38. Telegram From the Mission at Berlin to the Department of State0
337. Bonn pass PolAd USAREUR 93. Paris pass Topol. Gen. Hamlett (with concurrence British and French Commandants) called on Governing Mayor Brandt this morning and as result being received alone had free frank discussion with Mayor. Gen. Hamlett explained he calling as Kommandatura Chairman to assure Mayor of solid backing to West Berlin of three Commandants and of constant readiness exchange ideas with him.
Gen. Hamlett informed Brandt in general terms of last night’s incident of Sov detention three U.S. soldiers and trucks and stated we felt Sovs had been forced to back down on this issue.1[Page 70]
Mayor then read excerpts from yesterday’s Khrushchev statement.2 Mayor felt these remarks constituted backdown by Sovs.
Brandt brought up subject possible East German takeover Sov surface checkpoints. Gen. Hamlett stated we had no information such move impending. In reply to Brandt question as to what we would do in event such takeover, Gen. Hamlett stated one could see three alternative courses: 1) complete refusal accept East Germans at checkpoints and use of force to maintain surface access; 2) refusal transit East German checkpoints which would result in “self-imposed blockade”; 3) accept under protest controls by East Germans making clear we do so only because they agents of Sovs in whom ultimate authority continues to reside. Mayor felt first course most dangerous of the three (Gen. Hamlett agreed) and would probably at least lead to blockade of traffic between FedRep and Berlin and strangulation of city. Although “self-imposed blockade” feasible because, as Gen. Hamlett observed, garrisons could be supplied by air, Mayor felt this step offered at best prospect GDR demand for vastly increased documentation and control measures to obtain surface access for garrisons. Although recognizing that acceptance East Germans as agents definite step in wrong direction, Brandt felt on balance this was best of the three courses of action.
Gravest danger present situation, according Brandt, is throttling of Berlin economy and Mayor stated he had confidential information from high East German source who preparing to defect that this was real Communist target. In reply to query by Gen. Hamlett, Brandt stated that some Berlin industrialists already worried, that Senate had been watching economic indices but had noted only moderate private stockpiling staple commodities, some movement family valuables and documents to FedRep, and no significant bank withdrawals. Thus, Brandt felt local economic reaction not alarming.
Gen. Hamlett noted that there had been considerable speculation concerning further statements that might be made by U.S., British and French to reaffirm joint Berlin security guarantee. Gen. Hamlett said he felt enough statements already made and that reiteration might weaken value of guarantee by casting doubt on previous assertions. Brandt stated that in his opinion enough has been said concerning Berlin guarantee and he thoroughly agreed further affirmation inadvisable at this time.
Throughout visit it apparent that Brandt greatly pleased by Gen. Hamlett’s call and evidence solidarity it represented.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/11–1558. Confidential. Also sent to Bonn and repeated to Moscow, London, and Paris.↩
- At 1 p.m. Berlin time on November 14, three covered U.S. Army vehicles were detained at the Babelsberg checkpoint for refusing to allow inspection by Soviet officials. Despite repeated protests by the convoy commander the vehicles were neither allowed to proceed to West Germany nor return to Berlin unless they were inspected. At 8:45 p.m. General Hamlett alerted the Berlin garrison, moved a platoon of tanks up to the border, and asked General Hodes for permission to rescue the convoy. At about the same time he instructed Burns to protest the detention of the convoy to Soviet authorities at Karlshorst and to inform them of the preparations he had made to resolve the situation. Soviet authorities proved difficult to find at Karlshorst, but Burns reiterated the U.S. position on inspection and relayed Hamlett’s message, and the convoy was released, returning to the city at 10:30 p.m. Shortly after its release, Hodes informed Hamlett that he could not give him authority to rescue the convoy. The Mission at Berlin transmitted a detailed chronology of the incident in telegram 353, November 17. (ibid., 762.0221/11–1758) An account by General Hamlett is included in his oral history interview at the U.S. Army Military History Institute.↩
- See footnote 1, Document 37.↩