268. Memorandum of the Discussion at a Special Meeting of the National Security Council0

Present at this Special Meeting of the NSC were the President of the United States, presiding; the Vice President of the United States; the Secretary of State; the Secretary of Defense; the Secretary of the Treasury; the Attorney General; and the Director, U.S. Information Agency. Also attending the meeting were the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Director of Central Intelligence; the Deputy Secretary of Defense; the Under Secretary of State; the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; the White House Staff Secretary; the Assistant White House Staff Secretary; the Executive Secretary, NSC; and the Deputy Executive Secretary, NSC.

There follows a summary of the discussion at the meeting and the main points taken.

Mr. Gray explained the purpose of this Special NSC meeting and the general nature of the papers to be discussed. He suggested that the members of the Council bear in mind the final question which would be put to them; namely what if any of the contents of these two papers1 [Page 625] should subsequently be transmitted to our Allies? He also noted that the President had already approved transmission of the studies to General Norstad for his use in preparing preliminary U.S. positions in the Tripartite Staff in Paris (Live Oak). Thereafter, Mr. Gray suggested that the Council take up the so-called military paper entitled: “An Analysis of the Political and Military Implications of Alternative Uses of Force to Maintain Access to Berlin”. Mr. Gray thought it would be more useful to ask for comment on the main sections of this paper rather than to attempt to go through it paragraph by paragraph. (A copy of Mr. Gray’s briefing note is filed in the Minutes of the Meeting and another is attached to this Memorandum).2

Upon completing his introductory remarks, Mr. Gray inquired whether there were any comments on the introductory section of the military paper. Secretary Herter merely stated that the paper was an agreed paper. Mr. Gray then inquired if there were any comments to be made on the Third Section entitled: “Preparatory and Supporting Actions” covering Pages 4 to 10 of the paper. There being no immediate comment, Mr. Gray pointed out the bracketed phrase in Paragraph 13 suggested by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and reading as follows:

“Thus, ‘Shield Force’ elements in Central Europe which are actually displaced in support of any Berlin operation, should be replaced with units in kind [or the risk of mal-deployment accepted]”3

He asked General Twining to explain why the Joint Chiefs had felt it desirable to add this phrase whereas the majority had apparently not felt it necessary to include the phrase.

General Twining, turning to the President, indicated that the President had brought up this question once before. The purpose of the Joint Chiefs was here simply to call attention to the risk of mal-deployment.

The President said he wanted to inquire in the first place what purpose would be served by moving these forces toward the Western end of the Soviet Zone of Germany. General Twining replied that all such forces would be used on the Autobahn to break the Soviet blockade if it were instituted. The President commented that this would mean the Reinforced Battalion. General Twining answered in the affirmative and added “or perhaps a reinforced division.” The President said that if we were now getting forces of the size of a reinforced division, it was a pretty serious matter. He added that if we were going to make such significant military moves in, and/or toward the Corridor, such moves must be specifically brought to the attention of the Secretary of Defense and himself before they were taken. This was especially true of the [Page 626] movement of a force of division size. We are involved here, said the President, with mounting a threat against the Soviet Union without having at our disposal a really great force with which to confront the forces which the Soviet Union would be in a position to confront us with.

Secretary Herter observed that these matters raised the whole question of the timing of these various moves. The timing of these moves had not been specified or agreed to in the paper under discussion. However, if the question of reinforcement of our troops should arise, timing would become a vital matter and we would have to be prepared to go a very long way. Secretary Herter said that this problem could be discussed later. The question of timing was certainly rather fuzzy now.

The President stated that Section A, covering political action under the general heading of Section Three on “Preparatory and Supporting Actions” bothered him a little. While the political actions to be taken are specifically listed, nothing is said in this section with respect to how these actions are to be carried out. For example, asked the President, would publicity be given to this series of political actions? When Secretary Herter replied that publicity would be given to them, the President asked what kind of publicity? Secretary Herter answered that the publicity would consist of high-level speeches as well as publicity by the U.S. Information Agency and in other forums. Mr. George Allen, the Director of U.S.I.A., reminded the Council that his Agency would have to tie in its work to preliminary public speeches by U.S. officials. U.S.I.A. could not handle the publicity on these political actions independently of the guidance provided by official speeches. Secretary Herter confined himself to stating that a great deal more had to be done on both of these papers by way of detail.

