No. 667

711.5849/2–1751: Telegram

The Ambassador in Czechoslovakia (Briggs) to the Secretary of State 1


525. Fact that Czechoslovak jet overflight charges2 were true may put situation somewhat different light insofar Czechoslovak intentions concerned, since can now be argued that recent and current Czechoslovak behavior toward Embassy has been result exasperation and frustration successive US rejections Czechoslovak overflight complaints.

If jet overflight charge had been only accusation there might be better grounds for reaching above conclusion, but Embassy yesterday received new Foreign Office note dated February 16 taking invidious issue with Embassy’s February 7 note in which pursuant instructions we rejected various overflight charges contained Czechoslovak communcation January 22 last. All those charges are revived and reiterated in February 16 note with special emphasis on accusation US planes have dropped secret radios destined for espionage both inside Czechoslovakia and also (because of poor aim) in Austria near Czechoslovak border. Note also reverts last summer’s alleged aircraft border violations which it declares US never adequately answered, and it even includes revival potato bug charges.3 Note ends with statement “full responsibility for overflights as well as consequences that may arise out of them rests with US Government”.

This unpleasant communication may well be followed by shouts of “I told you so” when they receive (today) Embassy’s note expressing regret for jet overflights. Whatever else in prospect, Communists expected capitalize utmost what they may term “belated American admission of guilt.”

With reservation that weekend meditation may give us better perspective, our best Saturday morning appraisal is that since jet plane accusation only one of several, its having turned out true does not greatly change potentialities of present strained situation. That, however is on the assumption that more overflight denials are not going to blow up in our face.

[Page 1346]

Review of Czechoslovak January 22 note and of whatever investigation undertake pursuant thereto accordingly suggested.4

  1. Repeated to Frankfurt, Moscow, Paris, and London.
  2. Regarding the overflight charges, see Document 663.
  3. Regarding the “potato bug” charges, see footnote 4, Document 664.
  4. Telegram 528 from Praha, February 20, reported that the local press in Praha had not mentioned the Czechoslovak Foreign Ministry note of February 16 on American overflights. Ambassador Briggs recommended that the note be ignored unless investigations being carried out by military authorities in Frankfurt revealed new information regarding the Czechoslovak charges. (711.5849/2–2051) In telegram 415 to Praha, February 21, the Department of State concurred in Briggs’ recommendation. (711.5849/2–2051)