428. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McElroy0

JCSM 264–59


  • Reduction of the Berlin Garrison
At a meeting of the Coordinating Group, Berlin Contingency Planning, on 22 June 1959,1 Mr. Murphy, Under Secretary of State, indicated that Allied force ceilings in Berlin should be examined as an area by which the United States might induce a concession by the USSR which would justify a summit meeting.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that a minor “symbolic” reduction of the Allied Berlin garrison would not significantly affect the capability of the force to retard Soviet Bloc aggression. However, even such a “minor” reduction would be morally and psychologically damaging to Allied interests. Furthermore, the current site and composition of the garrison have been carefully tailored to the mission assigned and cannot be reduced without a commensurate readjustment of mission responsibilities. Any significant reduction of the forces in Berlin would compel the Joint Chiefs of Staff to consider the evacuation of U.S. dependents from Berlin because their protection during Communist fomented civil disturbances could no longer be insured.
In a full-scale military engagement the Soviet Bloc forces, vastly superior in numbers, could overwhelm the Allied garrison forces. On the other hand, the garrison forces, in conjunction with the West Berlin police, could resist Soviet aggression long enough to capture free world attention and to facilitate Allied decision on the implementation of forceful counteraction, including the substantial use of military force and, if necessary, preparatory measures for general war.
Another danger in formally agreeing with the Soviets upon any restriction or reduction in the size of our Berlin garrison is that the Soviets thereafter will undoubtedly use such agreement to impose further controls and harassments upon the exercise of Allied rights in Berlin. This would probably result in Soviet insistence upon their right to insure through detailed checks at their control points that the Allies were not exceeding the numbers and types of U.S. military personnel agreed for the Berlin garrison.
In view of the foregoing, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that the following views be transmitted to the Secretary of State:
A reduction of the Allied Berlin garrison should not be effected as long as East Germany remains under Communist domination.
A reduction of the Allied Berlin garrison should not be tendered as a concession to the Soviet Union in the current (recessed) Geneva discussion.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Arleigh Burke
Chief of Naval Operations
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1/7–1359. Secret. Attached to a memorandum of transmittal to the Secretary of State, dated July 13.
  2. No record of this meeting has been found.