Mr. Gray pointed out that the discussion had now reached the First of the Four Alternative Courses of Action; namely, “A Substantial Effort to Re-Open Ground Access by Local Action.” Mr. Gray pointed out on Page 15 a difference in the Intelligence Estimate of the response which we might expect from the Soviets if we undertook this First Alternative. Air Force Intelligence (A–2) believed that this course of action would convince the Soviets that the Western Allies were prepared if necessary to proceed to General War, and that the Soviets would therefore find ways to ease the crisis. Mr. Gray pointed out that this difference of view was one factor to be considered if this paper were to be transmitted to other Allied Governments. In such a case, he asked, should these splits in Intelligence Estimates be reflected at all? If they were to be reflected, should the identity of those who held the differing views be made clear or alternatively should just the Majority Estimate be provided to the other Governments?

Secretary Herter stressed the very great importance of the Intelligence Estimates in the paper. He added that it was his personal view [Page 627] that if we carried out the First Alternative now under discussion, the Soviets were likely to fight unless they were really prepared to let our military forces, either of battalion or division size, move down the Autobahn into Berlin. General Twining wondered whether it would not be possible to express the Majority view and the Dissent in rather generalized terms. Mr. Allen Dulles thought that General Twining’s suggestion was a good one but advised against identifying the source of Dissents in the Intelligence Estimates. He suggested that the paper just provide the Minority view as one which differed from the Majority Intelligence Estimate. If the paper were to be given to the French, Mr. Allen Dulles urged that it be “sanitized” first.

The President said that he had asked several people about giving such papers such as this to our Allies. It was all right to provide this paper to General Norstad to look into but if the papers were to go any further, should they not be transmitted in rather more general terms than in the detailed fashion in which they were now written?

Secretary Herter expressed the opinion that all such papers would have to be transmitted in a sanitized version. The President expressed his agreement in favor of shorter papers summarizing the contents of the more detailed ones.

Mr. Gray pointed out to the Council that while over the years the British have been very anxious to engage with the U.S. in contingency military planning all over the world, they have been firm in the one exception as to joint contingency planning on Berlin. General Twining confirmed Mr. Gray’s statement of the British attitude while Secretary Herter pointed out that we ourselves had not desired at first to join with the British in contingency planning until we had gotten further along in our own plans. Mr. Gray pointed out that the President would want to determine when we should go forward with joint contingency planning on Berlin. He specifically inquired whether the paper under discussion should be transmitted to the Tripartite Staff in Paris (Live Oak). Secretary Herter suggested holding off a decision on this point until further discussion of the Group here. It might be desirable to transmit the paper through diplomatic channels to our Allies.

There being no further discussion of Alternative One, Mr. Gray directed the Council’s attention to the Second Alternative; namely, “A Substantial Effort to Re-Open Air Access, if Blocked.” As in the case of the First Alternative, he noted that this Alternative also involved a difference in the Intelligence Estimate of the reaction which we might expect from the Soviets if this Alternative were attempted (Page 21). He suggested that the same considerations should apply in the case of this split as applied in the case of the split Estimate as to the First Alternative.

Mr. Gray then referred to the Third Alternative, that is, “Reprisals Against the Communists in Other Areas, e.g., Western Naval Controls [Page 628] on Bloc Shipping.” Initially Mr. Gray pointed out that the same problem of timing existed with respect to this Alternative as with the first two Alternatives. Secretary Herter called attention to the footnote on Page 26 reading as follows: “There is a serious question as to whether one or more of such actions would constitute retaliation, which is regarded as belligerent action”. Secretary Herter said that he himself believed that some of the suggested actions under this Alternative might be called aggressive and belligerent. Secretary McElroy expressed agreement with this view of Secretary Herter.

Mr. Gray proceeded to the Fourth Alternative: “General War Measures”. Here again he pointed out that there was a difference of opinion as to the Intelligence Estimate on the reaction to be expected from the NATO Governments if the Fourth Alternative were undertaken (Page 34). Mr. Allen Dulles commented that this time the Dissent came from the State Department rather than from the Military Intelligence Agencies.

Mr. Gray inquired specifically of the Attorney General whether he had any comment to make on this Fourth Alternative, pointing out that when we become involved in General War Measures, we are getting into the business of the duties and prerogatives of the Commander-in-Chief vis-à-vis the U.S. Congress. The Attorney General replied that he did not believe that this Alternative presented any great problem. A great deal of contingency planning had already been done—more than had ever been done in our history before this time. This he thought was not really a legal problem so much as a problem of public reaction to undertaking General War Measures. Mr. Gray replied that he thought this matter extremely important from the point of view of the President’s approval of these papers. Mr. Rogers promised to review the issue again but stated that he was confident that no severe problems would emerge. Secretary Herter pointed out that of course each move in these papers was subject to the President’s approval.

