, the phasing-out of the Berlin airlift has implications beyond those of a purely military nature, and I therefore recommend to the National Security Council that the National Military Establishment be authorized, as a matter of urgency, to phase out the Berlin airlift, commencing 1 August 1949, provided that action by the National Military Establishment is taken to insure that in an emergency the airlift can be re-established at full capacity within ninety days.

Inasmuch as no meeting of the National Security Council is scheduled prior to 1 August 1949, 1 suggest that concurrences in the recommendations set forth in this memorandum be indicated by voting slips rather than by the calling of a special meeting for this purpose.3

Louis Johnson
  1. Attached to the source text was a memorandum from the Executive Secretary Souers to the National Security Council, July 25, not printed, which submitted Johnson’s report for consideration by the Council. (Executive Secretariat Files)
  2. Not printed.
  3. On July 27 the National Security Council approved NSC 24/4 and concurred in the recommendation by the Secretary of Defense contained in the next to the last paragraph. The report was subsequently submitted to President Truman who approved the recommendations on July 28 and directed their implementation by the Secretary of Defense. (Executive Secretariat Files)