19. Operations Coordinating Board Report0


(NSC 5803—Supplement I)

A. Summary Evaluation

This period brought no basic change in the situation in Berlin. The Western position was successfully maintained. The U.S.S.R., no doubt deterred by a clear realization that the city could be made untenable to the Western Powers only at the risk of major war, appeared disinclined to resort to drastic measures to bring Berlin within its area of control, preferring instead to try to effect a gradual erosion of the Western position and of Berlin’s resistance. Chronic Communist harassment continued to be one of the prices of maintaining Berlin as an outpost of freedom. However, this harassment came in the main from Communist attempts to bolster the prestige of the GDR regime and the economy of the Soviet Zone rather than measures directed primarily at undermining the Western position in Berlin.
The continued advance in West Berlin’s economic situation was best symbolized by the drop in unemployment to a postwar low, but the rate of economic recovery appeared to be levelling off. West Berlin’s standard of living is now 98% of the Federal Republic average. The Berlin aid program is effectively demonstrating American support in tangible form.
A review of policy is not recommended.

B. Major Operating Problems or Difficulties Facing the United States

Communist Pressures. The year was replete with rumors and threats of Communist action directed against Berlin, with particular emphasis on the elimination of the remaining contacts between Western Sectors and the Soviet Sector and Zone. Concern reached a critical period in October and November 1957, following the currency reform in the Soviet Zone. The only threatened measure which has materialized to date was the rerouting of through rapid transit (S-Bahn) passenger traffic from the Soviet Zone to the Soviet Sector to bypass the Western [Page 37] Sectors. However, there are still indications that the Communists are attempting to find ways to stop the flight of refugees to West Berlin, to prevent East Germans from working in West Berlin, to prevent purchases by East Germans in West Berlin, to hamper anti-Communist propaganda activities directed from West Berlin, and in general to eliminate, insofar as possible without incurring grave risks, the adverse influence which Free Berlin exerts on their attempts to communize East Germany.
Access to Berlin.
Berlin’s geographic isolation continued to be its weakest point, and the maintenance of free access to the city continued to be the most urgent problem. In general, the movement of persons and goods between the Federal Republic and West Berlin proceeded on a larger scale and with less difficulties than at any time since the war, but minor harassments continued and the vulnerability of Berlin’s line of communications was demonstrated anew. All German surface traffic was stopped by the GDR for one day in October 1957 to facilitate the East German currency conversion. At the same time the East Germans detained, examined, and in some cases confiscated, West German parcel post shipments. In May 1958 new tolls were arbitrarily imposed by the GDR on interzonal waterways traffic, ostensibly to obtain funds to cover expenses which would be incurred through the construction by the Federal Republic of a dam on the Elbe but in fact also as a means of pressuring the Federal Republic to enter high-level negotiations with the GDR. The waterway toll issue developed in the same unproductive fashion as had the Soviet Zone highway toll issue in 1955. The Soviets rejected the Western Powers’ protest that the Paris Agreement of 19491 had been violated and insisted that the question was solely within the competence of the Germans, while the Federal Republic declined to give serious consideration to economic countermeasures and decided to reimburse the carriers to cover the toll increase.
After a year of threats, minor difficulties, and discussion, the Western Powers and the Soviets agreed on new documentation for Allied official travelers between Berlin and the Federal Republic effective December 1957. The Soviets thereupon shifted their attention to the documentation and nature of freight shipments via military trains and trucks. Although the Soviets are now shown documentation (e.g., the travel orders and identity documents of Allied travelers) which they had not seen before, there has been no significant change in the types or volume of Allied travel and goods shipments to and from Berlin. [Page 38] Occasional minor harassments continued, but on the whole Allied access problems are at the moment quiescent.
Contingency Planning. After three years of effort on our part to persuade them, the British explicitly and the French implicitly have not only refused to commit themselves in advance to the use of limited military force to maintain access to Berlin but have also refused to engage in further hypothetical contingency planning on this subject.
Aviation Problems. (See para. 21 of the Federal Republic Report dated September 3, 1958.)
Although the contingency does not now appear imminent, planning has been undertaken to deal with a situation in which the Soviets refuse to cooperate in the Berlin Air Safety Center, for example, by refusing to accept flight plans for Western Allied aircraft.
It appears likely that flights of East German aircraft in the airspace of the Berlin air corridors may occur in the future on an increasing scale, and planning to deal with this situation has been initiated.
The Soviets are attempting, in violation of quadripartite agreements, to limit the Western Powers’ use of the Berlin air corridors to altitudes between 2,500 and 10,000 feet. Although these altitudes have generally been adequate to date, the introduction of new jet and turboprop aircraft will create an operational need for higher altitudes. The possibility of asserting Western rights to use high altitudes by having U.S. Air Force aircraft conduct test flights above 10,000 feet is under study.

