1. Telegram From the Embassy in Germany to the Department of State0
2100. Reference Department to Bonn 1709, December 27.1 I believe it is time we looked at Berlin Allied access problems as a whole and evaluate actions and principles pertaining to land access in relation to air access and vice versa. The uninformed public might not draw a distinction between acceptance of GDR officials at surface checkpoints and refusal to accept GDR traffic control in the corridors even though our air rights may be more solidly based on quadripartite agreements. Soviets have no physical control over movement of aircraft or of passengers, cargo and mail moving by air comparable to their ability to physically control other types of traffic. This fact is a limitation on their ability to harass West Berlin. Some Berliners and Federal Republic officials are concerned that we are not too sure of our air rights and might not maintain strong position on air access in face of Soviet attempts to restrict.
Even though we cannot anticipate nor be prepared for every possible Soviet move affecting access to Berlin, we must be prepared to deal quickly with any action impeding access and infringing upon our rights. While current policy provides for acceptance GDR personnel at checkpoints as “agents” of Soviets, planning for contingencies has not gone beyond assumption that such personnel in this capacity would merely look at documents and pass train. While such might well be the case initially, we would certainly be naive to think this procedure would go no further. It is certain that since acceptance of GDR “authority” by Western powers is underlying Soviet objective, continuous pressure to that end may be expected. The next step would logically and almost inevitably be demand for German translations, questioning status of travel, [Page 2] challenging right to move German mail car, insistence on GDR visas, etc. We can anticipate that protests to Soviets will encounter a referral to “sovereign” GDR and we would reach an impasse. (While we are not predicting these events will occur, we would be remiss not to consider such assumptions in connection with policy planning.)
The above situation poses two problems:
- At what point beyond mere “showing” of documents is recognition of “authority” involved?
- What do we do when we turn back trains rather than recognize GDR “authority”? (Reference to “actual physical interference” in reference telegram not clear unless refusal to pass train considered physical interference.)
On the first problem, I feel that acceptance at GDR request of any condition or procedure not in effect with Soviets would constitute recognizing GDR “authority”. Furthermore, there would be no channel for developing a modus vivendi for keeping the trains running when minor questions arose as there has been with the Soviets. Department’s comments on this problem would be appreciated.
The second problem involves the “self-imposed blockade,” which raises visions of 1948 airlift, even though in assumed situation only consideration of Allied access (not German) involved. Our ability to take and hold a strong line with Soviets in this eventuality and to muster public opinion by dramatizing Soviets’ actions blocking our access to Berlin depends upon how long we can accept cessation of military train service and official use of autobahn. With this in mind, I asked USAREUR to estimate what would be required to airlift military surface traffic and they have supplied the following information:
- Temporary ground blockade of military supply routes (train and autobahn) could be accepted logistically for two to three weeks without serious inconvenience and without instigation of airlift transport other than normal air courier service plus lift for certain perishables.
- Maintenance normal supply conditions in Berlin would require air transport for 4 tons dairy products and 7 tons APO mail daily. After first week, additional daily requirement 3 tons fresh fruits & vegetables would exist. Translated into aircraft requirements: For first week, 2 C–54 or 2 C–119 or 1 C–124 daily; for second week, 2 C–54 or 3 C–119 or 1 C–124.
- Present overall baggage, freight and U.S. mail daily average tonnage on passenger trains is 35 tons. As indicated 2 above, only 11 tons required for short period. In addition, about 50 tons of German mail carried daily in Bundespost mail cars into Berlin on military trains; similar amount carried on West bound runs.
- Trains carry average of 80 passengers daily to Berlin of whom approximately 40 per cent duty travelers.
- Passenger train service to and from Berlin costs U.S. $4,000 daily, not including cost of Bundespost mail cars. Paid by Berlin magistrate [Page 3] funds. (In addition, the Bundespost contributes about $1,000 daily to the Bundesbahn for the continued operation of the Bremerhaven–Berlin passenger trains on a daily basis as per an agreement with USAREUR.)
- U.S. military freight shipments to Berlin, in addition to freight on passenger trains, averaged during last year 3,250 tons per month, of which 86 percent coal (15 tons per day other than coal). Such trains regularly scheduled semi-monthly, but last year actual average 7.5 trains per month.
On basis of above information, I am asking USAFE to explore capability of handling these movements by air on short notice. The operation of only one flight per day of one C–124 for 3 weeks would carry us through the critical period, and even more prolonged air movement would appear feasible. Department’s comments on this second problem would also be appreciated.
USAREUR fully concurs desirability considering inter-relationship air & ground access problems and review of principles to be followed in local actions.