199. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Herter to President Eisenhower 0
- Berlin Contingency Planning
When Secretary Dulles and others discussed Berlin contingency planning with you on January 29,1 the application of additional military force was reserved for governmental decision in the event that an initial probe followed by other measures proved unsuccessful.
Though decision is reserved, the need for advance planning is evident, and the Department of State has been examining alternative possibilities. Short of general war, these appear to be two. One is the use of substantial force to attempt to reopen passage to Berlin. The other, a pacific counter-blockade, supplemented perhaps by other forms of naval reprisal, seems on preliminary examination to merit careful study also. There is attached a memorandum on this subject prepared in the State Department.
Pacific blockade is considered an act of reprisal rather than an act of war. By applying this concept to Berlin situation, we might frame a strategy which would counter interference with Western access not by invading East Germany, where we would be at a disadvantage, but by action at sea where the USSR would be at a disadvantage. We might, for example, control Soviet and East German shipping at the entrances to the Baltic and the Black Sea. The control could assume various degrees of stringency, in case the USSR should use gradual tactics over Berlin. It could be extended to other principal ports in the North and Far East if desired, and it could be supplemented by seizing ships on the high seas.
While such a course of action, like its alternative, raises serious problems, it has such apparent advantages that I believe it worth very careful study. I therefore suggest that you direct that the Department of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff report urgently on United States capabilities for naval reprisals, including counter-blockade, in connection with Berlin contingency planning.
- Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Administration Series. Top Secret. Initialed by the President with a notation to “hold.” The memorandum and attachment were drafted by Morgan; concurred in by EUR, L, and C on March 3; and approved by Herter on March 4 for transmission to the White House. According to a March 12 note attached to another copy of the memorandum, the President was “cool to the idea of directing that a study be made” but had no objection to it.↩
- See Document 149.↩
- Top Secret.↩
- On February 26 the U.S. Navy had boarded the Soviet trawler Novorossisk off Newfoundland during the course of an investigation of five breaks in transoceanic cables.↩