At this point the President brought the discussion back to the Third Alternative, that of reprisals against the Communists in other areas, and said that he felt that the Third Alternative was somewhat out of line. He feared that if we undertook such reprisals as were listed under this Alternative, we would manage to get the whole world peeved at us without actually improving our own situation. He said he was quite convinced that with respect to the First Alternative on ground access that the U.S. must be fully prepared to act. However, through this committee here or by asking Foreign Minister Lloyd we must secure agreement from both the British and the French to “Show the Flag” and make it clear that we were serious. However, if we contemplate going beyond the First Alternative in our military actions as opposed to our political actions, we should realize that the situation will be changing day by day.

[Page 629]

That is, if we undertake military action on a larger scale and at a further stage than that of the Reinforced Battalion, we would encounter new problems and the need for new decisions. In such a contingency we here in the National Security Council would be meeting regularly. In short, said the President, we cannot expect to be able to respond automatically, in these contingencies, to rigid plans of action which we had made in advance. We simply would be unable to see the results. For example, said the President, would we be willing to start a war without the support of our allies? If we do so, the President believed such action would constitute a great Soviet victory. Therefore, said the President, anything we do after we make our first move (Alternative One) is going to have to be played by ear.

General Twining said that of course CINCEUR was well aware of the points that the President had made. The President went on to say that of course if we undertook the First Alternative, we would reinforce our moves to gain ground access to Berlin with air operations. General Twining observed that the main thing was to stir up the Tripartite Group in Norstad’s Headquarters in Paris to get down to work. Secretary Herter commented that of course the military courses of action must be dove-tailed with the political courses of action. He felt reasonably sure, he said, that our Allies would go along with our proposed military actions if they are convinced that we had exhausted all the other possibilities.

Mr. Allen Dulles again came back to the problem of reprisals. He pointed out that there was one type of naval reprisal which we might well consider and which might not seem too belligerent. If the Soviets held up one of our Berlin convoys we could retaliate by holding one Soviet merchant vessel, on one pretext or another, in an Allied port. Mr. Dulles was quite sure that the Soviets would deduce the meaning of such an action. Secretary Herter thought this was a useful idea but of reprisals in general, under Alternative Three, he pointed out that the three Allied Governments had definite legal rights with respect to access to Berlin. On the other hand, if we held up Soviet shipping on the high seas, we could not do so on the basis of any clear legal right. The President said that he would not object to limited harassments of the sort suggested by Mr. Allen Dulles.

Mr. Gray next inquired whether the same considerations would not apply to Alternative Two as applied to Alternative One with respect to General Norstad’s planning. In reply the President pointed out that obviously we could not conduct an air battle in a ten-mile wide corridor. Mr. Gray, however, pointed out that we could likewise not conduct a ground battle on an autobahn strip. Agreeing, the President pointed out that both contingencies required space sufficient for a campaign. Amid considerable laughter, General Twining pointed out that the paper under [Page 630] consideration required us to confine our military action to the Corridor if possible.

Mr. Gray then invited the Council’s attention to the final section of the paper: “Reactions within Germany to the Four Courses of Action.” There being no comment or discussion on this section, Mr. Gray turned to the President and said he supposed that the President would wish to approve this paper in principle as the basis for further work by the four agencies which had prepared the paper (State, Defense, JCS and CIA). The President replied in the affirmative and added that he would send the paper to General Norstad. He would not object to General Norstad mentioning these Alternatives in discussions with the Tripartite Group but in so doing he should make clear that as of the present moment these actions are not all practical.

Secretary McElroy inquired whether we should omit Alternative Three in any material which we transmit to our Allies. The President thought it would be a good idea to omit this Alternative but we should get at it by asking our Allies what they could suggest by way of reprisals and harassments.

Mr. Gray reminded the Council that Mr. Robert Murphy in his covering memorandum4 sending these two studies to the President had asked the President to approve three recommendations. He singled out in particular the third recommendation dealing with the problem of the selection and timing of the general political, economic, and military measures outlined in these studies. Thereafter he asked the President whether he would wish to have progress reports from time to time on this recommendation. The President said he would but added that he did not feel that much effective work could be done at the present time unless a single individual was appointed and given authority to look over the whole range of our contingency planning on Berlin. This range would include also any Allied suggestions because, said the President, we need solid support and agreement from our Allies. The President then suggested that the individual who could most effectively fill this job would be Mr. Robert Murphy of the State Department. If he were not available, some other State Department official should be selected because, as the President said, in the early stages at least much of what we would be doing with respect to counter-measures in the Berlin crisis would be in the realm of political planning and action. Secretary McElroy concurred in the President’s view that the individual to have charge of such a group should come from the State Department.

