163. Letter From the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Anderson) to the Secretary of State1

Dear Mr. Secretary: In the course of a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 20 May 1955,2 representatives of the Department of State requested a definition of the term “limited military force” as employed in NSC 5404/1, U.S. Policy Toward Berlin. A preliminary view on this subject has already been furnished to you by the Department of the Army.

The Department of Defense considers that, for the purpose of carrying out the military provisions of paragraph 9 f of NSC 5404/1, commitment of the following forces would constitute an appropriate interpretation of the expression “limited military force”: one reinforced motorized rifle platoon to accompany motor convoys from [Page 385] Berlin or from Berlin and Helmstedt, and one reinforced rifle platoon on each train. Forces on this order of magnitude would be sufficient to determine definitely Soviet intentions by drawing Soviet fire or by otherwise compelling the Soviets to choose between permitting or resisting with force the passage of the U.S. forces along the Autobahn.

If execution of the provisions of paragraph 9 f of NSC 5404/1 results in the Soviets resisting with force the attempt of the U.S. platoons to proceed along the Autobahn or the railroad, NSC 5404/1 provides that the platoons withdraw; that the United States initiate various measures to rally United States and allied opinion behind the U.S. position; institute certain alert measures in Europe; and an appropriate degree of mobilization in the Continental United States; and make clear to the USSR U.S. determination. Thereafter, allowing a period for Soviet reaction to these preparations, paragraph 9 i of NSC 5404/1 provides that the United States use limited military force again, this time to attempt to reopem access to Berlin, even at the risk of general war.

It is not possible militarily to state the order of magnitude appropriate for the military force which would be employed under the provisions of paragraph 9 i of NSC 5404/1. The conditions produced by the political, psychological, mobilization and alert measures which would have been taken following the use of the reinforced platoons cannot be predicted. Only after these conditions were evaluated in the light of circumstances then prevailing could a sound decision be reached as to the size and composition of forces to be used.

Execution of any plan calling for the use of military force to assist in removing restrictions of access to Berlin would be only on specific orders emanating from the highest level of the United States Government and must be explicit as to the latitude allowed the commander in opening fire.

R.B. Anderson
  1. Source: Department of State, Central File, 762.0221/5–2655. Top Secret. A brief memorandum of transmittal assigning action to the Office of German Affairs is not printed.
  2. See Document 161.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.