[1 paragraph (9 lines of source text) not declassified]

Note: See latest National Intelligence Estimate, 11–3–56, dated 28 February 1956, “Probable Short-Term Communist Capabilities and Intentions Regarding Berlin”.2

Annex A3


New Governing Mayor. The election of Willy Brandt as Governing Mayor in October 1957 following the death of Otto Suhr infused new vigor into the administration of the city. Brandt has subsequently replaced Franz Neumann as the Chairman of Berlin’s SPD and as a [Page 39] member of the Executive Board of the national SPD, and he appears likely to play an increasingly important role in national politics. A visit to the United States by Brandt in February 19584 confirmed the close ties which both Berlin and its Governing Mayor have with this country and also served to increase Brandt’s stature within both Germany and the U.S.
Assurances to Berlin. The determination of the United States to maintain the status and security of Berlin was re-stated on appropriate occasions, notably by the President to Governing Mayor Brandt during the latter’s visit and by the Secretary of State during a visit to Berlin in May 1958.5
Aid Program.
The continuing program of aid to Berlin is proving a very effective means of demonstrating in tangible form American support for all that free Berlin has come to represent in opposition to Soviet imperialism. In Fiscal Year 1958, the “impact projects” selected for U.S. assistance included student housing for the Ernst Reuter Foundation and the Technical University, both of which have been endorsed by an ICA housing survey team. U.S. assistance will be given in the construction of a modern hospital to operate in conjunction with the Free University Medical School.
The Berlin aid appropriation finances also the special Soviet Zone projects designed to focus and intensify Western influences on the population of the Soviet Zone.
Congress Hall. The Benjamin Franklin Congress Hall, turned over to the City of Berlin in April 1958, was the outstanding feature of the 1957 International Building Exposition and has become the most strikingly effective symbol of American support for Berlin. Together with the Hilton and other hotels now under construction, the Congress Hall is expected to be of key importance in the City’s drive to exploit its tourist potential.
Relations with the Federal Republic. The increasingly close relationship between Berlin and the Federal Republic was exemplified by the election of the Governing Mayor of Berlin, in turn among the Minister-Presidents of the States of the Federal Republic, as President of the Bundesrat. In this capacity Governing Mayor Brandt served as acting Federal President during President Heuss’ visits abroad. The Third Bundestag held its constituent session in Berlin in October 1957.
Violation of Steinstuecken Border. Members of the East German police (the exact number involved is not clear) entered the tiny U.S. [Page 40] Sector exclave of Steinstuecken on August 7, 1958 to apprehend a defector. In reply to an American protest, the Soviets denied in effect that the border violation had occurred. The West German and West Berlin press, apparently inspired in part by exaggerated accounts of the incident and confused by a lack of understanding of the isolation of and situation in the exclave, not only violently denounced the Soviets but also sharply criticized the U.S. authorities for not taking more effective action. Concern about the situation was also expressed by the Berlin Senat and the Federal German Foreign Office. Means of preventing a recurrence of such violations or coping with them more effectively are now being studied. The key problem is how to get West Berlin police or American troops across the 1000 yards of well-guarded Soviet Zone territory which separate the U.S. Sector proper from the Steinstuecken exclave.
  1. Source: Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 62 D 430, NSC 5803 Series. Secret. A parenthetical note on the report indicates that it covered July 17, 1957–September 3, 1958. Reports on the Federal Republic of Germany and German Democratic Republic of the same date are printed in vol. IX, Documents 246 and 279.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. III, pp. 10521065.
  3. For text, see ibid., 1955–1957, vol. V, pp. 414–423.
  4. Secret.
  5. See Documents 710.
  6. See Document 11.