The President said that the group meeting under Mr. Murphy should convene every day and should as necessary check with the National [Page 631] Security Council. The President added that he was assuming in making this suggestion that Premier Khrushchev had really meant what he said when he stated that he was not going to upset the applecart once negotiations over Berlin had been started between the West and the U.S.S.R.

Mr. Gray indicated that this seemed to conclude the discussion of the first paper and suggested that the Council turn its attention to the second paper, non-military, entitled: “Analysis of Non-Military Measures to Induce the Soviet Union to Remove Obstructions to Western Access to Berlin”. He promptly called on Secretary Herter for a summary of the contents of this paper.

Secretary Herter pointed out that the summary and conclusions of the paper were provided in the first four pages. Most of the courses of action presented in the paper were to be studied as possibilities. None of them is necessarily going to change the mind of the Soviet Union but at least they should all be discussed with our Allies. More work was certainly needed on the question of the role of the United Nations in the picture. What precisely, for example, is meant by the phrase “a United Nations presence in Berlin”? This was still a very fuzzy concept. Incidentally, added Secretary Herter, the French attitude toward any United Nations’ participation in the Berlin problem was positively psychopathic. Nevertheless from the point of view of world public relations, the role of the United Nations can still be of great importance.

The President said he found the course of action set forth on Page 16 of the paper, that is “Termination of Non-Diplomatic Contacts with the U.S.S.R.” quite an interesting problem. The President wondered what the Soviets would infer from a break in relations between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. They might well consider this break tantamount to a declaration of war. Moreover, such a break, effected by the U.S. alone, would not carry very much weight. With respect to the paper as a whole, the President suggested that we should try to set down our questions and answers in very short and terse form. He said that he had studied this particular paper at considerable length but even so had found it difficult to reach clear and firm conclusions with respect to its content.

[1 paragraph (19–1/2 lines of source text) not declassified]

The President said that looking at the Berlin crisis as a whole, he felt that one of three eventualities could come to pass. The first would be some kind of a deal through negotiations between the Soviet Bloc and the West. The best we could hope for in such a deal would be Soviet agreement to maintain the status quo for three or four years. The second possibility was a backdown by the U.S.S.R. The third possibility was general war. The President went on to warn that once we resort to the use of military force, as opposed to political action, there are really no limits that can be set to the use of force. This was a fact that the President [Page 632] felt we must look squarely in the face. The President said he was reminded of the circumstances of 1916 when President Wilson would not even permit our little War College to make any studies about what we might do if we became involved in the War. Nor would he permit any contingency war planning by the War or the Navy Departments lest such planning seem to constitute belligerent action by the U.S. Today we are of course taking the opposite course. Certainly there were a number of things we could try to do to change the Soviet mind but we should never forget the possibility of war even though in the President’s judgment there would not be war.

[2 paragraphs (22 lines of source text) not declassified]

Secretary Anderson said he had been wondering whether it would be possible for members of the State Department to approach leaders of both parties of the Congress with suggestions that they make statements on the floor of the House or the Senate with respect to our course of action on Berlin. The statements he had in mind, said Secretary Anderson, would not be cast in a belligerent form but would be designed as an indication of the firm resolution of the U.S. If such statements were carefully prepared and delivered, Secretary Anderson believed that they would constitute a source of strength for the U.S. position at the forthcoming Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. They would also serve the purpose of preparing the people of the U.S. for all the eventualities they faced. Lastly, such statements would help Mr. Allen and the U.S.I.A. to mobilize world opinion in defense of the U.S. and the Western position.

Secretary Herter commented that he believed that the President’s recent speech5 had done the best job in explaining the problem of Berlin to the people of the country. [7 lines of source text not declassified]

[2 paragraphs (16–1/2 lines of source text) not declassified]

Reverting to the idea originally suggested by Secretary Anderson, the President said that he did believe that it would be desirable to get Representatives and Senators on both sides of the aisle to make speeches to explain why we were proposing to provide our Allies with these atomic weapons. Such speeches should stress the defensive character of our proposed action.

Secretary Herter pointed out that the Joint Committee would have to approve the agreements by which these deployments were carried out. The President thought that if we made such agreements, there was bound to be a certain amount of revelation of atomic energy information.

Secretary Quarles was invited to clarify the understanding of what was involved in such agreements. Secretary Quarles said that the agreements [Page 633] which would have to be approved by the Joint Committee were not agreements which would allow us to put atomic stockpiles on the soil of our foreign Allies. The agreements which require the approval of the Committee were those which involved the exchange of atomic information which would enable our Allies to do what they have to do with these weapons once they were deployed. The matter of deployment of the weapons was a matter between governments, but as for the agreements necessary to provide our Allies with information essential to the use of these weapons, this was something which required the approval of the Congressional Committee. The Committee can consider such an agreement and hold it up for sixty days although Secretary Quarles did not believe that the Committee was required to consider the matter for the full sixty days.6

The Vice President observed that Secretary Anderson had made a good point in suggesting speeches by Congressmen and Senators about our position in the Berlin crisis. Nevertheless, as far as public opinion of this country was concerned, the President’s speech on the Berlin crisis had been much the most effective statement thus far. Members of Congress, for example Senator Fulbright, have already talked a great deal about the Berlin crisis. In these circumstances the Vice President believed that Berlin might be the subject of the first public statement by our new Secretary of State. This would be bound to have a very considerable effect—much more effect than any speech by any member of Congress, however distinguished.

The President said he thought very well of the Vice President’s proposal. Such a speech by Secretary Herter could well take the form of a talk to the people in a homely fashion. It should be designed to explain the continuity of our policy; it should avoid inciting to fear and instead stress the continuity of our firm policy with regard to Berlin.

Secretary Herter suggested that if he were to make such a speech, it should be made after he returned from the April 29 meetings in Paris but before he went back to Geneva for the Foreign Ministers’ Conference opening on May 11. The Vice President commented that he thought well of the proposed timing. Mr. Allen Dulles suggested the Council on Foreign Relations as a good forum. The Vice President commented that his proposal for a speech by Secretary Herter did not of course exclude speeches afterwards on the floor of the House of the Senate.

At this point Mr. Gray summed up what he understood to be the action of the Council on these two papers.

[Page 634]

The National Security Council:

Noted and discussed the two studies prepared at the direction of the President and enclosed with the reference memorandum for the President.
Noted that the President has previously approved the transmission of the studies to General Norstad for his use in preparing preliminary U.S. positions in the Tripartite Staff in Paris.
Noted the President’s view that, with respect to the study of military measures, any advance planning regarding the alternative uses of force would necessarily be subject to review and decision in the light of circumstances as they develop.
Agreed that the studies in their present form should not be transmitted to our allies, and that any disclosures to our allies with respect to these studies should be deferred pending further study under 6-c below.
Noted the President’s approval, subject to the above caveats, of the utilization of the study of alternative courses of action regarding use of force by the Department of Defense as a basis for the initial planning of measures to be taken on a national basis.
Noted the President’s approval in principle of the studies for use in further planning under the coordination of a group to be chaired by Mr. Robert Murphy, Deputy Under Secretary of State, with representatives from the Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, and, as necessary on an ad hoc basis, other agencies. Specifically, this group should, in the light of the discussion at this special meeting, coordinate such further planning, including:
The results of the planning by the Department of Defense pursuant to 5 above.
The development of general political, economic and military measures as outlined in these studies, with particular reference to selection and timing, referring major decisions for the President’s approval as they become necessary.
Recommendations as to the disclosure to our allies of information contained in the studies.7
S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Prepared by Gleason. The time of the meeting is from the President’s Daily Appointment Book. (Ibid.) A copy of a much briefer memorandum of this discussion is in Department of State, PPS Files: Lot 67 D 548, Germany.
  2. Reference is to enclosures 1 and 2 to Document 265.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Brackets in the source text.
  5. Document 265.
  6. See Document 225.
  7. It is uncertain whether Secretary Quarles’ point is correct. It may be mandatory for the Joint Committee to withhold action for a period of sixty days after receipt of a proposed agreement made by the Executive Branch with a foreign government. [Footnote in the source text.]
  8. On April 29 Acting Secretary of State Dillon forwarded a memorandum to the President with the first recommendations of Murphy’s group. These included use of the information in the nonmilitary measures paper in discussions with the Allies on contingency planning and the forwarding of both papers to Bonn. (Department of State, Central Files, 762A.00/4–2959) Notations on the margin of the memorandum show that these recommendations were approved by the President. [text not declassified]